Washington, D.C., the capital of the United States, is a wildly popular place for the high-achieving to obtain an internship. Surprisingly, it’s not just for the politically-minded, either. Future lawyers, scientists, historians, finance professionals, and doctors are also likely to intern in Washington, D.C., in addition to future politicians.
In a city with so many political think tanks, non-profit organizations, law firms, and financial powerhouses, it can seem overwhelming trying to find the perfect internship. Here are some tips to help you on your way:
What’s Washington, D.C. like?
Located on the east coast of the United States, The District of Columbia is rich in American history, full of historical buildings and monuments, and is bordered by dense forests. The city is served by an excellent metro system which makes getting around the city rather simple. Though fairly small, the city is actually quite expensive. Know that living slightly out of the city center will be lighter on your wallet. Given the ease of getting around and the small size, commuting on the Metro isn’t too bad.
Also be aware that D.C. has one of the highest crime rates in the United States. Exercise caution when out after dark and try not to be alone or too intoxicated. Certain areas, such as the area surrounding the major league baseball field, should be avoided completely.
Weather-wise, the Autumn and Spring months are the mildest, with the famous Cherry Blossom trees in bloom during March and April. Summers can be very hot and humid and winters can be bitterly cold and snowy.
What kinds of internships are available?
As previously mentioned, internships in Washington, D.C. are not just for political science majors. Coveted White House intern spots and Capitol Hill internships are always open to well-connected applicants, but in some cases, this may mean spending the internship sorting mail or leading tours of the old buildings. Sometimes, seeking a smaller organization might mean making a bigger impact.
Smaller, non profit organizations often rely on interns to help them write grant proposals, conduct research, and contribute to the business in a more meaningful way. Additionally, there is a much better chance of gaining access to the higher-ups in smaller organizations.
The competitive landscape for landing an internship placement will be the most intense in the summer months when the city plays host to thousands of University students. Generally, those in a graduate or undergraduate program are the ones to intern, and most likely, the positions are not paid.
How to find internships in Washington D.C.
Chances are good that your university will have some sort of career planning website with internships listed. An example is the University of California system which sets up the University of California District of Columbia program. Students apply for and are awarded course credits in exchange for their internship hours. Dorms are provided in a University of California-owned building in the district. Many universities around the US offer something similar, or help students to find internships and accommodation if they don’t own their own building. If completely on your own, utilize craigslist.org for finding accommodation options.
If you don’t have a similar program at your university to help you find internship options, check out Craig’s List, Linkedin jobs, Indeed.com, or more D.C.-focused websites such as DCinternships.org or Internmatch. Since chances are good you won’t be located in D.C. prior to landing an internship, interviews are generally conducted over the phone or via Skype. In the more competitive summer months, it’s common to land the internship several months prior to the start date.
Getting to D.C.
Fly into either Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, which is located right by a metro stop, or Washington Dulles airport, which will require a taxi ride into the city. Once there, a car is really not necessary, as the metro system is so efficient. One-way and monthly tickets are both available, depending on if you need to commute to your internship program or not. Some internships offer refunds to students who have to pay to commute to the office.
Washington D.C. internships are a great way to make your resume shine, whether you intend on working in politics or not. Take the chance to experience the nation’s capital, and live in one of the best cities in the USA.