Score a Career with the US Government, Part 3

By: Kirsi

If you haven’t yet, read part 1 and part 2 of this series.


Recording an Extravehicular Activity, photo by NASA

With the knowledge to use as a job search engine and build a resume, you may wonder what US Government opportunities are available for college students? Agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Agriculture, NASA, Department Of Commerce, and many more offer positions called a “Pathways Internship“. A Pathways Internship is one of the US Government’s pipelines to hire full-time civil servants (employees). Despite having the word “Internship” in the name a Pathways Internship is like a Cooperative Opportunity (Co-Op). A Co-Op is a long-term commitment to a student over many semesters whereas an Internship is a work agreement for only a semester and would have to be renewed. Often students use Pathways Internship and Co-Op interchangeably. Students who successfully complete a Pathways Internship have a chance of a full-time position with the agency. Many Pathways Interns think of their opportunity as a multiple semester-long interview learning as much as they can about the agency, their major, and working as hard as they can. I am currently a Pathways Intern at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. I will flip flop between semesters studying at UMD and Pathways Interning at NASA.

Who Offers Pathways Internships?

By searching “Pathways Internships” in the “Keyword” search box on USAJobs’ main page you will receive pages upon pages of opportunities for college students. Make sure you identify a position that matches your major, if it doesn’t and you apply, you will be rejected. Don’t be discouraged if your desired government agency does not have positions currently posted. Some agencies go through hiring cycles which often occur once a semester. To keep track of when agencies are posting Pathways positions I suggest setting up an email alert as described in the first post of this series. Keep a draft of a resume ready in case the application submission window is short.
Astronaut Michael Fossum Lecture
Pathways Internship Benefits
Once you are accepted into a Pathways Internship you would be sworn in as a civil servant with the US Government. A Pathways Intern receives retirement, travel time, relocation reimbursement, and insurance benefits similar to a full-time employee. Your pay is determined by the number of college credits you have completed and explained in the position posting. As a Pathways Intern you complete meaningful work that advances the mission of the agency and advances you in your major’s studies. This past fall I developed astronaut training that was used on board the International Space Station and sat in Mission Control. You will NOT be fetching coffee at a Pathways Internship!
NASA’s Modular Robotic Vehicle
As a Pathways Intern you will be working among some of the brightest minds in your field, growing your network, and growing as a person. Pathways Interns have opportunities to get to know the agency, meet agency leaders, and contribute to projects that effect the whole United States. At NASA Johnson I visited labs, met astronauts, rode in a lunar rover, attended lectures by Mission Control specialists, and chatted with other NASA centers.
Pathways Interns in Historic Mission Control, photo by NASA
Is a Pathways Internship a Good Fit?
Completing a Pathways Internship requires flip-flopping between college and the government agency. Each semester, Fall, Spring, or Summer, at a government agency is called a tour. At NASA I must complete three tours in order to complete the program. The position post goes into more detail about tour requirements. Ultimately this means your graduation can extend beyond four years. While a delayed graduation sounds concerning, the experience gained from a Pathways Internship is extraordinary! Personally switching between college and Pathways helps me stay focused and pay for the semesters I am studying. UMD is accommodating to logistics related to participating in a Pathways Internship. Talk through your thoughts about a Pathways Internship with a University Career Counselor.
With a position found and resume built you are ready to score a career with the US Government!
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Read other posts by Kirsi

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