Washington Experience Application



1.) What is it?

The Washington Experience is a summer internship course (PSC 399, 3, or more credit hours) that combines real work experience (120 hours) in a political or governmental office, academic reading and writing assignments, and participation in educational events, speakers, and and/or tours that are organized by the instructor. This year, it is offered during the second Summer Term. However, you may start your internship at any time during the months of May, June and July.

2.) Who is eligible to take the course?

Students are selected to participate through an application process.

3.) Where do students work as interns?

It is the responsibility of participating students to secure an internship for the summer. However, our faculty are willing to meet with students to offer advice about various internship possibilities and provide recommendation in letters of support if appropriate. In the past 4 years Washington Experience students have participated in a wide range of internships in Washington. You should anticipate that most of these positions will be unpaid. Below is some general information about various types of internships available to students.

Congressional and Senate Offices

  • Most popular option for students taking part in the Washington Experience
  • You always have an inside track with your own Congressman
  • Apply to Congressmen representing districts where your relatives live
  • If you do not get an offer, feel free to call intern coordinator or chief of staff
  • Internships typically last 4-6 weeks
  • Most of the work does not have strong ideological or partisan content
  • Some Congressmen and Senators offer compensation, but most do not

Executive Branch Agencies

  • Apply early. Very early if the agency deals with national security or law enforcement.
  • Probably helpful if you are a Republican; Depends on the job.
  • Internships will likely last much of the summer.

Advocacy Groups

  • A demonstrated commitment to the issues that a group works on is very helpful
  • Much of the work will have strong ideological content
  • Internships often last for the entire summer
  • Many groups offer limited compensation
  • Political Party Organizations
  • There are a number of organizations that do work for various political parties (Democratic National Committee, Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, College Democrats of America, Young Republicans, Libertarian Party)
  • Helps to be registered and active with a political party
  • Organizations differ regarding length of internship and compensation

Think Tanks (Policy Research Organizations)

  • Popular option for students interested in public policy
  • These internships tend to be pretty competitive
  • Commitment to both the ideology and the issues of a given think tank is helpful
  • Demonstrated ability to do research is often helpful
  • Internships often last the entire summer
  • Most think tanks offer limited compensation


  • Alabama connections at Van Scoyoc, Barbour, Rogers, and Griffith, and Balch and Bingham
  • Compensation and work responsibilities vary

Political Media

  • Washington, DC Media, Capitol Hill Media, Ideological Publications located in Washington, DC
  • Some previous experience as a writer or reporter is usually helpful
  • Some organizations are willing to offer training to aspiring journalists
  • (National Journalism Center, American Journalism Center)

Additional Sources of Information on Finding Internships

  • There are many good websites that advertise all sorts of internships in Washington. One resource that is useful is http://www.internships.com/washington-dc. Simply enter search terms of relevance to your interests and see what you can find (e.g. politics, political science, public policy, Republican, Democrat, Congress, research, etc.).

4.) What work will students do as interns?

Although internships in Washington can be a great experience for many reasons, students need to understand that the work will not always be as glamorous and dramatic as they might hope. Some offices prefer to assign their intern one large project that will take up most of their three-week assignment; others prefer to give students a small taste of a number of different kinds of tasks, maybe even working in different parts or divisions in the same office. Either way, an observant and open-minded student will learn a great deal both by doing and observing, and will have plenty to write about in their academic papers. Keeping a daily journal or blog will be a must!

5.) I have already done an internship, which is also numbered PSC 399. Can I also take PSC 399 again for credit?

Up to, but no more than 6 hours total of PSC 399 credit may be applied toward a major or minor in political science.

6.) What will the academic assignments be like?

Students will write three short papers focusing on:

  • the educational and career paths of their colleagues at work;
  • the history, structure, and functioning of the agency or group for which they work;
  • the “inside story” of an important issue or event that affects, or is affected by, their employing agency or group.

Additionally, students will submit a daily journal or blog of their work and related

7.) What extracurricular activities can I participate in?

The instructor for PSC 399 typically arranges meetings and events with members of Congress (and especially the Alabama congressional delegation), UA alumni working in Washington, and a representative mix of people from different fields and occupations related to political science and public policy.

8.) Where would I live in Washington?

Students are responsible for making their own living arrangements. There is a large stock of internship housing in Washington during the summer. Some of the most affordable options can be found at local universities that rent out their vacant dorms. Some convenient local university options can be found at George Washington University, American University, Catholic University, and Georgetown University. If you don’t mind commuting, you can also try George Mason and the University of Maryland. Of course, there are many other types of properties available in DC. You can search one of the many DC internship housing websites to shop for places.


Washington Experience Application