Summer Internships Might Just Help You Land a Clearance, And a Job

It’s that magical time of year, when all across the Washington, D.C. area hemlines get shorter, the crowds at the happy hours get younger, and interns start arriving in offices across the city. As someone who’s lived in Washington, D.C. for seven years now (wow – I’ve almost gone native), I’ve become quite used to the internship ebb and flow – and in various positions came to depend on the interns that became a part of the life blood of our organization in the summer months, in particular.

There are clear advantages for students, but one benefit you might not have considered is the chance to obtain a security clearance. Internships with both the federal government and even some in the defense industry come not just with job experience and a stipend, they also come with background investigations leading to security clearances. Given the fact that a security clearance is one of those workplace advantages that can’t be bought, but can only be obtained through sponsorship from an agency or government organization, it’s a pretty sweet deal for college students looking to get a jump start.

With intelligence careers hotter than ever, it’s definitely an advantage to get that critical clearance as early as possible – especially for young people hoping to break into a job with the CIA, NSA, or FBI. Check out our article on how internships help you get a step ahead. Participated in a government internship program? I’d love to hear from you!

(PS – I did the Department of the Army internship program after college and it was a great jumpstart into the federal government!)

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Jeff Ribeira

This is great advice! Lots of potential benefits for sure. Now if only actually landing a federal internship were an easier process… I also think one of the biggest challenges in addition to the application/selection process itself is all the time and planning that students have to put aside in order to make it happen. It’s basically one of those things that you pretty much have to know what’s going on many months if not years in advance (from a planning/organization perspective). Many lose their opportunities because they don’t know much about what the entire process entails, and once they do, it’s too late!

Alicia Mazzara

I agree, internships can be a great way to get your foot in the door at these agencies, and they’re not just for undergrads either. There are a lot of agencies looking for graduate or law students as well. That said, Jeff has a good point — sometimes half the battle is just finding out about these opportunities in time to meet the deadlines!

Lindy Kyzer

Jeff – definitely agree with you about the amount of time it takes. I applied for the Department of the Army public affairs internship program ( the summer after my junior year – and was hired a year and a half later! For undergrads looking to get into those programs the rule is the earlier the better. Unfortunately, a lot of qualified candidates can’t wait that long to hear back. And as Alicia notes a lot of these are better termed “fellowships,” as some programs already are, because they really targeted folks with graduate degrees and even hire military veterans or folks looking to jump into federal service from another career path.