There are a couple of ways to find an internship. First, the department regularly helps students get themselves placed with city and county elected officials, political campaigns, government agencies, and a number of community-based nonprofits. Contact the department’s Internship director (Dr. Mary Currin-Percival) for more information. Second, students can check internship listings on the websites for the city of San Jose and Santa Clara County. If an internship seems like a good fit, you can apply directly. Also, be sure to check with SJSU’s Career Center for new internship listings. Next, be sure to regularly check the Department of Political Science Instagram @sjsupolisci for internship opportunities. Finally, Dr. Currin-Percival will email opportunities directly to students enrolled in Pols 181 and Pols 181C students as she receives them.
Is the Internship a course?
Yes (and no). The department highly encourages upper division students working in an political science internship to take POLS 181--Internships in Political Science--so they can earn academic credit for their internship work. Students who complete the course earn 4 credits toward the political science major. We encourage students to take POLS 103 (Local Government and Politics), and/or POLS 102 (State Government and Politics) before enrolling in the internship class (students may also be enrolled in these courses concurrently) to help connect political science theories to the practical aspects of their internship. Having said that, students may also want to participate in an internship without taking POLS 181. In that case, you apply for internships on your own and coordinate your schedule with your internship placement. You gain valuable professional and practical experience but you don’t earn academic credit.
Can I take the internships class for the required capstone course?
Yes, you have the option to take POLS 181C (instead of POLS 190) as your capstone course (or senior seminar). This course is curently only offered in the fall semester and space is limited. There is no honors option available for POLS 181C, so if you would like to earn department honors, POLS 181C is not the best option for you. If you are interested in department honors, please talk with a department advisor. The internship requirement is identical for POLS 181 and 181C. The academic requirements are different for POLS 181 and 181C however since POLS 181C is a capstone course and POLS 181 is an upper-division elective course. The POLS 181C course is graded; POLS 181 is credit/no credit. POLS 181C requires a capstone paper while the POLS 181 paper is considerably shorter. Please contact Dr. Currin-Percival for an add code for POLS 181 or for POLS 181C.
How many internship hours are required to earn credit in POLS 181?
135 hours are required over the course of the semester for POLS 181 or POLS 181C. In addition, students complete a term paper (either a capstone paper or a research paper) that connects their internship experience to lessons and theories learned in the classroom. There are additional smaller assignments in the course, but the final paper and the internship hours are the two major assignments.
Is the internship course offered over the summer?
No, the course is not offered over the summer; however, you can begin working in an internship over the summer and then register for POLS 181 or POLS 181C during the fall semester. Up to 40 hours worked over the summer can then be credited toward the 135 internship hours required for the fall semester course if you have an approved internship contract on file with the internship director. If you plan to begin an internship over the summer and register for POLS 181 or POLS 181C in the fall semester, be sure to meet with the internship director (Dr. Mary Currin-Percival) before you get started and to obtain an internship contract.
How late in the semester may I begin my internship?
This varies some between students, but if you are enrolled in POLS 181 or POLS 181C, you should expect to get placed within the first 2 weeks of the semester if not sooner. Typically it takes 2-4 weeks to get placed in an internship. This accounts for time to complete an application, interview for the position, and then get started. Some positions for the city and county require background checks and fingerprinting which can extend the timeline to get placed. The key is to get started looking early before the semester begins. Please note that all 135 internship hours must be completed for you to pass POLS 181 or POLS 181C. Obtaining an internship early is key.
I have a busy work schedule--what kinds of internships can I get?
It depends on the needs of the internship placement, but most placements will require you to have some availability during the normal M-F workday, usually 10-20 hours per week. Students interning with elected officials are often asked to help with local events during the weekends so if you have a busy M-F work schedule, a placement like this may be a possibility. During political campaign season interns can often fulfill their hours during evenings and weekends if they help with get out the vote (GOTV) efforts. If you have a busy work schedule, the key is to be realistic with yourself and any potential internship placement. Be honest about what you can accomplish and what your schedule allows.
I want to go to law school--what kinds of internships should I look for?
Our internship program does not have regular placements with law firms. This is because in the past many undergraduates found themselves stuck doing menial work which is something we really try to avoid. Moreover, internship work on things like trusts, wills, divorce, etc. are not part of our regular political science curriculum and thus students cannot earn academic credit for this type of work. There are other good opportunities, however, that may be of interest if you’re pursuing a career in criminal law. Santa Clara County’s Public Defender’s Office runs a great internship program. You can download an application [pdf] on their website.
The U.S. Probation Office, Northern CA District serves as another opportunity.
The Santa Clara County Superior Court also operates a summer internship program.
Keep in mind though that law schools are not looking for one specific type of internship experience--in fact, many may not require an internship at all. Don’t get overly concerned with your résumé having to look a particular way. Working hard and maintaining good grades are time-tested guarantees to successfully applying to law or graduate school.
Are there internship opportunities in Washington DC or in Sacramento?
Yes! Every summer the department sends two highly qualified students to Washington DC to intern with Bay Area Congress members. See our main internships page for more information about the DC Summer Internship Program. The department is currently working to expand our DC internships opportunities, so stay tuned for more information. As for Sacramento internships, students can apply to the Sacramento Semester Program run by CSU Sacramento, or the Capital Fellows Program. Both programs are competitive but offer great experiences. Political Science students have also been selected for the prestigious Panetta Congressional Fellowship Program. Students attend seminars and receive training at the Panetta Institute in Monterey before spending the fall semester interning for a member of Congress in Washington DC.