There are a couple of ways to find an internship. First, the department regularly helps students get placed with city and county elected officials, political campaigns, government agencies, and a number of community-based nonprofits. Contact the department’s internship director (Professor Mary Currin-Percival) for more information on these opportunities and how to apply. 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.
Is the Internship a course?
Yes (and no). The department highly encourages upper division students working in an 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 3 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.
How many internship hours are required to earn credit in POLS 181?
135 hours are required over the course of the semester. In addition, students complete a term paper that connects their internship experience to lessons and theories learned in the classroom. The class itself meets 1-2 times a month--the bulk of the work for the course involves completing your required internship hours.
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 during the fall semester. The hours worked over the summer can then be credited toward the 135 internship hours required for the course over the regular semester. If you plan to begin an internship over the summer and register for POLS 181 in the fall semester, be sure to meet with the internship director (Dr. Mary Currin-Percival) before you get started.
How late in the semester may I begin my internship?
This varies some between students, but if you are enrolled in POLS 181, you should expect to get placed within the first 2-3 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.
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 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] [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.