Public Service Internship Program

Internships and fieldwork benefit students in countless ways. Students can put into practice what they have learned in the classroom. Students also gain new applied skills and grow their professional networks. Students similarly earn valuable hands-on experience, preparing them for meaningful careers in or around government, graduate programs, or law school. Indeed, this is why employers rank internship experience as the most critical factor in hiring a college graduate.

For these reasons, the Department of Political Science strongly encourages students to pursue and complete an internship experience by enrolling in PLS 494. Students can enroll in 3-6 credits of PLS 494, depending on how many hours per week they work at their internship (see below). Students can apply for PLS 494 more than once, receiving up to a total of 12 PLS 494 credits while attending MSU. Contact the Internship Coordinator, Professor Marty Jordan, at jordan61@msu.edu with any questions.

The Steps

  1.  Check with Your Advisor: Discuss with your advisor (either during a routine scheduling meeting or separate appointment) your interest in doing an internship to ensure you are ready for one, your degree plan allows it, you have a record of academic success (i.e., at least a 2.0 GPA), and you have completed at least 28 credits.
  2.  Find a Qualifying Internship: Find an internship related to government, politics, public policy, the law, civil society, campaigns, or public service. See below for more details for ideas on where to look for potential placements. Importantly, all internships must be approved by the internship coordinator before you start your internship to enroll in and receive credit for PLS 494. And you must intern during the same semester that you enroll in and seek PLS 494 credits.
  3.  Apply for PLS 494: Once you’ve secured a qualifying internship, but before you start, apply for PLS 494 by filling out your portion of the PLS 494 Internship Application Form. Next, ask your internship supervisor to fill out their section of the form and sign. Then, email the completed form, your current resume, and cover letter to the internship coordinator, Prof. Marty Jordan (jordan61@msu.edu). The internship coordinator will ask your academic advisor to also sign-off on your internship. Prof. Jordan will review your application materials. If approved, the PLS Department will enroll you in the PLS 494 credits. Applying does not guarantee acceptance. Notably, you must be interning during the same semester that you take PLS 494 credits. See below for the specific details.      
  4.  Complete Internship and Academic Components: Once you are enrolled in PLS 494, your primary responsibility will be to excel at your internship. However, PLS 494 credits also entail an academic component, including readings, videos, writing assignments, and journal entries. You must complete your internship hours AND these academic assignments to pass the course. See below for more details.       

Ready for an Internship?

Do you think you are ready for an internship or fieldwork? Be sure to discuss with your academic advisor, either during a routine scheduling meeting or a separate appointment, that you plan to do an internship. They will help you review your eligibility, making sure it works with your degree plan and schedule. To earn credits for your internship and apply for PLS 494, you must have a record of academic success (i.e., at least a 2.0 GPA) and have completed at least 28 credits of coursework prior to the start of the internship. 

Finding an Internship

MSU’s campus is only five miles from Michigan’s State Capitol, which offers numerous internships connected to government, public policy, and the law. Many of our students find opportunities with legislative State House or Senate offices, the governor’s office, State agencies, judges’ chambers, nonprofit organizations, prosecutors’ offices, lobbying firms, among many other places. Of course, you can also find opportunities in your hometown with your city council, mayor’s office, local judge, school board, township board, and equivalent entities.     

Students are responsible for securing their own internship placements. And all internships must be approved by the internship coordinator before you start the internship. Generally, so long as the internship is related to government, politics, public policy, the law, civil society, campaigns, or public service, it will likely be approved. If in doubt, please contact the internship coordinator, Professor Marty Jordan, at jordan61@msu.edu

Much like the job market, no single list of openings for interns exist. But you can find a comprehensive list of possible internship sites here. Of course, many opportunities abound beyond this list. Finding an internship that interests you will require research and legwork on your part. We suggest you contact places you are interested in and ask them if they have any intern positions open for the semester. Beyond these, we encourage you to like our PLS Internship Facebook page to learn about the latest internship and job opportunities. You may also find internship opportunities via MSU’s Handshake site or by signing up for the internships@list.msu.edu Listserv.

When you apply for internships, submit a typed and professionally presented resume and cover letter. Click here for examples and tips on how to write a resume and cover letter. Internship sites may also request a writing sample or a list of references (including name, contact information, and relationship). In addition, you may be invited for an interview. During the interview, present yourself professionally, and don’t be afraid to ask questions to determine the work you will be doing. See some sample interview questions here. Again, please contact the internship coordinator to determine if the potential placement is satisfactory before accepting the position.

After securing an internship, be sure to arrange your internship details with your supervisor. You must establish a schedule that allows you to work at least three (3) hours per week for each credit you are seeking. You should also discuss with your supervisor any time off you will require (e.g., spring or holiday breaks), the end date (we recommend working up until the final day of MSU classes), and your specific duties during the semester. Contact the internship coordinator if you have any questions or concerns about arranging the internship details.

Apply for PLS 494

Once you’ve secured a qualifying internship, but before you start your internship, apply for PLS 494 by completing the following steps:

1. Fill out your portion of the PLS 494 Internship Application Form. You must be interning the same semester you enroll in and earn your PLS 494 credits.

To apply for and receive the following number of PLS 494 credits, you must complete the corresponding number of hours during the semester:
Credits Total Hours
3 135
4 180
5 225
6 270



2. Ask your internship supervisor to fill out their section of the form and sign.
 
3. Email (A) the completed form, (B) your current resume, and (C) a cover letter to the internship coordinator, Prof. Marty Jordan (jordan61@msu.edu). Your cover letter should state your career goals, reasons for seeking the internship, and your expectations for the internship or fieldwork.

4. The internship coordinator will review your application materials. The internship coordinator will also ask your academic advisor to sign-off on your internship. If approved, the PLS Department will enroll you in PLS 494. Applying does not guarantee acceptance. 

Complete the Internship and Academic Components of PLS 494

Earning credit for PLS 494 is more than merely completing your internship hours. PLS 494 is comprised of both internship and academic components. Students are expected to excel at their internship, submitting all hours worked, and completing evaluation materials. Students are also required to complete all coursework and turn in assignments by posted deadlines. The coursework is intended to enhance the practical experience of the internship. While the course is graded as a PASS/NO CREDIT class, any assignments not up to the standards expected of an upper-level undergraduate student will result in a student being dismissed from the course and receiving a grade of NO CREDIT.

 

 

Other Frequently Asked Questions

  • I’m struggling to find an internship
    Here is a comprehensive list of possible internship placements.
  • Do I need to find an internship before the start of the semester?

    While it is ideal to have secured an internship before the start of the semester in which you plan to do the practicum and enroll in PLS 494, it is not a requirement. Several students do secure internships and enroll in PLS 494 after the start of the semester. However, the first major assignment for PLS 494 is typically due four weeks into the semester's start. As such, we do not usually admit students into the course after the semester's first four weeks.

  • Do you have any tips for resumes?
    Yes, please click here for detailed suggestions for drafting your resume, as well as several sample resumes. You can also send your resume to the Internship Coordinator, Prof. Marty Jordan, at jordan61@msu.edu for an additional proofread.
  • Do you have any tips for cover letters?
    Yes, click here for excellent guidance for developing your cover letters, as well as some sample letters. You can also send your cover letter to the Internship Coordinator, Prof. Marty Jordan, at jordan61@msu.edu, for additional feedback.
  • The internship site is asking me to submit a writing sample; what should I submit?

    The request for a writing sample as part of an internship application process is increasingly commonplace. Internship sites are trying to assess your writing ability, articulation of an argument and evidence provided, and capacity for clear, concise written communication. Select an essay, research paper, memo, brief, or the like that you have penned for your courses, that you are most proud of, and best demonstrates your writing ability for a professional internship setting. Shorter submissions are better (as they are more likely to be reviewed), but quality matters more than brevity. Upon selecting your writing sample, be sure to proofread the document, especially the first couple of pages, as those are the pages most likely to be read. Of course, internship sites will also evaluate your cover letter and resumes for your writing ability too, so pay attention to how you craft those documents as well. 

  • I have an internship interview; what questions will they ask me?
    Some example questions might include: “Tell me about yourself?” “Why did you apply for this internship?” “How can you contribute to our office/organization?” “What are your strengths/weaknesses?” “How do you go about starting a new project?” “Do you prefer to work by yourself or in a group?” “Why have you learned from your classes or past jobs that will help you succeed in this internship?” Click here for additional sample interview questions. 
  • Are internships paid or unpaid?
    Typically, internships are unpaid. However, some internship sites do pay their interns. Read the internship description or check with the internship placement whether the position is paid or unpaid. 
  • Are there any scholarships available?
    MSU’s College of Social Science does offer some scholarships throughout the year for students completing internships associated with public policy or public service. Check here for possible scholarships.
  • Can I use my full or part-time job to qualify as an internship?
    Unfortunately, no. An internship is not a job; full or part-time employment does not offer the same learning opportunities as an internship. Paid employment typically involves different supervisor-employee relationships, other objectives, and less structured learning than does an internship. However, paid internships are allowed. Nonetheless, the internship coordinator will need to verify that the paid internship experience is designed primarily as a learning experience (rather than employment) to qualify for PLS 494 credits.
  • I am having problems adding PLS 494 to my semester schedule.
    PLS 494 is not an open enrollment course. All students intending to enroll in PLS 494 for internship credits must receive an override from the internship coordinator and then will be enrolled by the department. To receive the override, a student must obtain an internship, submit an application for PLS 494, and meet the course requirements.
  • I interned last semester; can I enroll in PLS 494 this semester and get credit for my internship?
    You must be interning in the semester for which you seek PLS 494 credits. The only way you can earn PLS 494 credits for a previously started internship is if your internship carries over from one semester (e.g., Summer) into the next semester (e.g., Fall). If your internship carries over, then you might be able to enroll in PLS 494. However, this would need to be approved by the Internship Coordinator.