Government shutdown threatens federal internships

College students hoping to land an internship with the federal government this summer may face disappointment.

With both Republican and Democratic parties thus far unable to reach an agreement on the budget, current federal employees and even college students seeking employment with federal agencies face a possible government shutdown at midnight Friday. If a government hiring freeze is enacted, it would be the first such shutdown since 1996.

If the Friday deadline passes without a compromise, agencies will send home all non-essential employees and freeze the hiring of all new workers. Openings normally offered to interns would be eliminated as part of the freeze.

According to, job forecasts for 2011 college grads found that government agencies are expected to fill 10% fewer posts than it did last year. Also, more than one-third of government employers plan to cut programs that hire new college grads. This would drastically limit the prospects of upcoming graduates and student interns.

Gleason Rowe, graduating Mason senior, said he formerly interned for Sen. Mark Warner on Capitol Hill. He is in the process of looking for summer work with the federal government.

“I have mostly applied for jobs in the private sector, but overall it has been very difficult finding openings [in the government],” Rowe said, something a government shutdown would not help.

Leslie Cook, a Mason junior, worked as a State Dept intern. She said one of the most appealing and competitive programs for new grads and graduate students is the Presidential Management Fellowship, which offers opportunities for students who hope to one day work in high levels of government.

“If a government shutdown occurs, this will be one of the first programs eliminated,” Cook said. “Another student program the State Dept has already decided to cut is the Student Career Experience Program (SCEP).”

The SCEP program offers paid experience, and after the intern has completed both their school and work requirements, he or she may be eligible for permanent employment with the agency.

Allyson Bowers, a Mason junior, currently works as a temporary student employee through SCEP. She said that although the program has been around for many years and has been quite successful for the State Dept, there are serious talks of cutting the program.

“Because these are paid positions, the program [SCEP] is on the chopping block. As a result of the supposed cuts, not as many students will be guaranteed a job as previously promised,” Bowers said.



*Photo by Jordan J. Frasier

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