This post was written by an undergraduate currently applying for congressional internships, and reviewed by individuals with experience “on the Hill”, including former congressional interns. 

Working in the US Congress can be a great way to have an impact and build career capital for a policy career. Congressional internships are among the most common entryways for staffers working in Congress, and they are also a highly valued credential among other policy institutions, like government agencies and think tanks.

This post has two parts, (1) How do congressional internships work, and why should I apply for one? and (2) How to get a congressional internship?. Part (1) explains what a congressional internship involves and how it might prepare you for an impactful policy career, and (2) explains the application process and provides application advice.

All advice should be taken with a grain of salt, as congressional internships vary greatly by office and committee. Even the same office’s internship program may vary from year to year, depending on which staff member leads the program, how much funding the program receives, and whether the office is in the majority or minority. This article is a starting point, but we recommend investigating particular opportunities in more depth through online sources and conversations with current/former staff and interns.

If you’re interested in a Senate congressional internship, please see this database for each Senator's application form and application deadline (many deadlines are coming up soon!). 

If you are interested in applying for congressional internships—including if you are still unsure or plan to apply in future years—we encourage you to fill in this form so that we can potentially support your application and connect you with others with relevant experience.

I. How do congressional internships work, and why should I apply for one? 

Congressional internships are an important staple of the DC ecosystem. It’s commonly said that “DC runs on interns”, and Politico estimated that 20,000 students intern in DC each summer. Many current staffers and Members of Congress started off as interns. While it’s difficult to estimate the percentage that did, prominent examples include Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, Eric Swalwell, Marco Rubio, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Mark Warner.

How do congressional internships work?

Congressional internships occur either in the personal office of one of the 535 Members of Congress or with a congressional committee, either in the Senate or the House of Representatives.[1]

  • Internships in personal offices can occur in the Member’s state/district office(s) or in their DC office. Legislative interns are in the DC office, media interns can be in either office, and other interns are typically in the state/district office(s). 
  • Internships on committees are all based in DC, and are attached to one of the 20 committees in the House or 16 in the Senate.[2] Committee internships are generally more prestigious—and therefore harder to get—than member office internships.

Many congressional internships take place in the summer, but there are also semester internships, for example in the fall or spring. These semester internships have the same benefits as summer internships, but they can be less competitive. We discuss them in more detail below

This post focuses mostly on legislative internships (in either personal office or committee), which are the most common and relevant for policy work. Some aspects of this post, such as the resources and CV/resume sections, may still apply to non-legislative internships.

What do congressional interns do? 

In legislative internships (simply “congressional internships” from here on), interns typically perform a wide range of tasks, including serving at the front desk of the office and giving tours, answering constituent calls and letters, conducting legislative research, attending hearings and briefings, drafting memos, and assisting with administrative tasks. The ratio of substantive, policy-related tasks to administrative work varies widely, but often more important than any particular experience is the opportunity to interact regularly with staff and, occasionally, members themselves

What are alternatives to congressional internships? 

Congressional internships are often quite competitive, and getting one is far from guaranteed. If you don’t have previous experience on the Hill, you may want to apply to other policy internship opportunities in addition to Congress, which may provide many of the same benefits (including facilitating a congressional internship or an alternative policy position down the road). These alternative policy internship opportunities include interning with a

  1. Think tank, like Brookings and the Nuclear Threat Initiative;
  2. Government agency, like the State Department or Department of Defense (ideally at the federal level in DC, or alternatively a state agency);
  3. Congressional support agency, including the Congressional Research Service (CRS), the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), or the Government Accountability Office (GOA);[3]
  4. Congressperson’s district office;
  5. State or city legislator’s capitol or district office
  6. Government contractor or consultancy (i.e. private companies consulting the government or implementing government programs);
  7. Policy-relevant media institution, like the Washington Post;
  8. Or by volunteering for a political campaign (especially for an incumbent Member). 

Why apply for a congressional internship?

If you’re interested in pursuing a high-impact career and are considering working in policy or politics, a congressional internship can be a great place to get your foot in the door, build credentials, establish a policy network, learn about the DC ecosystem firsthand, and test your fit.[4] While individuals’ experiences vary, the most important benefits of a congressional internship for an impactful career are likely (1) credentials, (2) networking, (3) learning, and (4) testing fit.


By completing a congressional internship, you get a prestigious credential and a credible signal of your policy knowledge and interest. These are highly valued by policy organizations, particularly in (1) Congress, for entry-level staffer roles or additional internships (e.g. for a committee), (2) for think tanks and advocacy/lobbying groups seeking to influence Congress, and (3), to an extent, by government agencies. 


Policy positions can be highly competitive and hiring is frequently driven by personal networks. If you’re not already in these networks, it can feel like a catch-22: you need to know policy people to get a policy job, but you need a policy job to develop your network. Because they are often truly entry-level, congressional internships offer a well-trod pathway into further full-time policy jobs. 

As a congressional intern, networking is one of the most valuable skills you can develop. In the policy world and especially on the Hill, you typically need some level of competence and networking to be successful. A Hill internship provides an enabling context to network with policy professionals, as you’ll have a “legible” role/title that allows you to request informational interviews and build relationships with other policy professionals. As an intern, you’ll be able to network with other interns and staffers in your office and beyond, professionals you meet at events, and others through personal referrals.[5] These individuals may provide mentorship, connect you to future policy opportunities, and recommend you for later roles. 

If there’s someone that you’d like to meet but don’t have a connection to, you can always cold-email them and ask to grab a coffee. There’s a culture of giving back in DC, and many people—from recent graduates to late-career professionals—want to give advice to interns because they’re grateful for the help they received when they were starting out. Sending a simple, respectful email that connects your interests to their expertise and asks if they have time for coffee can go a long way. It may be worthwhile to find people on LinkedIn that you’d be interested in speaking with, both during and while you’re applying for an internship.[6] 

Once you have a policy network, it’s much easier to learn about new roles, land a position, get context on your policy area, and get high-quality input on your career plans. In fact, there are two main avenues to securing a job in DC: (1) the traditional, formal approach of responding to job postings and submitting applications online, and (2) the more personal, informal approach of leveraging your network to uncover hidden opportunities.[7] If done correctly, a congressional internship provides a wealth of valuable experiences and connections and sets you up for success in pursuing future job opportunities through the informal method. 


As a congressional intern, there’s much to learn that will help you in your future policy career. For instance, you’ll learn about many policy issues through researching, attending, and reporting on briefings and hearings; you’ll do constituent correspondence, where you’ll learn about administrative duties or conduct opinion surveys; you’ll attend congressional hearings and briefings and draft memos for legislative staff; and you’ll learn to answer questions like: “What’s an item of special interest?”, “What’s the Rules committee?”, “How do you offer an amendment?” and more. 

Testing fit

Through your internship, you gain information on your fit for work on the Hill and—to a lesser degree—in other policy institutions. The extent to which interns leave an impression of general competence via their role and use it to build credibility is a good predictor of fit for the Hill and sometimes for other policy institutions. During your internship, some useful questions to assess your fit for the Hill might include: 

  • Are my colleagues more often impressed or frustrated by the work products I hand in? 
  • Do I find my work tasks motivating? Which ones? (Particularly focusing on the tasks that seem central to the future roles I'm evaluating my fit for)
  • How easy is it for me to build rapport with others in this environment?
  • What are the traits I observe in the people who seem to perform well in this environment? Do I share any of these traits, or do I see a way I can develop them?

II. How to get a congressional internship?

Application processes vary significantly by office. Instead of viewing congressional internships as run by one large organization, it’s useful to think about it as if “you’re applying to internships at one of 535 different small businesses”. 

Still, some aspects of the application process are generalizable. When applying for a congressional internship, you'll typically need to submit your resume and cover letter. The application may sometimes include short answer essay questions specific to the office. If the office likes your written application, the second (and typically final) round consists of an interview by the staff assistant (or whichever other staffer runs the internship program).

Because congressional internships are quite competitive, it’s generally best to hedge your bets and apply for many offices rather than just a few. 


Application release dates vary by office. For congressional summer internships, Senate office applications usually close in March, and House office applications usually close in April. Offices typically send invitations to interview between 2-4 weeks after applications close. Applicants are notified of a final decision within 2-4 weeks after the interviews are over. 

This database lists all the 2023 Senate summer internships and their deadlines.

How to learn about internship opportunities

  • Check personal office’s websites
    • For personal offices you are particularly interested in, see if they’ve posted details on internships on their website. You can find this information on or simply by googling the office you’re interested in. 
  • Call the office
    • You can find the phone number of the office on their website. You can find the office’s website at, or simply by googling the office you’re interested in. 
  • Check Listservs
    • Consider signing up for list services (aka “listservs”) such as Tom ManatosRoll Call Jobs, and Traverse Jobs. Listservs are digital bulletin boards with open internships and job positions. Many listservs are free, but some require a paid subscription. Once you sign up, you will receive emails with directions on applying, including the required material and how to submit your application. See if your school’s career center has additional recommendations for listservs to join.
  • Subscribe via email to the House Employment Bulletin and the Senate Bulletin 
    • These publications typically contain information on job openings, staff changes, office closures, training and development opportunities, and other news and updates relevant to House or Senate employees. 
    • You can also follow @senate_jobs on Twitter
  • A note on congressional committee internships, and how to find them:
    • Some congressional committees advertise their internship applications publicly, such as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee. Most committees have two sets of staff, with one assigned to each party. The majority staff reports to the chair, while the minority staff reports to the ranking member. Both parties usually run their own internship program for the committee. Some chairs and ranking members merge their committee internship and personal internship. To find out if this is the case for a particular committee, you can check the chair or ranking member’s website, the committee website, or call the personal DC office or committee office. 

How to decide where to apply

There are multiple decisions you’ll make when choosing where to apply. This section addresses the following questions:

  1. Should I intern in a personal office or with a congressional committee?
  2. Should I intern in the Senate or House?
  3. How can I learn whether the office has a good environment?
  4. How important are personal ties to an office’s constituency?
  5. Should I only apply to offices of my political affiliation?
  6. How much should a Member’s issue areas or committee matter?
  7. Should I apply for a summer or semester internship?
  8. Does the internship pay its interns?

1. Should I intern in a personal office or with a congressional committee? 

Which options to prefer is a personal decision and depends on your circumstances. In general, congressional committee internships are more prestigious and tend to be “more policy-focused than internships with individual Congressmen or Senators.” They are also typically more competitive, especially if you lack prior DC experience. The best approach may be to apply simultaneously to both personal and committee positions, with the understanding that the latter is less likely to pan out now, but could become more feasible once you have completed an internship in a personal office and can benefit from that credential and network.

This section in a separate Congress guide compares committee work with personal office work.

2. Should I intern in the Senate or House?

Although there are broad differences between the average Senate and House internship, there’s also a lot of variation among internships in each of these categories. Senate internships are often viewed as slightly more prestigious and may attract a higher ratio of applicants to positions. A senator’s office is typically larger, more streamlined, and better funded.[8] You’re likely to form close working relationships with your manager and other interns, but less likely to form close relationships with everyone in the office. House internships are slightly less prestigious, but you’re more likely to do a higher percentage of substantive work (drafting memos, offering your opinion in meetings, etc.) and form close relationships with everyone in the office. But again, each office offers a different experience, so these are only general heuristics to go off of. 

This section in the Congress guide compares working in the Senate and House. 

3. How can I learn whether the office has a good environment?

Members have great latitude in how they run their offices. Since a Member’s personality and management skills can vary widely (from excellent to alarming), many aspects of Hill offices are similarly variable, including the treatment of interns and the formality and organization of an internship program. Some offices pay interns, consistently give them substantive tasks in their policy areas of interest, and host events or provide formalized mentorship for interns. On the other hand, some offices do not offer payment to their interns and restrict them to performing only administrative tasks. They may require interns to work more than 8 hours a day or isolate them from the rest of the staff by assigning them to work in a separate room.

You should try to seek out the better-run internship programs, not only because you'll grow and enjoy yourself more, but also because these tend to be in well-run offices with talented, high-value staff, who you get to learn from and network with.

Some rough signals of a high-quality internship program include (1) paying interns, (2) having a well-run interview process, and (3) having office programming or events dedicated to interns. However, you'll gain much more reliable information from conversations with current or former interns and staff. You’ll also have the opportunity to ask questions during a formal interview for the role.

Assessing an office’s environment can be difficult when first applying to congressional offices. Here are a few tips for assessing an office’s environment:

  • Reach out to previous or current interns of the office (via LinkedIn, your school’s career center, or personal connections) and ask them if they’d be willing to talk about their experience. This can be a cold email/message (see above, and here for example cold emails from a congressional context).
  • During an informational interview, ask questions about the internship program. The more you can make these questions specific to the office you’re applying to, the better. Generically, this may include questions like:
    • “What would it look like if an intern really excelled at their role?”
    • “Does this office run any intern-specific programming?”
    • “What is your favorite part about working in this office?”

4. How important are personal ties to an office’s constituency? 

Personal ties to an office’s constituency are preferred but not typically essential. Hiring managers in Congress generally prefer applicants with strong connections to the district or state the office represents, especially if you’ve lived there (either at home or during college). You might also highlight if you have a close relative or if you frequently visit the jurisdiction. 

If you don’t have ties to the district or state, you may be able to substitute ties to the jurisdiction with ties to a given office from your network. If you’re applying to an internship where you lack a tie to the district, you’ll want to prepare a compelling story for why you’d like to intern in this office.

Offices vary in how strong their preference is for applicants from their district or state. When it comes to the House, being in the same district is ideal, but being in the same state as the office’s constituency is still good. In other words, the difference between having ties to the district or the state is significantly less than the difference between having or not having ties to the state. 

5. Should I only apply to offices of my political affiliation?

There are several reasons why you should generally favor offices of the party you’re affiliated with: (1) an ideologically aligned office is more likely to offer you an internship; (2) you’ll likely get more value from the internship, in terms of personal enjoyment, building a professional network, and the possibility of the internship leading to a full-time staff position; and (3) your office choice can influence your future policy opportunities, including further work in Congress, in partisan think tanks, or if you’ll ever run for office. 

In practice, staffers tend to stick with one of the two major parties over the course of their careers, and the large majority of their network will be with other staffers from their own party.[9] This means that the relationships you build during an internship with one party are unlikely to be very helpful for pursuing roles with the other party. 

On the other hand, in most cases, interning in the office of a Member not of your party is unlikely to significantly harm your career, particularly if you grew up in the district/state of the member you interned for. If you later have to explain what party you support, you can simply say that this was the main congressional opportunity available to you due to home-state effects (e.g. if you are a Democrat from a red state or a Republican from a blue state).  

6. How much should a Member’s issue areas or committee matter? 

Prospective interns often wonder how much to consider a congressperson’s issue areas when deciding whether to apply to their office. In general, you don’t need to intern for a member specializing in any of your top issue areas to receive the main benefits of a congressional internship discussed above (i.e. networking, credentials, policy knowledge, and testing your fit). 

However, some of these benefits will probably be larger if you can intern for a member with a relevant specialty. It’s more feasible to intern for a Member with a relevant specialty in the House, where members tend to each specialize on a smaller number of issue areas than in the Senate. While interning for a member that shares your interest areas, it will be easier for you to build relationships with policy professionals working on your issue area and generally collect information about the landscape of organizations, people, and ideas relevant to your issue. Your credential of having interned for that Member may also be more respected by people in that field. 

Yet, most congressional interns should probably optimize much more for interning in an office with a good environment than for issue alignment per se—especially since, by asking colleagues for introductions, you can probably still manage to network with staffers and other policy professionals in your area of interest no matter which member you work for. 

To find out more about a Member’s key issue areas and beliefs, check out the Member’s website or other relevant resources. You can find a history of the congressperson, what bills they’ve voted on, how their ideology compares to other Democrats or Republicans, and more at Ballotpedia and GovTrack (these links go to Senator Alex Padilla as an example).

7. Should I apply for a summer or semester internship? 

While more summer internship positions are offered on the Hill in total, summer internships are generally more competitive since many more students apply for them. If you’re willing to take time off school and feel that you might not otherwise be able to get a congressional internship you’re interested in, applying to a semester internship may be a good choice. 

Alternatively, your university may have a “Semester in DC” program, which would allow you to continue taking classes for credit while doing the internship and also support you in your internship search. For example, your school’s program may help revise your cover letter and resume or connect you to individuals in certain offices or committees. While this is not the case for all schools, you may have a much better chance of getting a competitive committee or Senate internship through your university.

If you’re interested in a full-time position on the Hill, it may be wise to do an internship the semester before you want a full-time job. You’re more likely to hear of job opportunities and get offers if you plan on staying in DC, whereas it can be difficult to maintain relationships with people on the Hill while you’re back in school or outside of the Hill ecosystem. It’s also not uncommon to do an internship after graduating from your bachelor’s or master’s, if your goal is to get a job on the Hill after; you may struggle to get full-time entry-level staff positions if you haven’t interned on the Hill previously

8. Does the internship pay its interns?

Historically, Congressional interns have typically been unpaid (or underpaid). In recent years,  this trend has partly reversed, with many Senate and House offices now offering to pay their interns. As of 2021, Senate interns receive a stipend of ~$2,000 per month, which is a substantial increase from just a few years ago. In 2019, the average pay for Senatorial interns was $2,000 for a 6-week internship, while House interns received $1,600 on average.[10]

If the congressional internship you’re applying to does not pay interns, you may still have the opportunity to get money for your work. Your university may offer to fund unpaid congressional internships; you can find out if this is an option by checking with your career center. There are also some third-party organizations giving stipends for unpaid congressional internships. You can find more by doing your own research, but some examples include: 

The cost of living in DC is 13% higher than the national average. The average rent for a 2 bedroom apartment is around  $1,700 per month, and you can expect to spend between $115 and $170 per week on food, transit, and other personal expenses., There are various resources you can find online to help you budget while you’re in DC, including thisthis, and this.

How to prepare for the first round of the application process

The first round of applying to congressional internships typically consists of a written application asking for a cover letter and resume. This may also include short answer essay questions specific to the office. This section reviews tips for writing a good cover letter and resume. In addition to the resources below, your school’s career center may provide you with support and feedback on your application. Private companies like NSCLI can also provide feedback if you’re willing to pay for extra support.

At this stage, it is valuable to request a relevant contact of yours to contact someone they know in the office to “flag” your submitted application, e.g. by sending a short email noting that they heard you were applying and want to recommend you for the role. This practice is very common in hiring on the Hill (especially for more senior roles), and helps ensure that your resume and cover letter are at least read by the staffer managing the hiring. You can also accomplish something similar if you’ve had an informational interview with someone in the office, by contacting them to thank them for discussing the program and flag that you’ve submitted an application. This “flagging” process is by no means mandatory, and it’s unlikely to be very helpful in the absence of an adequate resume and cover letter—but if you can pull it off, it may greatly increase your chances of landing the role.

Writing a good cover letter

Writing a cover letter for a congressional internship is similar to writing a cover letter for other internship applications. A congressional internship cover letter is an opportunity to construct a narrative around your resume and further elaborate on why you’re a good fit for the role. Even if an application only advises you to explain how you would benefit from the internship, the primary purpose of your letter should be to convince the office that they would benefit from having you as an intern.

Additionally, your cover letter should explain why you’re interested in a specific office or committee rather than why you’d like to do a congressional internship in general. You can do this by identifying the congressperson’s key legislative issues and connecting them to your interests and expertise. You can also reference the legislation they’ve helped pass, their congressional committees and caucuses, and their views on certain topics. The office’s website, GovTrack, and Ballotpedia are all great resources for this information. 

Many organizations provide resources on writing a good cover letter, both generally and for government jobs specifically. 

Cover letter resources specific to jobs in government:

General resources on how to write a good cover letter:

Drafting a good resume 

Drafting a good resume for a congressional internship is also similar to other internship applications. A good resume will show you have the relevant skills and work experience to excel at the internship you’re applying for. Somewhat unintuitively, it may be good to include customer service experience in your resume for this reason. Constituent services, such as responding to letters and handling phone calls, require comparable skills to those of customer service. Staff assistants seek applicants who are likable and work well with others, and including this experience may demonstrate that. 

A resume should typically be no longer than one page, or two pages in exceptional circumstances. ResumeWorded is an extremely helpful tool for resume templates and resume best practices. ResumeWorded is provided for free by many, but not all, universities.

Tip: It can be useful to have a “master resume” of all your work experiences and skills that’s longer than one page. From there, you can tailor your resume by only including the most relevant experiences and skills for the internship you’re applying for. 

Resume resources specific to jobs in government:[11]

General resources on how to write a good resume:

How to prepare for the second round of the application process

The second and final application round is typically an in-person or virtual interview. During this stage, you can expect to be asked a range of questions about your background, work experience, qualifications, and questions specific to the office you're applying to.

In addition to assessing your qualifications and experience, the interviewer may look for qualities essential for success in a fast-paced and demanding environment, such as teamwork, respect for others, and the ability to work collaboratively with senior staff and other interns. To evaluate these qualities, you may be asked questions like "What skills do you bring to the office?" and "Can you describe a time when you resolved a conflict with others?". The interview is a critical opportunity to showcase your strengths, demonstrate your interest in the office, and highlight your potential to contribute to the office’s work. 

You should also expect to be asked questions about the office and how it aligns with your personal interests and career goals. Seek to demonstrate your knowledge and familiarity with the congressperson and their policy priorities. Be prepared to answer questions such as "Where do you and the congressperson share common ground, and where do you differ?" or "Why are you particularly drawn to the congressperson's issue areas?". By showcasing your understanding of the office and the congressperson's work, you can demonstrate your enthusiasm and commitment to the role and increase your acceptance chances.

To prepare for the interview, you can write answers to questions you anticipate being asked and/or—preferably—do a mock interview with a friend or your school’s career center.

Additional resources on how to prepare for the interview:

III. Appendix: My own process and resources

These are reflections written by an undergraduate currently applying for congressional internships.  

My process for applying to congressional internships

Note: I share this not because it is the optimal process, but because it might give additional insight into what applying to a congressional internship is like. Because I’m applying to internships this cycle, I have not yet submitted my applications for many internships. I’ll likely update this post once I go through the rest of the application cycle.

First, I made a document about what I was looking for in a congressional internship and what congresspeople I was tentatively most interested in and why. My reasoning was primarily based on my party affiliation, location, and what issue areas I was interested in.

After conducting initial research on congressional internships, I sought feedback from individuals who could "sanity check" my assumptions and thought processes. I’m glad I did this, as I quickly realized that some of my initial assumptions were incorrect. For instance, I had assumed that a congressperson's issue areas and committee assignments would be the primary factors to consider when selecting an office to intern in. In reality, it’s a bonus if a congressperson’s issue areas and committee assignments align with your interests rather than a decisive factor. Additionally, I believed the political party in charge would strongly influence the experience and opportunities available during an internship. However, I discovered that while political dynamics can certainly play a role in shaping the work of Congress and individual offices, a successful internship is often more about developing the skills, connections, and insights that can help you succeed in any political environment.

I also asked people in my network if they could connect me with current or former congressional staffers who might be willing to share their insights and experiences.

Through these conversations, I gained insights into the day-to-day realities of working in a congressional office, including the office culture, team dynamics, and the professional development opportunities available. I learned about the unique challenges and opportunities that come with working for a particular congressperson, as well as the important skills and qualities that successful congressional staffers tend to possess.

I found speaking with congressional staffers incredibly valuable to gain a deeper understanding of the nuances of working on Capitol Hill. This allowed me to better assess my fit for the role and make more informed decisions about where to apply.

From there, I wrote my resume and cover letter. I found ResumeWorded a helpful resource (that my college had free access to, although it may not be free for everyone). I used Georgetown’s cover letter templates to get started on my own and reached out to friends to read and edit my cover letter once it was done.

Resources on Congress

How to get an internship in Congress:

Resources to learn about Congress:

Read about different offices and congresspeople:

Resources on US policy careers (not specific to Congress):

  1. ^

    You can also intern with non-voting members, such as DC and Guam. Non-voting member offices are not included in this “535 members” count. 

  2. ^

    As this Working in Congress guide describes, the House also includes ~100 subcommittees and the Senate includes ~70. 

  3. ^

    One DC policy professional estimates that the median internship with CRS or GAO would be more competitive than your median congressional internship since their applicant pools are likely much more qualified and include more graduate students in particular.

  4. ^

    Previous congressional interns reviewing this post felt that the direct impact of their work as an intern was not very significant. For those who did their undergraduate degree in DC, the learning value about the policy space was also rather low.

  5. ^

    This is more likely to happen if other people know your interests and goals and if you ask others who they think you should talk to.

  6. ^
  7. ^

    The Washington Post states that over 70% of jobs are landed through networking, and DC is no exception. The more someone knows, trusts, and respects you and your work, the more likely they will recommend you for a job. In DC, individuals often get jobs or recommendations even when the contact with the hiring manager or recommender in question is relatively light touch.

  8. ^

    As the Congress guide notes, House offices have an average of 8.5 staff while Senate offices have around 22, although this varies according to the size of a senator’s state. 

  9. ^

    The staff of independent senators who caucus with one party are also functionally part of that party's network.

  10. ^

    Sources #1 and #2.

  11. ^

    Note that these resume resources show a big header section with personal details but a congressional resume should likely instead be quite compact. These links were included because their other information seems correct and helpful.


Sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 10:25 PM

Great, thanks for writing this up! I don't work in policy, but it seems to be an extremely pragmatic and helpful guide from an outside-perspective.

A question - is being a US citizen a hard requirement for all of this advice?

If not a hard requirement, what hidden (or explicit) barriers would you expect a non-citizen to face?

Great question! This is really up to the office. There are many examples of international students or other non-citizens interning in congressional offices, and there are no strict rules against it on an institutional level. So it's possible. But some offices may decide they only want US citizens, and even ones that don't have such a rule still prefer people with ties to their district/state, which might disqualify/disadvantage certain non-citizens. On the whole, I'd say that if you're an international student or other non-citizen, you'd probably require support from a structured university semester in DC program (discussed in the post) or very warm connections to insiders if you wanted to get an internship offer.  

There's also the question of the relative payoff of doing a congressional internship as a non-citizen. Many of the benefits of internships involve them being good stepping stones into full-time post-graduation jobs. But getting a full-time job in Congress, or elsewhere in government/policy, often does require citizenship or at least work authorization — whereas there's often flexibility with internships, jobs can involve more of an immigration headache. We've written a bit about this here. It'd vary case-by-case whether a congressional internship is still worth it for a non-citizen (depending on opportunity cost, future plans, how much time you'd need to invest to get the internship, etc.). 

And just in case any green card holders read this: the most important distinction is probably not between citizens and non-citizens, but between "US persons" (citizens or permanent residents) and others. Once you have a green card (i.e. permanent residency), most jobs Congressional and policy jobs will be open to you and you'd have a relatively smooth path to citizenship.