Government & Public Policy
The government industry can be broken down into the sectors of federal, state, and local. The industry consists of professionals that work toward goals that progress the lives of US citizens and residents at all levels to provide services, justice, order, protections, freedoms, and policies for improvement.
- Federal government jobs address national, overarching subjects that affect all communities, including protecting the environment, national defense, and international trade. State government addresses issues that impact state citizens, visitors to the state, and those wishing to do business with the state. Local government works on issues that are under their jurisdiction, specifically those that impact surrounding neighborhoods. Each level of government offers unique challenges and rewards.
- Public policy is a dynamic field where policies are investigated, analyzed, and used to influence the government. Opportunities in policy research are more plentiful for those with advanced degrees (master’s and PhDs), but jobs do exist for bachelor’s level candidates. Employers are often called think tanks and represent a wide range of issues that can be politically centered.
Skills to develop for success in this field
- Foreign language fluency
- Leadership competencies
- Multitasking, time management, and prioritization skills
- Research and development skills
- Strong written and verbal communication skill
Online resources specific to the industry
- Firsthand* is a comprehensive resource for information on what it is like to work within an industry, company or profession. *Note: Registration using Northwestern email address is required for access.
Job posting and other career informational sites relevant to the field:
- American Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management (AAPAM)
- City of Chicago: Wide range of city jobs and internships
- Cook County: County level jobs and internships
- Go Government: A non-profit charged with promoting federal government jobs. The site includes descriptions of federal jobs, tips for applying, and assessing you fit.
- Idealist: Non-profit and NGO posting site that often has policy positions posted
- Partnership for Public Service: A non-profit, non-partisan organization based in Washington, DC aiming to inspire the next generation of civil servants
- Pathways Program: Offers federal internship and employment opportunities for current students, recent graduates and those with an advanced degree.
- USAJobs: The federal government’s official employment website. Most jobs are posted here.
Key information or knowledge for this field
- Application materials. You may be asked to provide more than just a cover letter and resume. Be prepared to write essay responses and/or provide writing samples or letters of reference. You will also want to allow for time to complete the applications as they can be lengthier and more involved.
- Ensure you meet the minimum requirements. Government jobs specifically require candidates to meet at least the minimum requirements listed for that particular role.
- Security clearance. Government jobs may require a specific level of security clearance. Keep this in mind and allow for plenty of time when applying to job opportunities.
- Long wait times to hear back. Government jobs may receive hundreds or thousands of applications and therefore it may take a significant amount of time to hear back for full-time opportunities.
- Networking and who you know. Due to the high volume of applications, it is very helpful to have a connection to the agency or organization where you are applying to work. The Northwestern alumni network is vast and there are fellow Wildcats who may already be working there. It is highly recommended to search through LinkedIn, Our Northwestern, and reach out to NCA advisers. To learn more about networking, please visit the NCA Networking webpage & Networking Resources