Political Science Major

Internship Program

Capitol in Augusta

Update (7/16): Students who have obtained electoral campaign internships and wish to enroll in the new POS 470 Electoral Politics Seminar should contact Professor Klotz for permission to enroll by July 31, 2016.  Campaign internships should begin by August 1 and end on Election Day, November 8.  Please note that this seminar is only for students working on a 2016 election campaign.  For students in other political internships, general elective credit is available through internship courses in a variety of other departments, including a social science internship taught by Criminology (search MaineStreet for "internship" for list of courses).



What is an Internship in Political Science?

Internships are temporary, part-time, professional-level experiences for students with some background in the social sciences. Among college students who have been recently hired, about two-thirds had internship experience according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers. Conveying workforce readiness, internships provide the experience that employers are demanding in addition to the bachelors degree. They also strengthen graduate school applications by showing a seriousness of purpose.

The USM Political Science Program offers a structured 6-credit hour program for local internships during the fall and spring semesters. Interns work approximately 15 hours weekly in public sector positions at the federal, state, and local levels or in politically-related private sector positions. They attend six seminars during the semester which connect work experience to social science frameworks and secure interaction with other interns in a similar situation.

What are the advantages to the student?

The advantages are numerous. Some of them are tangible, some are not. Here's what some former interns have said about the program's advantages:

  • An entree to careers: "Who would have guessed that I would have ended up running a whip office in Congress?"
  • Focusing career choices: "The internship has greatly influenced my decision to study public administration in graduate school."
  • Increased maturity: "I've become more persistent and assertive. I've learned to cope with criticism. I've learned that once I accept a responsibility I have to follow through with it."
  • Enjoyable experience: "From the first day on the job until the last, I found my internship was a marvelous experience. The internship was the best and most rewarding part of my college education."

Who may participate?

The internship program is for students in good academic standing who demonstrate interest and ability to profit from such an educational experience. You do not have to be a Political Science major to apply, but we are looking for four qualities in our applicants: a willingness to deal with the public, a capacity for solving problems, an ability to write clearly, and a sense of responsibility.

How do I apply for an internship facilitated by the political science program?

Facilitated internships are available in a select number of organizations that regularly hire USM interns based on the recommendation of the program.  The application process consists of two steps:

  • Fill out an application from the Political Science Office (55 Exeter Street, Portland Campus) and complete it before the deadline (mid April for fall internships; early November for spring internships).  The application includes a resume.  A model resume and resume-writing workshops are provided by the Student Success Center in 119 Payson Smith, 119 Bailey, or 119 LAC..
  • You must participate in an interview with the Internship Director.

Can I enroll in the internship seminar if I find a politically-related internship on my own?

Yes.  Most of the interns in our program have found internships on their own.  After securing an internship on your own, please contact Internship Director Robert Klotz (rklotz@maine.edu) for permission to enroll in the 6-credit Internship Seminar. Approval will be granted for independently-obtained internships with substantial exposure to the political arena that entail 15 hours of work weekly during the semester. Before granting approval, the Internship Director will need a brief description of your internship responsibilities and contact information for your supervisor.

How many credits will I earn and how do they count towards my degree?

The local internships are worth 6 credits: the Washington internships are worth 9 credits.  If you are a political science major, the credits count towards the required twelve hours of 300-400 level courses.  If you are not a political science major, the credits count as university electives towards the required 120 credit hours for graduation.  

Can I get political science internship credit for more than one local internship while at USM?

No. A student can earn political science credit for no more than one local internship (POS 470-475, 477-480).  The granting of six-credit hours is substantially based on the academic component of the internship seminar, which is a series of joint meetings for all local interns.  Thus, retaking the internship seminar with a different internship would be substantially retaking the course.  Students who wish to receive academic credit for additional internships are encouraged to explore internship opportunities in other departments.

Do I receive pay?

Local internships generally are unpaid. The Washington positions generally are salaried.

What will my job be like?

There are internships available in the local offices of Maine's Congressional delegation. Interns spend most of their time solving the problems of individual constituents (interceding with the Social Security Administration, the Department of Veterans Affairs, etc.) The Washington internships provide students with the opportunity to assist in the preparation of legislation. (Generally interns focus on one particular policy.) Municipal interns provide staff assistance for the City Manager--helping to prepare the budget and working to promote greater productivity in city government. The state interns may work for the political parties in the legislature or they may perform research tasks for administrative agencies. The private sector interns may do research on civil liberties issues, attempt to promote the development of Portland as an international port, or assist in promoting a more active dialogue between business and government.

What course number should I register for?

The political internship seminar is often referred to as 47x because there are a variety of possible course numbers.  Even though course numbers vary, all local interns meet in the same seminar.  Once your internship is approved, you should register for the course that best reflects the nature of your internship  The courses are: POS 470 Electoral Politics Internship, POS 471 Internship in Private and Semi-Public Organizations, POS 472 Not-for-Profit Internship, POS 473 Municipal Administration Internship, POS 474 Federal Executive Internship, POS 475 Congressional Internship, POS 476 Internship in Washington D.C., POS 477 State Internship, POS 478 State Judiciary Internship, POS 479 State Legislative Internship, POS 480 International Affairs Internship.

I can't do it because...

  • I'm not a political science major. About half of our interns are not political science majors. The program can be valuable for students of any major who want to broaden their experience or explore different career opportunities.
  • I'm scared of the interview. For students who've never been through an interview, the experience is extremely valuable. It's better to practice when you're in school than to practice later on when the stakes are higher.  No one will try to put you on the spot during the interview.  We're interested in what you can do, not what your shortcomings are.
  • I can't see myself performing capably on that level. Our field supervisors are always helpful and encouraging, introducing you to the challenging parts of the job when you can handle them--not before.
  • I don't have time. The internship program is demanding. You must work 16 hours a week and prepare for seminars. For this reason it is advisable to register for no more than 9 credits in other courses. It is also advisable to plan ahead.

OK, I'm interested.  Where can I get more information?

Please contact Internship Director Robert Klotz at rklotz@maine.edu.