How to Get a Public Administration Internship

How to Get a Public Administration Internship-image

As you navigate pursuing a dream career in public administration and public service, the importance of gaining real-world experience cannot be overstated. Internships offer an opportunity for transformation, a bridge from academic theory to the practice of governance and public stewardship. 

Our public administration career experts at the Cornell Brooks School of Public Policy have provided clear and actionable steps for securing an internship in public administration. We’ll also provide a roadmap from getting a master’s in public administration (MPA) and leveraging your expected degree to get an internship. 

Blog: What Can You Do with an MPA? 

The Value of a Public Administration Internship

An internship can be a cornerstone of your professional development, teaching you practical skills and providing hands-on experience in the complex world of public service. It is an avenue for personal growth, where you can apply classroom learning to real-world challenges and bridge the gap between knowledge and application.

Internships are also networking goldmines that can lead to lasting mentorships and future job opportunities. By immersing yourself in the field, you gain insight into leadership, problem-solving, and critical analysis—skills imperative for a career dedicated to the public good.

Many Cornell Brooks MPA students have thrived in various internships, from local government departments to international organizations, each experience contributing to a depth of skills and knowledge.

Public Administration Internship Examples 

In each of these internships, you have the potential not only to grow and learn as part of your MPA program but also to make a real and positive impact on society. Whether contributing to sustainable urban living or shaping public health policies, these example internships give you real-world application of classroom lessons. The list below are sample internships that you can narrow your search around. 

  • Urban Planning Analyst Intern — City Municipal Planning Department
  • Environmental Affairs Intern — Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
  • Public Health Policy Research Intern — Local Department of Health and Human Services
  • International Aid Program Assistant — United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
  • Nonprofit Program Coordinator Intern — Philanthropic Foundations or Charitable Organizations
  • Fiscal Policy Analysis Intern — Municipal Office of Budget Management
  • Economic Research and Development Intern — City or Regional Economic Development Bureau
  • Education Policy and Research Intern — Department of Education or Educational Think Tanks
  • Legislative Assistant Intern — Elected Official's Office or Legislative Bodies

Securing an Internship

Research Internship Opportunities 

Starting your journey to find the ideal public administration internship takes more than a simple browsing of job postings. This pivotal step requires an earnest and comprehensive exploration to align your academic pursuits, career aspirations, and deep-rooted public service passion.

Consider this process as a mission to explore opportunities that will not only allow you to apply your robust theoretical comprehension but also shape your ability to create long-lasting beneficial changes in communities locally, nationally, or globally.

Ask yourself questions like: 
    What area of public administration am I most passionate about? 
    What resources or agencies exist in my community? 
    Are there people or resources in my network to help identify internships? 

In the Cornell Brooks MPA Program, internships are such an important part of our program that our Office of Career Management has significant resources available to help students identify and pursue competitive and fulfilling internships. 

Refine Your Application

Crafting an application is an art—your cover letter and resume are your portfolio and often your first introduction to the hiring team. They should reflect not only your academic and work history but also the narrative of your commitment to public service. Use your cover letter to align your goals with the goals of the organization you are applying to. Take the time to craft a narrative of how you decided to pursue public administration as a career. 

Internship Interview Prep 

Successfully navigating an internship interview requires both preparedness and authentic engagement. Be sure you have a thorough understanding of the organization, role-specific demands, and prepare an honest narrative of your aspirations and qualifications. 

Interview Tips 

Research the Organization: Familiarize yourself with the organization's goals, projects, and culture. Prove that you're not only interested in the position but engaged in the organization's mission.

Know the Role: Thoroughly understand the responsibilities, skills, and attributes relevant to the position. This will enable you to present relatable experiences and express your potential to contribute effectively

Prepare Your Narrative: Be ready to share your story, your passion for public service, and how this internship aligns with your career goals. Your narrative should demonstrate your enthusiasm for the role and your potential impact on the organization.

Practice, Practice, Practice: Grab a friend or mentor and conduct mock interviews. This can help you refine your responses, improve your communication skills, and boost your confidence.

Sample Internship Interview Questions:

  • What makes you a strong candidate for this internship?
  • How has your coursework prepared you for this role?
  • Can you give an example of a project or assignment that showcases your problem-solving skills?
  • What interests you most about our organization's work?
  • How does this internship align with your future career aspirations?

Being well-prepared for your internship interview demonstrates your commitment to the role, your interest in the organization, and your dedication to making a positive societal impact. 

Leverage MPA Resources

Our Office of Career Management is more than a resource; it is a partner in your professional journey, offering a wealth of knowledge on internships, resume building, and interview preparation. The best way to pursue internships and eventually a career in public administration is to establish valuable and indisputable credibility with an MPA. 

To take a significant step toward a public administration internship, discover the value of a Cornell Brooks School MPA with our comprehensive MPA guide

At the heart of the MPA program at Cornell lies a commitment to the practical application of scholarship. The Office of Career Management exemplifies this dedication, empowering students to translate their academic excellence into influential careers in public service.

Explore Internships and Externships of Cornell Brooks MPA Students

Browse the extensive list of public administration internships and externships our students have secured in our Internships & Externships Guide. 

Some of these internships include placements at these organizations:

  • Habitat for Humanity International
  • Environmental Defense Fund
  •, Inc.
  • World Bank
  • National Partnership for Women and Families
  • Philanthropy in Motion, Hong Kong
  • World Wildlife Fund

Finding Your Ideal Public Administration Internship 

An internship serves not just as a stepping stone but as a platform for change. At Cornell, we see the MPA internship not as a supplement to education, but as a transformative experience that equips our students to become leaders in tackling the world’s pressing challenges. 

Securing your dream public administration internship doesn’t have to be complicated or daunting. With a Cornell Brooks MPA, you can be ready to find the perfect internship for your goals and hopes for transforming your community. 

Our experts in the Career Management Office provide services from internship help to practice interviews and resume editing. Begin your transformative journey with our Career Development Guide and be a catalyst in the field of public administration. 

Previous Post

4 Tips for a Successful MPA Application

Next Post

The ROI of a Degree in Public Administration

Subscribe to the Blog