Government Honors Programs are the most common pathway for 3Ls and certain recent graduates to enter government service at the federal, state, and local levels. However, current federal hiring plans may be in flux. In January 2017, the Trump Administration temporarily froze all federal government hiring. Many agencies had already extended Honors offers at that point, and ultimately most, if not all, such hires were exempted from the freeze and allowed to come on board. The freeze was lifted in April 2017, and the majority of federal agencies that historically have hired at the entry level continued to offer Honors Programs with fall 2017 applications and fall 2018 start dates.
Nevertheless, it is unclear whether these practices will impact any Honors Programs this coming fall (and if so, to what extent). OPIA will continue to stay informed about the impact of hiring practices on federal Honors Programs for next year, and will circulate any reliable information we receive. If you have specific questions about federal Honors Programs, please make an appointment with OPIA advisors Catherine Pattanayak and/or Joan Ruttenberg.
In contrast, there are some new state government hiring opportunities that have cropped up in the past year or so, mostly at Attorneys Generals’ offices.
Government Honors Programs
The U.S. Department of Justice Attorney General’s Honors Program has historically been the largest and among the most competitive of the government honors programs. Ordinarily, the DOJ Honors Program has one of the earliest deadlines. Assuming the DOJ Honors Program proceeds this year, students will be able to apply online between July 31, 2018 and September 4, 2018. This is a hard deadline – no exceptions! In early August, OPIA will post its updated Insider’s Guide to the DOJ SLIP and Honors Program Application Process. You can view the last year’s now; the lion’s share of this guide will likely be relevant to the 2018-19 application season, as well.
Other federal, state, and local agencies will also offer entry-level Programs (but see the caveat above about federal hiring). The University of Arizona College of Law Government Honors and Internship Handbook (password is thinmints) provides detailed application information for many of these Programs. The Handbook should be updated to include most 2019 opportunities by early August; watch for additional information from OPIA over the summer. Note that many of these Programs will have deadlines beginning in August/early September. Below are deadlines we are currently aware of, as well as deadlines from last year to give you a sense of typical timing for these opportunities. (Note: As stated above, it is not clear whether some of these programs will be offered this year.)
Currently announced deadlines or deadlines that are the same every year
- New York City Law Department: after August 1, but apply early after deadline for best consideration
- Washington State Attorney General’s Office: August 15, 2018
- Department of State: September 1, 2018 (Note: State’s Office of the Legal Adviser opted not to do entry level hiring last year, but as of May 15, 2018, their hiring freeze has been lifted.)
- Department of Justice (DOJ): September 5, 2018
- Air Force JAG: September 10, 2018 (Fall Board) (Note: need to begin preparing 2 months in advance)
- Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Bureau of Competition: September 10, 2018
- Coast Guard JAG: September 10, 2018
- Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC): September 18, 2018
- Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC): September 30, 2018
- Army Corps of Engineers: October 15, 2018
- Internal Revenue Service: Rolling, but apply in the early fall for best consideration
- Food and Drug Administration: Rolling, but apply in the early fall for best consideration
- Central Intelligence Agency: Rolling (recommend applying over the summer)
Deadlines from last year’s (or year most recently offered) programs:
- Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC): October 3, 2016
- Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD): September 8, 2017
- Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC): September 8, 2017
- Department of Homeland Security (DHS): September 15, 2017
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA): September 17, 2016
- Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office: September 18, 2017
- Federal Communications Commission (FCC): September 25, 2017
- Oregon Attorney General’s Office: September 27, 2017
- Department of Labor (DOL): October 6, 2017
- California Attorney General’s Office: October 23, 2017
- Navy JAG: October, 2017
- National Labor Relations Board (NLRB): November 17, 2016 (regional offices), November 22, 2016 (Board and General Counsel)
- Colorado Attorney General’s Office: November 30, 2017
- New York Attorney General’s Office, Division of Appeals and Opinions: April 9, 2018
- Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): February 1, 2018
- Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office: March 11, 2018
Students interested in federal government careers should also strongly consider the Presidential Management Fellows Program (PMF), a competitive two-year fellowship that places over 600 graduate students (including 3Ls and LL.M.s) in public policy and management positions with federal executive agencies. Applications are typically due in mid-September or early October, though this year’s date is still to be announced. Students interested in the PMF should watch OPIA emails and the PMF website for updated information about the 2019 PMF program.
Important Steps in Your Government Job Search
You must take a strategic approach to your search. Critical components of your search should include the following:
- Checking agency websites regularly, beginning in July, for hiring instructions. Some agencies have unique hiring requirements or ask that you submit applications directly to a specified e-mail address. Be sure to follow any instructions listed on an agency’s website.
- Checking USAJOBS regularly, beginning in July, for Honors Program application announcements. Many federal agencies must recruit for entry-level positions (including Honors positions) through USAJOBS.
- Checking the Arizona Handbook (password is thinmints) regularly, beginning in July, for Honors Program application announcements. Although the Handbook is not infallible, it remains the most comprehensive source on Honors Program application information at the federal, state, and local levels.
- Applying directly and through the Public Interest Interview Program (PIIP). Typically, a number of government agencies interview 3Ls through PIIP each fall. However, because many agencies receive more on-campus bids than can be accommodated through interview slots, you should apply directly to each agency, as well. Watch for e-mails about PIIP (including information about the bidding process and participating employers) in the coming weeks.
- Networking. Because of the large number of applications received by government agencies, personal contacts can often mean the difference between an application languishing in an inbox or landing on a decision-maker’s desk. Networking also helps you learn more about an agency’s structure and day-to-day work, which will allow you to write stronger applications.
- Applying broadly. Each year, HLS 3Ls and recent graduates are offered spots in federal, state, and local Honors Programs. Nevertheless, Honors Programs and the PMF Program, which serve as the primary entry-level hiring vehicles for government, are extremely competitive; if you are interested in government work after graduation, we strongly encourage you to think broadly about your interests and career goals, and to apply to any Program (federal, state, or local) that is compatible with those interests/goals.
- Educating yourself about the security clearance process. Most federal agencies require post-graduate applicants to undergo some degree of background check or security clearance before employment; the level of scrutiny varies with the nature of the position and the agency involved. Common clearance issues can include past drug use, defaulted student loans, neglected financial obligations, failure to comply with intellectual property laws (particularly with respect to illegal downloading of music or video recordings), or failure to comply with tax laws. If you are concerned about possible factors that could affect your clearance, make an appointment with an OPIA advisor.