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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. While the government hiring landscape is a bit unpredictable in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, it currently appears that most federal Honors Programs are moving forward as usual for the 2019-20 application season. In addition, there are some new state government hiring opportunities that have cropped up in the past year or two, mostly at Attorneys Generals’ offices.

OPIA will continue to stay informed about the status of government Honors Programs for next year, and will circulate any reliable information we receive. If you have specific questions about Honors Programs, please make an appointment for government advising.

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. The DOJ Honors Program has one of the earliest deadlines: students should be able to apply online between July 31, 2020 and shortly after Labor Day 2020. Once set, this will be 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 last year’s guide now; the lion’s share of this guide will likely be relevant to the 2020-21 application season, as well.

Other federal, state, and local agencies will also offer entry-level Programs. The Arizona Handbooks’ Government Honors & Internship Handbook (password is thinmints) provides detailed application information for many of these Programs. The Handbook should be updated to include most 2020 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: Always check to confirm a particular program will still be offered this year.)

Currently announced deadlines or deadlines that are the same every year

Deadlines from prior programs for estimating purposes:

Students interested in federal government careers should also strongly consider the Presidential Management Fellows Program (PMF), a competitive two-year fellowship that places over 250 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 (the 2019 application window was October 3-17, for example.) Students interested in the PMF should watch OPIA emails and the PMF website for updated information about the 2021 PMF program, and plan to attend OPIA’s PMF information session in the fall.

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). Government agencies often interview 3Ls through PIIP. 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 small and very 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.