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PICS Career Insights

Developing a Global Perspective

The International Studies major is intended for students planning to pursue advanced degrees or careers in international law, international business, public policy, global health, and government or nongovernmental organizations with an international focus. The major is ideal for students interested in learning a foreign language and exploring international topics from a comparative perspective. As an International Studies major, you will develop the ability to understand the differences in economic, political, and cultural development. Through language training and study, you will also develop excellent analytical and communication skills. International Studies majors are strongly encouraged, but not required, to study abroad. Related fields include disciplines such as political science, history, economics, public policy, public health, environment, anthropology, psychology, sociology, languages and literatures, comparative literature, law, business, and communications. 

International Studies alumni work in a wide range of careers and pursue advanced degrees. Visit the U-M Career Center and LSA Opportunity Hub early and often and be sure to request to join the PICS LinkedIn group to see what other current International Studies students and alumni are doing in their careers. Please review the PICS Career page for more resources.

*Data produced in 2021 based on a sampling of PICS alumni, gathered from 2016-2021.

Careers In: The U.S. Department of State

Shannon Farrell

Diplomat in Residence North Central, U.S. Department of State

“You should apply for multiple programs; consider applying for everything you’re both interested in and eligible for.”

Tips for applying to the State Department:

  • Make sure there are no typos in your application and resume
  • Use good syntax agreement
  • Tightly written
  • Get several pairs of trusted eyes on your essays and statements for feedback before submitting

Advice/Good to Know:

  • There are three general categories of employees at the State Department: locally-engaged staff, Civil Servants, and Foreign Service Officers. We also have a number of student programs including internships, fellowships, and scholarships. 
  • A majority of our internship programs require a security clearance
  • Keep in mind that programs often have relatively short application windows and can have a relatively long lead time.
  • Many student programs as well as career Civil Service and Foreign Service Specialists opportunities utilize the federal government's  USAJobs.gov application and opportunities platform. Foreign Service Generalists start by registering for a taking our Foreign Service Officers Test at our central careers and student opportunities portal, careers.state.gov.
  • All of our programs -- career and student -- require US citizenship at the time of application
  • All of our programs are competitive so apply for any and all programs that you’re both interested in and eligible for.
  • Our central career and student opportunities portal is  careers.state.gov
  • Two primary career categories at the State Department are Civil Service and Foreign Service. In addition, there are two categories of Foreign Service Officers: Specialists and Generalists.  
  • The Department values continuing education and has numerous opportunities for professional growth both at the Department's Foreign Service Institute and through specific programs for mid-career officers. 
  • There is also an annual Student Loan Repayment Program available to both Civil Service and Foreign Service employees.
  • Among the programs for mid-career Foreign Service Officer's to engage in full-time study while drawing a salary and benefits is completing a Master's degree while attending one of our country's war colleges. 

Student Programs at the Department of State:

  • Virtual Student Federal Service Program (VSFS)
    • Open application for this annual program is July 1 - 31.
    • For currently enrolled students
    • Unpaid
    • Doesn’t require security clearance
    • 10 hours a week for 12 months
  • U.S. Department of State Student Internship Program
    • 3 times a year: Spring, Summer, Fall
    • Unpaid
    • Approximately 6 to 10 weeks; both domestic and overseas
    • Open to undergraduate and graduate students, must be a continuing student
    • 3.0 GPA minimum
    • Obtaining a Department security clearance is required.
  • U.S. Foreign Service Internship Program (USFSIP)
    • Once a year, but is a two-year program (two summer internships)
    • Paid a GS-4 Rate
    • Housing
    • Very small cohort
    • Highly competitive
    • Financial need is among the factors considered in selection 
    • Submit a FAFSA
    • Also focuses on encouraging applications from groups that are underrepresented
    • Must be an undergraduate with sophomore or junior standing
  • Programs open to freshman as well as upperclassmen:
    • Pathways Internship Program
      • A federal government paid internship program.
      • Three categories of Pathways internships - two for current students and one for those within two years of graduation. 
      • Open to freshman
  • Fellowships:
    • Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship: pickeringfellowship.org
    • Charles B. Rangel Fellowship: rangelprogram.org
      • Currently $21,500/year for tuition and mandatory fees, academic year stipend of $16,000
      • Two paid summer internships - in D.C. and overseas
      • Mentoring
      • Entry into the Foreign Service as FSO; 5-year Service Commitment
      • Minimum 3.2 GPA
      • Must be seeking admission to a 2-year, full-time masters program at a U.S. institution in a field relevant to the Foreign Service.
      • Students from underrepresented groups are especially encouraged to apply.
      • Obtaining a security clearance is required.
    • Foreign Affairs Information Technology Fellowship Program: faitfellowship.org
      • $21,500/year for tuition and mandatory fees, academic year stipend of $16,000
      • Two paid summer internships - in D.C. and overseas
      • Mentoring
      • Entry into the Foreign Service as IMS; 5-year Service Commitment
      • Minimum 3.2 GPA
      • Be a sophomore in IT-related program at a U.S.-based institution OR be seeking admission in an IT-related master’s degree program at a U.S.-based institution
      • Obtaining a security clearance is required.

Scholarships and Short-Term Exchange Programs: