Career Clusters

Public Policy, Government & Law

This cluster includes jobs in public policy, think tanks, law, international development, international relations, federal, state or local government, politics and criminal justice. Find jobs and internship in this cluster on 12twenty!

Recruiting Timelines & Methods

Recruiting timelines within this cluster vary significantly depending on the type of position you are seeking and the size of the organization. To ensure you do not miss out on any opportunities to connect with an employer, check 12twenty for job postings and networking events. Develop a list of target companies and routinely visit their websites for job posting and other opportunities.

Larger organizations and federal government agencies tend to have more structured recruiting processes with deadlines as early as the fall. Federal agencies do not post all of their positions in one central place, so check both USAJOBS and specific office/department websites for opportunities. If you are interested in non-government organizations, it is more common for opportunities to pop up throughout the year. Similarly, large law firms, financial institutions, and large legal non-profits will typically begin recruiting early for entry-level legal analyst or paralegal positions, while smaller firms likely do not have a formalized program and hire on an as needed basis.

If you are interested in pursuing a career in politics, try to get involved early! Building a network of political staffers and politicians is crucial to securing a political job. The best way to build this network is by interning/volunteering for a campaign or political office. Many political offices will give hiring preferences to students who live or go to school in their area of representation.

Networking is a critical component in successfully securing a job or internship in the industries that fall within the Public Policy, Government, and Law Cluster. Connect regularly with classmates, professors, alumni, and personal contacts to develop relationships with individuals who work in these industries.

Public Policy


There are many career opportunities under the umbrella of Public Policy (a few of the most popular ones are listed below). Keep in mind that networking and informed education is vital for success in any of these career paths.

Lobbyist - Also known as government affairs representatives, government relations managers, and legislative associates, lobbyists strive to influence legislature on a federal, state, or local level. Lobbyists can work for a variety of clients, concerned with many different political or social issues, from environmental protection to stricter gun laws. It takes years of experience and the right connections to land a job as a lobbyist, but students interested in this line of work typically intern/volunteer for: grassroots movements, government officials, nonprofit organizations, and/or a special interest group.

Policy analyst - Also known as a policy expert, policy fellow, or policy researcher, policy analysts work for government agencies, think tanks, consulting firms, research organizations, corporations, and other employers, examining complex issues that affect the government and the daily lives of its citizens. If you are interested in becoming a policy analyst, the best thing that you can do right now is build up your professional network and learn as much as you can about the key issues you would like to study (i.e. environmental protection, global affairs, labor issues, etc.) Students interested in this line of work typically intern/volunteer for: grassroots movements, nonprofit organizations, and/or special interest groups. If you are interested in this career, you may want to consider further education. Many policy analysts have an MPA, Ph.D., or JD.

Political Scientist - Political Scientists research aspects of politics, the government, or public policy, specializing in any number of topics. Political Scientists are typically employed by universities and colleges as professors, allowing them to conduct research in an academic setting. They have also been known to work with members of congress, performing research and analysis on future legislation. Students interested in this career typically intern/volunteer for politicians and congressional campaigns; they also explore graduate programs. Many political scientists have either a Ph.D. or a JD.

Political Consultants - Political consultants work independently or as a part of a consulting firm, or through individual contracts. Political consultants manage a political official's relationship with the media. They develop themes for campaigns, write TV and radio ads, create campaign plans, launch campaign websites, and conduct focus groups to find the best way for their client to identify with the public. Students who are interested in this line of work typically work/intern for political campaigns, school newspaper, and other media outlets, and stay up to date with political rhetoric.


Women in Government Relations
American Society of Association Executives - Career HQ
The American Association of Political Consultants
Association for Public Policy Analysis & Management - Career & Education Resources



Opportunities within the government range drastically. With over 170 government agencies and wide spread contract work, it is impossible to give an accurate listing of all possible career paths! Nevertheless, we have a few of the most popular careers in government listed below. Keep in mind that networking and informed education is vital for success in any of these career paths.

Careers concerning Elected Officials
Each aspect of government is full of elected and appointed officials and the staff that support them. Learn more about these roles below.

Elected Officials (Federal and State Officials, Regional and Local Officials) - Federal and State Officials hold positions in the legislative, executive, and judicial branch of federal and state government. Regional and Local Officials perform a variety of tasks that influence districts and towns, dealing with local infrastructure, crime, parks, schools, and various publicly funded events. Students who are interested in this career path typically intern/work for politicians and election campaigns on the federal, state, regional and local levels.

Campaign Managers - There are a number of different roles associated with political campaigns on the local, state, and national level. One of the main roles is that of the campaign manager. Campaign managers are responsible for finding the best way for the candidate to connect with the public. They are in charge of organizing the other campaign workers (volunteers, pollsters, consultants, etc.) to make sure all talents are best utilized. They also oversee the budget, fund-raising efforts, and general expenses of the campaign. Students who are interested in this line of work typically intern/volunteer for political campaigns, political clubs, and various lobby groups.

Press Secretary - Press secretaries work for elected government officials on all levels of government. They write press releases and opinion pieces on behalf of the official they represent. Students who are interested in this line of work typically work/intern for political campaigns, school newspaper and other media outlets, and stay up to date with political rhetoric.

Congressional Aides - Members of Congress (Senate and House of Representatives both) rely on aides to help them perform their duties. Staff of elected officials are divided into two groups: the Committee Staff and the Personal Staff. Committee Staff deal more with the construction of legislation while the Personal Staff work with the congress member concerning his/her home state. Congressional aides have roles such as Chief of Staff, office managers, administrative assistant secretaries, legislative directors, schedulers, etc. Please note that the education and experience requirements for these roles may vary, so be sure to check out multiple resources, such as the Senate page program and the House Employment Bulletin, for more information.


Congress Foundation
U.S. Senate Employment & Internships
U.S. House Employment Information
Time On The Hill - Career Resources

Careers in Government Agencies
You do not have to be a politician to work in the government! There are over 170 Federal Government agencies and many more opportunities in contract work. Here are some popular career paths that will help shape your exploration. If you would like to learn more, check out this page:

Foreign Service Officers - Foreign Service Officers work all over the world representing the US Government. There are many different types of officers within the Foreign Service: commercial officers, who build trade overseas; political officers, who convey the views of the United States to foreign governments; management officers, who manage the day-to-day operations at an embassy; consular officers, who focus on border security; and economic officers, who work with the structure of a country’s economy. You can also serve the Foreign Service as a public diplomacy officer, performing diplomatic missions, as an information officer, who help other countries understand US policies, or as a cultural officer, who promotes the understanding of American culture and traditions. Students who are interested in the Foreign Service study international relations, intern at the U.S. Department of State, and prepare for the Foreign Service Exam.

Intelligence Officers - Intelligence officers gather, evaluate, and analyze information in order to aid political leaders. Though there are many different types of intelligence officers, we can generalize the field into three main types of intelligence operations: strategic intelligence (track world events and foreign politics), tactical intelligence (gather strategic intelligence in combat areas exclusively), and counterintelligence (protect national secrets and intelligence activities). The main employers of intelligence officers is the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) and the DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency), but intelligence officers are employed throughout the government and in the private sector. Students interested in intelligence often learn a foreign language, intern with an intelligence agency, and/or educate themselves of political hotspots which could make them a competitive candidate for employers.

United States Armed Forces - There are five facets of the United States Armed Forces: Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. These branches are designed to work together to protect and support the national and international policies of the government. There are many different paths your career can take within the Armed Forces, including enlisted personnel, officers, engineers, doctors, intelligence officers, etc. Students who are interested in military service do a lot of research on the industry before enlisting or joining the ROTC Program. Below are some resources that can help you get started.

Defense - Many industries, like the Defense industry, offer a plethora of contract jobs for a range of different skill sets. Right now, scientists and engineers of all kinds are in high demand in the post 9/11 landscape of defense, as well as architects, environmental scientists, and astrophysicists. There are a number of different ways to get involved in this industry, but the best way to start is by looking up the major players: Aerospace Industries Association of America (AIA), Council of Defense and Space Industry Associations (CODISA), American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE), National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA), and, of course, the Department of Defense (DoD).

Urban and Regional Planners - Urban and regional planners help develop and maintain designed communities by integrating new buildings, houses, and sites into the landscape of an area or city. There are many different types of urban and regional planners, including human services planners (develop and maintain health and social services for residents), historical preservation planners (work towards the preservation of historical monuments and buildings), transportation planners (oversee the transportation and infrastructure of the community), housing and community development planners (identify and analyze the housing needs of a community), economic development planners (attract and retain industries in a community), environmental planners (advocate for environmental issues in building construction, land use, and the community at large), urban design planners (design public facilities to serve the larger community), and international development planners (aide in the design of underdeveloped countries). Like many other jobs within this cluster, networking is key to landing a job in urban and regional planning.

U.S. Embassy: Diplomacy at Work by Shawn Dorman
U.S. Foreign Service Internship Program
American Foreign Service Blogs
Association of Former Intelligence Officers
Today's Military
Time On The Hill - Jobs


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The Legal and Law Enforcement industry is integral to our past, present, and future. Learn more about some of the careers you can have in this industry with and without a JD.

Jobs with JD
You guessed it! Many students who are interested in law go to law school. Here are some of the career paths you can pursue with a law degree.

Judges - Judges are elected or appointed to preside over federal, state, or municipal courts. They apply the effects of US law and have the ability to give new rulings on issues that have not been addressed thoroughly in the past. Students interested in this career path intern or work with lawyers or judges and apply to law school.

Lawyers - Lawyers or attorneys are the advocates and/or advisors in our legal system. Lawyers work on behalf of individuals, corporations, companies, or the government itself. They advocate for the rights of their client in front of administrative and government bodies and also counsel clients in their personal and business affairs in terms of the law (think purchase of property, writing of wills, etc.). Students who are interested in this career intern or work at a law firm to gain experience and apply for law school.

What are the different types of law that lawyers practice?
There are many different types of law that lawyers can specialize in. The main specializations are listed below.

International Law: International Law governs the relationship of countries and sovereign states. Lawyers in this field work with agreements, treaties, and other international matters. Learn more here: United Nations International Law, Courts & Tribunals.

Criminal Law: Criminal law governs criminal offenses. Lawyers in this field defend and prosecute on behalf of criminal actions ranging from murder to piracy. Learn more here: The Lawyer Portal - Criminal Law Guide.

Corporate Law: Corporate law specifically pertains to companies. Lawyers in this field negotiate and draft agreements and carry out due diligence. Learn more here: The Lawyer Portal - Corporate Law Guide.

Labor Law: Labor Law governs employment and labor relations. Lawyers in this field provide legal counsel and represent individual employees, labor unions, or employers. Learn more here: Best Accredited Colleges - How to Become a Labor Lawyer.

Administrative Law/ Public Law: Administrative Law/ Public Law pertains to the relationship of the government and its citizens. Lawyers in this field cover a wide range of legal discuss including constitutional law, criminal law, tax law, human rights law, to name a few. Learn more here: The Lawyer Portal - Public Law Guide.

Constitutional Law: Constitutional Law governs the interpretation, implementation and amending of the US Constitution. Lawyers in this field are concerned with social and political issues, bringing them to the attention of the court and the government. Learn more here: Legal Career Path - What is Constitutional Law?

Private Law: Private Law, as its name states, governs private matters. Lawyers in this field work closely with rights and obligations of individuals, families, businesses, and small groups, practicing contract law, tort law, property law, succession law, etc. Learn more here: Public Law vs. Private Law: Definitions & Differences.

Banking and Finance Law: Banking and Finance Law governs the legal aspects of finance. Lawyers in this field are concerned with the borrowing and lending of money between companies, banks, or individuals. Learn more here: The Lawyer Portal - Banking & Finance Law Guide.

Commercial Law: Commercial law pertains to intellectual property, franchising and litigation. Lawyers in this field work with businesses and commercial transactions, provide legal advice or representation. Learn more here: The Lawyer Portal - Commercial Law Guide.

Family Law: Family Law governs a wide range of legal issues, all pertaining to the family. Lawyers in this field conduct divorce proceedings, adoptions, pre-nuptial agreements, as well as issues of domestic violence to name a few. Learn more here: The Lawyer Portal - Family Law Guide.

Media Law: Media Law governs what can be published or broadcast. Lawyers in this field work with intellectual property law across the creative spectrum: theater to music to film to published works. Learn more here: The Lawyer Portal - Media Law Guide.

What Can I do with this major? Law and Justice
American Bar Association - Should you go to law school?

Jobs in Law without a JD
There are many jobs in this field that do not require a JD. Learn more below.

Paralegal - Paralegals, or legal assistants, deal with trial preparation, perform research, prepare legal documents, and overall assist lawyers and legislators. Depending on the law firm, the duties of a paralegal may vary wildly. Students who are interested in this career path, intern or work at a law firm and possibly go on to get their paralegal certification (though certification is not always required).

Mediator - Due to the growing cost of legal counsel, more and more individuals have been hiring mediators instead. Mediators oversee negotiations and settlements, provide advice, and overall bring the two disagreeing parties to a middle ground. Mediators also prepare court reports, social case histories, and other relevant documents. Though a law degree is not required to become a mediator, many mediators are lawyers and former judges. Students who are interested in this career path will educate themselves on legal matters, intern or interview a mediator, and decide what next steps are best for them.

Jury Consultant - As experts in human behavior, jury consultants work with attorneys for jury selection and have become integral to any trial. They research jurors, create juror profiles, assist in juror evaluations, provide insight to lawyers of juror’s body language during the trial, and help lawyers develop arguments and strategies to play to the jury’s mindset. Students who are interested in this career intern/work at law firms, pursue graduate work in behavioral science, and educate themselves on this field to find their best next steps.

The Balance Careers - What Does a Mediator Do?
The Balance Careers - 10 Careers for Non-Lawyers
The Balance Careers - What does a Jury Consultant Do?


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