If you care about your community and want to be a central part of advocating for programs, resources, and services that support local populations, state and local policy may be the career path for you! Though there are many political opportunities with state and local representatives, many nonprofit organizations operate on this level as well.
State and local policy is strongly tied to state and local government, and like state government, can also be a great entry point into the federal or international level of policy, government, or law as well as its own rewarding career path. State and local policy groups help to propose, create, and change policy that is then administered by the government, so job or internship experience in one area can easily translate to the other, and vice versa.
If you’re considering state and local policy as a career, make sure to check out the La Follette School of Public Affairs! They offer a certificate program for undergraduate students, as well as several master’s programs that can help kickstart your career in policy. Graduate degrees can be a great way to gain field-specific knowledge for a graduate career, but it’s often helpful to have some degree of work and internship experience before you decide on a program.
There are many ways to gain internship experience in state and local policy. One of the most popular ways, because of UW-Madison’s location, is by interning at the Wisconsin State Capitol. To find these opportunities, you can check Handshake, the GPIAL Facebook page and Newsletter, and use your own connections to see if any of your peers or colleagues can put you in touch with a current employee. Especially if you’re from out of state, similar opportunities exist in other states and communities! Just search your local representatives, and check their websites for information about internships. The Department of Political Science also offers a fantastic Legislative Internship Course (PS 315), which allows you to earn credit and make the most of your internship.
If you’re more interested in the nonprofit/advocacy side of state and local policy, the best strategy is to find local organizations doing policy work you’re interested in and check their website or reach out to them directly about internship opportunities. Be aware that most of these organizations don’t have excess funds available to support interns, so check out alternative funding options early on, including the SuccessWorks Internship Fund. You can also take advantage of the SuccessWorks Social Justice Internship program, which partners with community nonprofits and small businesses doing social justice work, and supports eligible interns through work study and stipends.