Government & Law Career Field
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When you think about positions in government, you need to think broadly. Careers can be pursued at the local/municipal level, within county government, or at the state and federal level (check out our Federal Employment Search Tips career guide). Public service attracts a wide range of individual skills, interests, and expertise...so no matter what career field you are hoping to enter, a position may exist. State and federal agencies include Education, Economic Development, Employment Services, Health, Human Resources/Management Services, Transportation (among others) and a range of services to citizens from A to V (such as services for aging to Veterans Services). In 2015, more than 34,000 civil servants worked for the State of Minnesota.
Public policy is another area to consider. It is not a tangible thing but rather a term used to describe a collection of laws, mandates, or regulations established through the political process. The field of public policy typically demands candidates with a graduate degree in public policy (MPP) or public affairs (MPA), although related entry-level careers exist for students with bachelor's degrees. In Minnesota, we are fortunate to have the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. It currently ranks 8th out of 50 public policy schools in the U.S.
If you are interested in the law, law enforcement, or working in corrections, there are, once again, opportunities at the municipal, state and federal levels. Police/fire/emergency services exist, and each state has an Attorney General’s office. Corrections Departments tend to employ a high number of individuals. In the State of Minnesota, for example, Corrections is ranked #3 (only Human Services and Transportation are higher). Positions related to compliance also seem to attract individuals interested in the enforcement of laws. Compliance officers are hired by governmental agencies (see paragraph above).
If you are interested in attending or exploring law school, start by reviewing the many pre-law resources available to all U of M students. And finally, it’s worth noting that several career options exist in legal services that do not require a law degree. Examples include paralegals, legal assistants, victim/witness advocates, and contract administrators.
Careers in government and in the public service sector encompass a variety of job functions and attract candidates from nearly all academic majors. Like any other business or organization, government agencies need communication/marketing, human resources, customer support, finance, accounting, project management, and technology support. It’s important to examine (and gain clarity on) your individual interests, skills, and how your previous experience has prepared you for the position. Another component of the job search is knowing WHY you are drawn toward public service (your work values).
Click to expand each gray box below for opportunities in this career field!
Use O*NET, a free online database that provides career information including job duties, salary, and job growth information for hundreds of careers to start exploring careers in this field. Here are some sample titles to get you started:
Legislator (or Legislative Assistant)
Tax Examiners and Revenue Agents
Fish and Game Warden
Probation Officer and Correctional Treatment Specialist
Foreign Service Officer
You can also watch career profiles of professionals in this field, including UMN alums!
Below is a small sampling of organizations and their positions that have recruited CLA students in the past. For a more comprehensive list of job openings, search Handshake, a free database of internship, volunteer, and job postings for UMN students.
Consumer Analyst, Office of the MN Attorney General
State Director for Environment America, The Public Interest Network
Judicial Assistant, U.S. District Court of Minnesota
Corrections Officer, Scott County
Code Compliance Officer, City of Superior, Wisconsin
Health Program Manager, MN Department of Health
Youth Specialist, Peoria County Government
Police Officer, City of Newton, Kansas
Community Organizer, Clean Water Action
Workforce Services Specialist, Hennepin County
Crime Analyst, City of La Crosse
Real Estate Appraiser, St. Louis County, MN
Border Patrol Agent, United States Border Patrol
Legal Secretary II, Eau Claire County
Watercraft Inspector, Washington County, MN
WIC Program Consultant, Iowa Department of Health & Human Services
Seek out opportunities, such as those listed below, to develop the 10 Core Career Competencies. Active Citizenship & Community Engagement, Teamwork & Leadership, Engaging Diversity, and Ethical Reasoning & Decision-Making are especially valued in the Human Services, Government & Law Enforcement field. Check out the “Being Marketable for Federal Government Jobs” article.
Internships and Part-Time Jobs
Below is a small sampling of organizations and their positions where CLA students have done internships and part-time jobs in the past. For a more comprehensive, search Handshake, a free database of internship, volunteer, and job postings for UMN students or search for on-campus jobs. Another option to consider is the HECUA program which has an internship component with organizations, often in the public service sector.
Urban Scholar, City of Minneapolis Regulatory Services Department
Political Leader of Tomorrow (PLOT) Intern, WomenWinning
FBI Honors Intern, Federal Bureau of Investigation
Public Policy and Communications Intern, Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance
Legal Assistant Intern, Minnesota House of Representatives
Intern, Neighborhoods Organizing for Change
Predatory Offender Registration Intern, Bureau of Criminal Apprehension
Intern, Minnesota Department of Transportation
Program Evaluation and Auditing Intern, Metropolitan Council
Legal Intern, Ramsey County Attorney's Office
Constituent Services Intern, United States Senate
Youth Aid Intern, Newham Youth Offending Team
Refugee and Immigrant Program Intern, The Advocates for Human Rights
Public Affairs Intern, US Department of State
Constituent Outreach Intern, Office of Governor Mark Dayton
Visual Communications Interpretation Intern, National Parks Service
Legislative Intern, US House of Representatives
Communications and Outreach Intern, US Department of Education
Public Policy Intern, AARP
Legal Intern, Holman Webb Lawyers
Government Relations Intern, Minnesota Department of Education
Research Assistant, Hennepin County
The Center for Community-Engaged Learning has advising staff that will help you get connected to one of the 300+ community organizations that match your interests.
Undergraduate research is valuable for anyone thinking they might pursue graduate study. There are many ways to participate in research at the university, so click on the link above to explore them all.
Join a Student Group
Consider getting involved with a student group. Under categories, select “Political and Social Action” to find groups that match your interests. Here are a couple of examples of groups that might be of interest to you:
Advancing Urban Health Equity
All Campus Elections Commission
American Constitution Society for Law & Policy
CivicDuty at the University of Minnesota
If you are interested in working for the federal government check out the Pathways Program and consider fellowships through the Partnership for Public Service. The federal government also offers temporary positions that often students are qualified for.
Job & Internship Search Sites
Handshake - search this free database of internship, volunteer, and job postings for UMN students, you can filter by your career interests to find opportunities that connect with your career goals
Humphrey School of Public Affairs Career Opportunities. Use the username “hhhpostings” and the password “postings”
Minnesota Council of Nonprofits-Postings for nonprofit positions in MN
Idealist-Postings for nonprofit positions in the US and internationally
USA Jobs-US federal job postings
Public Service Careers- Job postings (& check out “Why Public Service?”)
Building relationships, also known as networking, is another important strategy, click the "Building Relationships" gray box below for advice for how to approach this!
Talk with and Observe Professionals
Networking can help you explore a career field; start by doing informational interviews which is when you set up a time to have a discussion with people who are in organizations or professions that are of interest to you to ask questions about their career path. Then, find opportunities to observe (or Job Shadow) these professionals at work so you can get a better sense of what that career would be like. Find alumni and professionals to speak with by searching the free to use Maroon & Gold Network which allows students to do highly tailored searches to find alumni and professionals in the community who share their specific career interests. For example, you can browse the network to find individuals who are willing to share insights by industry, college, major, degree type, employer, location and more. You can also find contacts through using the LinkedIn Alumni Tool and through professional organizations.
“Networking and experience. It is not always about the degree but what you do with your degree. Planning ahead before graduation to gain experience is a must. Find similar activities or jobs that pertain to what you want to build and start to build experiential hours. It can be in the form of volunteering, interning or job shadowing.” -Dakota County, representative
"The public sector is mission focused. We take good care of our staff so they can effectively serve others. To excel in government you have to really care about making a positive difference in other people's lives." -Hennepin County, representative
"Public sector jobs are very competitive. You can stand out by networking with other government employees and having a stellar cover letter." -Hennepin County, representative
"Being able to follow procedures or protocol is important. As government employees, we are responsible to the public for results and appropriate use of their money. That shouldn't be taken to mean creativity and outside the box thinking are not encouraged--they are. There may be a systematic approach to the implementation of initiatives and ideas." -Minnesota Judicial Branch, representative
"With government jobs, applicants need to possess all the minimum qualifications to be considered for a position that is available. There are internships available. We start looking for summer interns in February or March. We post internships and employment opportunities on our website." -Minnesota Judicial Branch, representative
Below is a list of some CLA courses that may help you explore and/or prepare for this career field. This list is not all inclusive. Please discuss your academic and career interests with your Academic Advisor for guidance.
Internships in Politics & Government, POL 3080
Political Engagement Careers, POL 3065
Law School Exploration, CLA 3205
Political Engagement Careers: Planning and Preparing For Your Future, POL 3065
Law & Literature, ENGL 3093
Gender and Global Politics, GWSS 3003
Law, Crime, & Punishment SOC 1101
Sociological Perspectives on the Criminal Justice System, SOC 3101
You may also want to consider coursework in Writing and Speaking, Problem Solving and Analytics, Leadership, Understanding Human Behavior and/or Social Justice/Human Rights. Learn more about recommended pre-law courses at the U of M. There is not one major or minor that will prepare you for this field as there are many pathways.
For a deeper study on a specific discipline within this field, you may want to consider graduate school programs to enhance your expertise, or in some fields open up more job advanced job opportunities. Faculty in your department are fantastic resources to solicit information from. Additionally, you can search for graduate school programs use the Grad School Directory or Peterson's Guide.