How is an intern different from a fellow, page or volunteer?
Interns: Provide assistance to a congressional office on a temporary basis, whether they are paid or unpaid, typically for an educational benefit. An intern is not a substitute for a permanent staffer, but paid interns may have to follow some rules applicable to congressional staffers that unpaid intern do not.
Fellows: Also provide assistance to a congressional office on a temporary basis, but typically as part of a graduate-level or career education program. Fellows are often paid from a program, professional organization or sponsoring employer, while working in Congress.
Pages: Must be high school juniors who are at least 16 years old, and who participates in a structured program for a summer or a semester. Pages currently only serve in the Senate. Pages are appointed by individual Senators, and they are provided an education, housing and a stipend through the Senate.
Volunteers: May also provide assistance to a congressional office, but cannot receive financial compensation for their service. A volunteer's role may be similar to that of an unpaid intern, and their tasks and assignments are not to replace that of a permanent staffer.
How are district and D.C. internships different?
The substance of the work performed in an internship may vary greatly between district/state offices and Washington, DC.
District internships tend to focus more on constituent services, and DC internships tend to focus more on legislative activities. However, it is ultimately up to each Member office to decide what the tasks and assignments of an internship will be.
What congressional rules apply to interns?
Few rules or statues of the House or Senate are aimed at, or make mention of, congressional interns. In many cases, what determines whether any rule apply to an intern centers around whether the intern is paid or unpaid.
For instance, House and Senate rules that apply to paid congressional staffers generally apply to paid interns as well. These rules might include:
- Adherence to the Code of Official Conduct for either the House or Senate Chambers
- Gift restrictions
- A ban on solicitations
- Prohibition on payment for a speech, appearance, or publication
- Financial disclosure rules may also apply in the Senate if an intern is receiving compensation from a source other than the U.S. Government
Additionally, Congressional offices can set rules and guidelines for their interns to follow.
Is there mandatory training for congressional interns?
If an intern is paid by Congress, then they are required to take many of the mandatory trainings required of House or Senate staffers. If intern is unpaid, however, fewer House or Senate trainings are mandatory for them.
How long is a congressional internship?
The lengths of internships differ; however, most internships align with academic calendars, and are divided into summer, spring and fall.
While there are no minimum lengths for internships, there are guidelines related to the maximum length of internships. Paid interns in the House are capped at 120 days during a 12-month period, and the Senate caps all internships at 12 months.
Can interns participate in political campaigns?
The short answer here is, yes... but it also comes with some caveats.
Interns working in a Member's office in an official capacity may also work on political campaigns (for their Member or another candidate), provided they do so on their own time, and that no congressional resources, such as property, facilities or equipment, are used in the process.
Are congressional internships paid?
C2C values members of Congress who choose to pay their interns. We call them our Congressional Champions! Thanks to appropriated federal funding, more House and Senate offices are paying their interns. However, individual House and Senate offices still have the final say in managing and paying their interns.
How are congressional interns paid?
Offices that choose to pay their interns have several funding sources available to them to pay interns:
- House Member's Representational Allowance (MRA)
- Senators’ Official Personnel and Office Expense Account (SOPOEA)
- Internship funding provided to Members through FY2019 appropriations
Additionally, Committees or other support offices may provide interns payment through accounts designated for staff salaries.
Paid interns working in Washington, DC may also be eligible for transit subsidies, and should check with their offices as to the specific benefit.
What differentiates a paid intern from a paid staffer?
Unlike paid staffers, paid interns are exempt from some provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), like minimum wage and overtime pay requirements, as well as insurance and retirement benefits.
Can a congressional intern be paid by another organization?
Many organizations and educational institutions sponsor congressional internships, and interns may receive stipends from these groups for their internships. College to Congress is one such group that provides funding to a select group of student interns each summer.
However, Members and staff cannot raise money for programs that place interns in their offices. Additionally, when an intern is sponsored by an outside organization, that intern should not be given responsibilities that could result in a direct or indirect benefit to the sponsor.
Can congressional interns receive college credit for their internship?
Congress expects congressional internships to provide interns with an educational experience, but make no requirement on Members to offer or provide school credit. Nor does it require that interns be currently enrolled college students. That said, some offices may choose interns on the basis of whether they will or will not receive academic credit for the experience.
If you are interested in receiving academic credit through your college or university, we advise you to discuss it with an academic advisor at your school prior to accepting a congressional internship on the basis of receiving credit.
How do congressional offices recruit interns?
Great question! Many congressional offices post their available internship opportunities, along with application procedures, on their websites. Others post them to online bulletin boards, and social media pages, or post them using the House Vacancy Announcement and Placement Service.
But the overwhelming majority of internships are filled through word-of-mouth. Meaning, it's rare for an office to hire someone who wasn't previously known to the Member, their staff or to someone within their combined personal or professional networks. It's even rarer if that someone doesn't already live in D.C.
This is where College to Congress will help. With the completion of C2C University, you are invited to connect with our exclusive online community. Here you will get priority access to paid internship openings and networking opportunities. All C2C University alumni receive a digital diploma and a certified badge that you can add to your resume and LinkedIn page.
What do congressional offices look for in an intern candidate?
Unfortunately, there's no cut-and-dry answer to this question. For the most part, House and Senate offices are able to set their own guidelines and requirements for intern selection, just as they are with hiring staffers. However, at the very least, most offices consider whether an applicant:
- is a college or graduate student
- has a certain level of education or demonstrated work experience
- lives in the Member's district or state, or has ties to either
Beyond that, pretty much anything goes.
How many interns can one office have?
There is no minimum required number of interns for each congressional office, and offices are under no obligation to hire interns.
If interns are unpaid, or paid for through the FY2019 appropriations, there is no cap on the maximum number of interns for either the House or Senate.
However, if interns are paid through a Members MRA, there may be a maximum number of interns an office can employ.
Is there an age limit on interning in Congress?
Thankfully, there is no minimum or maximum age limit for interning in Congress. That said, the average age of most congressional interns is between 18-24.
Must I be a U.S. citizen to intern in Congress?
The short answer is, no... but it comes with some caveats.
Members of Congress have fairly broad discretion when it comes to deciding who works in their offices, but various laws and rules apply to noncitizen working in Congress, particularly when it comes to receiving pay.
Although it is generally easier for noncitizen's to work as unpaid interns, it's not impossible for them to be paid in some capacity. For example, College to Congress hosted a DACA student during our 2019 Summer Internship Program, which allowed College to Congress to provide a noncitizen enough funding to cover all of their living expenses while they completed an unpaid congressional internship in D.C.
Can I intern if I'm related to a Member or staffer?
If an intern is paid, they cannot work in the office of the Member or staffer they are related to. They may only work for or with that relative in an unpaid, voluntary capacity. However, because every Member office is its own hiring authority, that does not prohibit them from working as a paid intern in another office.