A career in law can cross many fields including business, government, technology, human and civil rights, international relations, medicine, law enforcement, politics, entertainment, sports and the arts, as well as jurisprudence and academia. If you have a passion for legal thought, strong oral and written communication skills, analyzing complex information, and a propensity for drawing thoughtful conclusions, then a law career may be for you. Law school is a three-year commitment, and a significant financial investment, so gaining relevant internship and postgraduate work experience can help confirm your interest. Students interested in law are often also interested in government, specifically the crafting of policy and law, and work and internship experience in government or politics can also help you to make your decision about law school. While many students interested in law school choose to pursue postgraduate work in the legal field or in government and politics, this is not a prerequisite. In fact, students come to law school from a variety of backgrounds including education, science, technology, nonprofits, and business.
Federal, state, and local governments need accountants, technology specialists, budget analysts, scientists, anthropologists, urban planners, engineers, physicians, attorneys, and just about every other job function. Those interested in the structure and function of government often find themselves in the legislative branch, helping to research and craft legislation that eventually may become law. Others with interests as diverse as the environment, commerce, health, education, transportation, and military defense may prefer to explore civil service paths in executive agencies and departments. Finally, one may also explore the ancillary organizations performing many important functions, such as lobbyists, government contractors and consulting firms, associations, trade groups, think tanks and policy research centers.
"Tens of thousands of Harvard men and women have served in the military...Among its alumni, Harvard has the most recipients of the Medal of Honor (MOH), the nation’s highest military valor award, of any civilian university in the country."
The Harvard Veterans Alumni Organization is an excellent resource for students exploring military options. The organization can help to connect students thinking about military service with veterans from across the University. Some service branches will also attend relevant career fairs. For additional information about military service, see our Considering Military Service guide (pdf).
Finding an internship within a federal government agency or affiliate can require a variety of approaches. Considering that there are over 300 federal agencies, each with different requirements for their respective internships, the way into one can vary. However, a great beginning would be to look for opportunities through the Pathways Program on USAJobs.gov. This is the major jobs-related webpage for the federal government. These internship opportunities are paid, and can be a helpful way to gain experience and a more in-depth understanding of how the federal government operates. Although some departments and agencies will post to Crimson Careers, it is a relatively small proportion of those available, and they will often require an additional application through USAJobs. Harvard also has many excellent resources for students interested in pursuing government internships, including the Institute of Politics (IOP). If you are interested in opportunities that require security clearance (like the State Department, CIA, and FBI), note that these application deadlines are often in the late summer or in early fall. Otherwise government internships tend to be posted between December and March.
Similar to federal internships, state and local government opportunities require multiple search strategies. Having an idea of the city or state you are interested in, then visiting the respective government website to search for the staffing or human resources link and using their job search resource is a good approach. GovEngine.com is one website that aggregates links to various federal, state, and local governments, including court systems.
There are many ways to connect with full-time opportunities in the 300 plus agencies of the federal government. A great approach is to get familiar with the Recent Graduates Program, part of the Pathways Program on USAJobs.gov. This is the major jobs-related website for the federal government. The opportunities available through the program can be an entry point for recent graduates looking to get their start in the federal government. The program is generally 1-year long and includes training, development, and mentorship. Upon successful completion of the program, recent graduates may be eligible to be converted to a permanent position or a term appointment. Although some departments and agencies will post to Crimson Careers, it is a relatively small proportion of the opportunities available, and they will often require an additional application through USAJobs. Because it is such a large and exhaustive resource, there are several other tools and offices to help students navigate USAJobs (and the government job search) including the Partnership for Public Service, GoGovernment, and Harvard's Institute of Politics (IOP). In addition, the A to Z list of Federal Agencies online can be helpful in contacting offices directly.
State and local government opportunities require similar search strategies. More often than not, you will find yourself going to the actual websites of state and local governments in order to search. Having an idea of the city or state you are interested in, then visiting the government website to search for the staffing or human resources link and using their job search resource is a good approach. GovEngine.com is one helpful website that aggregates links to various federal, state, and local governments, including court systems.
There are over 89,000 federal employees stationed overseas in over 140 countries. The Defense Department is the largest overseas employer with over 47,000 workers. The State Department is the second largest overseas employer with over 22,000 employees stationed abroad. Like many domestic opportunities, overseas jobs are filled through the competitive civil service process. Students interested in overseas opportunities should visit USAjobs, agency websites, and the other suggested links on this webpage.
Graduate and Professional Programs
To practice law in the U.S., you must graduate from law school and pass the bar exam. Graduate education is also typically necessary for advancement within government and international relations. A professional master’s degree is the most common credential for advanced positions in government agencies. Many universities offer graduate degrees in public policy (M.P.P.) or public administration (M.P.A), or a master's level degree in government, political science, or international relations. Depending on the job role or function, other degrees might be required or preferred, including law, business, engineering, or a doctoral degree.