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Thinking Policy?

  1. Jan 15, 2014 #1
    Howdy everyone!
    Im a Soph at UIUC studying Physics. I'm really interested in going into government, especially policy. Not sure where, but science policy in general. I planning on majoring in Physics, minoring in Political Science, and studying Econ here and there. I don't really know where to go now, as I've been raised in academia and don't understand the outside world (joking of course). Do y'all have any general advice or wisdom to pass on?

    Also, Im thinking of doing an internship in DC this summer, but I just learned I can't take a class concurrently (which you can if you take it in the fall). So that kind of dropped in rank. But do you think that'd be worth a summer of time over being able to take several classes?

  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 15, 2014 #2


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    Internships are extremely valuable, so in almost all cases I would say take the internship (especially if it is with a good organization). I first made contact with the organization where I work today through a summer internship after my Sophomore year. I also learned so much more in an internship than I would have taking a couple of classes. Don't be in a such hurry to graduate (of course, try to graduate on time) that you miss out on important experiences and resume and network builders.
  4. Jan 15, 2014 #3
    Thanks! Advise taken.
    Im only in a hurry bc I want to learn so much in so little time haha. And don't worry, I'm enjoying college, def getting the "most" out of it!
  5. Jan 15, 2014 #4


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    You should look into getting a Master's in Public Administration. Perhaps there is a program that specializes in science policy...any PFers know of such a program?
  6. Jan 15, 2014 #5
    First, Washington DC is an expensive place to live. True, there are more expensive cities, but not many. I know this because I grew up here, and I have lived in the region for most of my life.

    Second, there is a toxic arrogance that infests this city. It is the "I'm more important than you and I will get away with being a jerk because you're just a peon" attitude. Don't fall for this nastiness. Good politicians are polite to everyone, even those who actively oppose them. The goal is to find common ground and reach agreements, not to piss on those who disagree with you. If you find yourself thinking the latter, you won't last long here.

    Third, Internships and staffing positions in Congress are valuable experience. However, most people can't take it for more than 2 to 5 years. They get tired working for peanuts on arcane legislation that usually gets discarded for the dumbest of reasons. It takes a sense of humor to avoid burning out. Cultivate that sense of humor because you'll need it to survive.

    Fourth, If you find yourself discussing how to legislate morality, thrift, or general altruism, or you find yourself talking about "fly-over country" it's time to leave. You're out of touch --and that's easy to do when you live and work inside the Capitol Beltway. See
    for a view of a reporter who rediscovered his love for his profession after leaving the city.

    Good Luck!
  7. Jan 20, 2014 #6
    I'm interested in that as well.

    And I think I could get by in Washington. My previous boss of 4 years was a wacko, so I've gotten used to shrugging/laughing things off.

    Lastly, Im looking for a role in Government, like Dept of Energy, State Dept, DoD etc. I'm sure politics would be involved to some extent. Would an internship with a politician be better off than an internship at a dept? I assume both would be very useful, but I think the dept would be a step in the right direction.
  8. Jan 20, 2014 #7


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    Here's one possible place to pursue studies: http://www.fels.upenn.edu/graduate-courses [Broken]

    I know of this program and it is a good place.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  9. Jan 20, 2014 #8
    Yes, and no. Departments of Energy, Commerce, Education, and the like are soul-killing bureaucracies. You want a taste? Listen to Federal News Radio on WFED via your favorite feeds on a week-day. They broadcast a powerful signal on 1500 kHz AM. The programming content and skin-crawling speech habits of their guests belie a certain bureaucratic culture that I personally find disturbing.

    The problem with working within the rules is that these rules are often arbitrary and capricious. You're facilitating these rules. You are a cog in the machine of bureaucracy. I've seen these office buildings. These people live to make policy on everybody and everything. If you don't find that creepy or bizarre, I guess it wouldn't hurt to try it. However, most people I know find such things frighteningly dull.

    On the other had, working for a politician means getting paid peanuts. Lawyers pretty much run the show out there. They know the lingo and the law that makes them useful for writing this stuff. The problem is that many of them don't know how to ask a question and even if they did, they have no idea who to ask. So you'd almost certainly be a fish out of water. But who knows? Maybe you're just what they need.

    Good Luck!
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