'A culmination of the coursework'

The internship is a culmination of the core coursework and gives students a chance to see how the skills from these classes apply in a real world context. It also gives students the opportunity to gain exposure to different parts of the policy field and helps them prepare for their eventual job search. Vivian Luo PPPS ’19 lobbied for reproductive health on behalf of a reproductive rights coalition.

Internship FAQs

The core courses teach the skills and critical thinking necessary to gain the most from the internship experience.

For students to qualify to do their internship, they must have completed at least 3 of the following 6 required courses:

  • STATS 199L Introduction to Data Science and Statistical Thinking -- ECON 104 may substitute for STATS 199L.
  • PUBPOL 155D Introduction to Policy Analysis
  • PUBPOL 301 Political Analysis for Public Policy OR 
    PUBPOL 302 Policy Choice as Value Conflict (GLHLTH 210 may substitute for PUBPOL 302)
  • PUBPOL 303 Microeconomic Policy Tools
  • PUBPOL 304 Economics of the Public Sector

From this list of courses, at least one course needs to be PUBPOL 155, PUBPOL 301, or PUBPOL 302/GLHLTH 210.

Completing these courses enables you to complete your internship requirement either the summer after sophomore or summer after junior year. Majors must complete their sophomore year prior to logging any internship hours. We still encourage you to take as many public policy core courses before the internship, as you will be a stronger internship applicant.

Please see the Undergraduate Handbook for details.

Timing is everything so START EARLY!

If you plan to do the internship after your sophomore year, we highly recommend that you declare by Fall break of your sophomore year.  

If you wait until February to declare and connect with internship staff, it will be too late to keep key applications in.  Many internship applications are due March 1st or even earlier.

Internships do NOT count retroactively:

  1. All internships must be approved by our Careers Services staff.  
  2. You must complete PUBPOL 155D, STA 199L, and PUBPOL 301 or 302 BEFORE any internship hours will count towards the PUBPOL internship requirement.
  3. You must complete your sophomore year prior to the internship.

Step 1: Declare the major.

Step 2: Complete your profile in Handshake.

Step 3: Respond to your TA when they contact you shortly after you declare the major. You and your TA will be refining your resume and setting up a google doc that you will share throughout the process with the internship advisors.

Step 4: Use Handshake to make an appointment with one of the internship advisors (Elise Goldwasser or Suz Allen) to create a search strategy, build a list of organizations, and identify alumni contacts.

It doesn't matter if it is a publicly or privately-funded enterprise or if it is paid or unpaid.  There must be an analytical, research, or policy focus to the internship.

Internships with a .org, .mil, .gov, or a .edu will count for the requirement.

For example, an internship would qualify if a student was looking at alternative energy sources and dealing with government regulation of environmental policy for a non-profit organization. But, an internship at a .com involving management consulting, investment banking or sales and marketing will not count.

Duke offers a number of policy-related internship programs that also satisfy the internship requirements. Examples of these programs include the Hart Leadership Program, the Stanback Internship Program, Duke Engage Internships, Bass Connections, etc.

You must complete 350 hours to meet the requirement.

You can combine two internships but each one must be a minimum of 100 hours.

Finance-related internships do not count for the PUBPOL internship requirement unless they are with a government agency or non-profit/NGO or are in the Government Relations unit of a private company.

So, if you want to pursue a finance internship after your junior year, you should aim to complete your PUBPOL internship after your sophomore year.

According to Professor Emma Rasiel (ECON 256), it doesn't matter what your internship after the sophomore year is focused on. Whether or not it is related to finance will have no bearing on your chances for a finance-related internship after junior year. 

The only private sector internships that will count are in the Government Affairs offices of private corporations or political/campaign communications firms.

There must be an analytical, research, or policy focus to the internship.

Example: An internship solely focused on community service like tutoring or painting a school will not count but if you conduct an evaluation of the tutoring program in addition to doing some tutoring, that might count.

Undergraduate Public Policy students that qualify for Federal Student Aid (need-based aid), can apply for financial assistance with their internship from Sanford Career Services Internship Fund. Once a student accepts an internship, they must complete the Sanford Internship Experience Form via Handshake, which automatically puts them into consideration for financial assistance from the Sanford Career Services Internship Fund. No separate application for financial assistance is needed. If a student receives internship funding from another source or program at Duke, they may become ineligible for financial assistance from Sanford or the amount of their award may be prorated.

  • Transferable skills to use in the future.
  • Deliverables to talk about in future job interviews.
  • A growing professional network, a chance to practice doing informational interviews.
  • Opportunities for being mentored by people in areas of your professional interest.
  • Experience in an office setting, working on a team, etc.
  • A chance to learn about work environments and what roles you do and don't like.

Success in D.C.

"My favorite part of my internship was working with Senator Udall’s staff on the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs on the hearing regarding the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act, legislation that greatly impacts my Navajo tribe ." — Shandiin Herrera PPS'19 Udall Native American Congressional Intern

Read more about Shandiin Herrera


  • US Department of State
  • US Agency for International Development
  • The White House
  • International Union for Conservation of Nature
  • WGBH TV/Radio
  • Asia Society
  • National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism
  • Brady Campaign To Prevent Gun Violence

Full lists of past internships

Look at complete lists of past internships in Handshake in order to find places where Duke already has employer and/or alumni connections. 


Valuable Assistance

“The Career Services staff walked me through every part of the internship search and remained advisors and mentors to me through my time at Duke." - Amulya Vadapalli, PPS'19