Legislative Internship PLSC 443

Washington State Capitol, Olympia, WA

The Washington State Legislature sponsors this program for Washington State college students. Interns spend Winter Quarter at the capitol in Olympia while the Legislature is in session and work under the supervision of the House and Senate Intern Coordinators. The internship begins the first day of the Legislative session in January and ends the last day of Winter Quarter. This internship provides excellent work experience and opportunities for undergraduates. These positions are competitive and applicants must interview with the State Intern Coordinators.

Information about PLSC 443 is available in the Legislative Internship Handout.  Application packets are available in the Political Science Office (AH415). See a short video introduction of this program.


Legislative Internship Handout

Washington Legislative Policy Internship

The Washington State Legislature sponsors the Legislative Intern program for Washington State college students. Interns spend Winter Quarter in Olympia while the legislature is in session and work under the supervision of the House and Senate Intern Coordinators.

Interns may be assigned to individual legislators in the House or the Senate, to committees, or to an "intern pool" to work for more than one legislator. Ordinarily an intern will be assigned first to the House or the Senate and then to a specific position. Interns usually spend the entire quarter in either the House or the Senate. Interns directly experience the legislative process through their work assignment.

They are expected to perform a variety of tasks:

  • Research and writing reports on specific issues
  • Tracking legislation
  • Attending committee hearings
  • Assisting with preparing and mailing newsletters
  • Responding to constituent inquiries by phone or mail
  • General office work

Student Qualifications

  • Undergraduate students in any discipline are eligible to apply
  • Junior standing (89 credits completed) by the end of Fall Quarter, you are not eligible if you graduate before Winter Quarter.
  • No minimum GPA.
  • Completion of two Political Science classes or equivalent demonstrated political knowledge
  • Computer proficiency in Microsoft Office, e-mail and Internet


Interns have typically received some compensation to help offset costs associated with the internship. In 2023 a stipend of $2,400/month was awarded to internship participants; that support is expected to continue in 2024.


Interns are responsible for making their own housing arrangements in Olympia. However, Intern Coordinators will provide participants with the Legislature’s housing list and interns can also join the roommate list if they are interested in connecting with other interns for possible shared housing.


The House and Senate Intern Coordinators set dress standards for interns which must be followed. Interns are expected to dress professionally.

More information is available on the Washington State Legislature's website.

Application Due Date

Applications for the 2024 Legislative Internship Program open September 1, 2023.  The priority deadline is October 22, 2023; applications will be accepted through October 27, 2023.  To apply for the program, please review and follow the application guidelines found on the Washington State Legislature's website.

Political Science Department Review

The State application and its supporting documents are forwarded to the Political Science Department by the State Intern Coordinators. The application and its supporting documents remain on file in the department office.

State Intern Coordinators Review

The Washington State Legislature Applications are reviewed by the State Intern Coordinators and they will notify applicants that are selected to be interviewed.


Around the first week in November, applicants are interviewed either at Western or via Skype by the House and Senate Legislative Intern Coordinators who make the final selection. The interview consists of a personal interview and a writing exercise.


Applicants are notified of their status by the end of November by the Intern Coordinators.

The Western faculty sponsor for the 2024 session will be Professor Todd Donovan, Political Science Department.

2024 Application Instructions/Checklist

  • Online application form
  • Cover letter explaining how you meet the internship qualifications
  • Résumé
  • One-page personal essay
  • Unofficial university transcript
  • Two letters of recommendation: one faculty reference and one professional or personal (non-relative) reference

All application materials must be received by October 27, 2023 to ensure consideration. Applications completed by October 22, 2023 will receive priority consideration for interview selection.

More information about the Legislative Internship Program application and instructions.

Course Registration

Interns receive override permission from the Political Science Department to register for PLSC 443 Legislative Internship (5-15 credits). No more than 10 credits of internship may be counted toward the Political Science major without permission from the Department Chair. Credit may be earned in other majors if the student makes the appropriate arrangement with the Chair of that department.

Only Western undergraduate students selected by the Political Science Department and appointed as Legislative Interns by the Legislature are allowed to enroll.

A Term Paper or its Equivalent

Usual practice has been the selection of a significant bill early in the session with a detailed follow-up exploring its origins, sources of support and opposition, its course through the legislative process, including hearings, committee action, floor action and final result. These papers must follow the format appropriate for a formal term paper with emphasis on good organization and adequate footnoting. Other topics not related to specific bills may also be proposed. Topics should be approved by the Faculty Sponsor.

Instead of a term paper, interns may submit the results of research they have completed during the course of their internship. To qualify, such research reports must constitute a finished product presented as a well-organized package appropriately documented and footnoted.

Term papers and research reports average about 15 pages in length plus appendices.

Instructor Visits

When visiting Olympia during the course of the session, the Faculty Sponsor meets with the interns regarding their papers. These meetings are part of the course requirement for PLSC 443.


A five-page assessment/personal reflection of the intern experience is required. The intern's observations, reflections, and suggestions for future programs are to be included in this report.

Legislative Evaluation

Each intern is evaluated by their Legislative Supervisor in Olympia. This evaluation is considered by the instructor when assigning grades for PLSC 443.

Paper Due Date

Both the major paper and the "summary and evaluations" are due in the Political Science Office, Arntzen Hall 415 on the final class day of Winter Quarter.

Journalism and Politics

John Boone, Intern 2016

Western Washington University I'm a senior at Western Washington University, double majoring in journalism and political science. My talk today will focus on the difference between my two majors, comparing and contrasting the experiences of a political staffer, and reporter. I've interned on a small town weekly newspaper, and I've interned in the Washington Senate.Here are a few things I've learned, and a few differences I've noticed. It's much easier to get a call back when you're calling from a senator's office. I've called the same exact agency wearing my journalist hat and my senator-staffer hat. And it's not even close. Caffeine never goes out of style. Don't wear white dress shirts while eating spaghetti. I've also noticed people in both fields care deeply about public service. Elected officials and newspapers really care about the constituencies they represent. I've deciphered the handwritten hieroglyphics of a constituent letter, and I've written a 2000 word article on seagulls. And neither of these tasks was trivial, because getting that response from your senator and reading about all that bird poop mattered to people. There's a lot of noise out there about how the media is elitist, or the politicians indifferent. And I can't speak for the federal level. But here in Olympia I've watched Senators take time out of their day to listen to a young couple who were having trouble make their rent payments.  I've seen journalists spend hours trying to verify one quote, because they didn't want to misrepresent someone. What I'm trying to say--and one of the things I'm grateful to this internship for teaching me --is that it's easy to disparage the politicians, or the media. And sure, some of them deserve it.But mostly, they're people. People driven to help other people. And I think it helps to take a step back from whatever is infuriating us at this particular moment and remember that.

Political Science Faculty Sponsor

Professor Todd Donovan
Political Science Department
Western Washington University
AH 418, 516 High Street
Bellingham, WA 98226-9082S