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Breaking into EPA

2011 March 30

By Sophia Kelley

When I tell people I work for EPA, the first question they usually ask is how I got the job. How did a graduate of an MFA program in writing come to work for the federal government? One doesn’t usually associate creative, literary types living in Brooklyn with goliaths of bureaucracy. Yet here I am, and a little secret that will probably only serve to further distance me from my hip, freelancing neighbors – I love my job.

As fascinating as it is, my personal story isn’t often what people are really asking about; they’d rather get practical advice on landing a position like mine. For readers who know they want to work in public service and for people who appreciate the mission, but haven’t thought about a government gig, per se – there are several programs at EPA that help newbies break into the agency. The Student Career Experience Program (SCEP) is how I got my foot in the door of the public affairs division in New York. The SCEP program is competitive, but it is ideal for students because you can usually arrange the work hours around your classes and, unlike most other internships, it actually pays.

Once I graduated, I was lucky to be eligible for the Environmental Careers Program (ECP). ECP is a career development program that allows recent graduates the opportunity to learn about the agency through full-time employment. It involves a two-year assignment in a home office and several rotations to other offices that provide participants with a wider view of the agency while developing skills for their future careers.

In addition to these two programs, EPA offers several other career opportunities including research fellowships and scholarships. For more information, visit. For a comprehensive list of government positions, check out.  And, if you’re one of the rare ones interested in my personal story…stay tuned. In upcoming posts, I’ll be blogging on New York City environmental issues from the perspective of a bookish Brooklyn resident.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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11 Responses leave one →
  1. Gary Binderim permalink
    March 30, 2011

    I’m sure it helps in getting employed if one writes as well as you. Career opportunity stuff is usually uninteresting to me but your style of writing made it a delight to read.

    • Sophia Kelley permalink
      March 31, 2011

      Thanks for the compliment! I’m glad you enjoyed it.

  2. Anonymous permalink
    March 30, 2011

    I got into EPA from Peace Corps. Peace Corps is a federal job, remember, so after that it was easy to get a job at EPA because I was already a fed.

    • Sophia Kelley permalink
      March 31, 2011

      Yes, I’ve met a couple former Peace Corps people in our NY offices as well. That’s a good option too!

  3. Claire Marie Huber permalink
    April 4, 2011

    Great post! I too am currently involved in a fellowship program at Treasury as an IRS public affairs specialist. So far I’ve had a great experience.

    It’s important to note, however, that many of these internship-type programs are undergoing major changes and being folded into Pathway Programs … This should not deter anyone, just an FYI for those who exploring these opportunities.

  4. Katie Owens permalink
    April 7, 2011

    Great Job! I always get: ‘What is EPA?’

    I’m looking forward to future posts.

  5. Sophia permalink
    April 7, 2011

    Thanks Katie! Unfortunately I get that question too sometimes. Guess I’ll have to keep blogging till everyone knows our name :-)

  6. Allie permalink
    April 15, 2011

    Thanks for this post.

    I’ve been interested in the Environmental Careers Program for some time and have been carefully watching USA jobs for any listings for it (the website says they will be posted in March and April) but haven’t seen any. I was worried that the program wasn’t available anymore.

  7. Brett permalink
    May 16, 2011

    I’m on the exact same page as Allie. I’ve emailed the EPA multiple times asking for information regarding the ECP with no response. Alas, the said job listings still have yet to materialize.

    I guess this program isn’t happening this year?

    • Sophia permalink*
      June 15, 2011

      Thank you all for your interest in the ECP program. Unfortunately, due to severe budget restrictions, it isn’t certain yet the extent of the program for next year. The best thing to do is to research the Pathways Program and stay tuned in case ECP does receive full funding.

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