WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Tim Scott (R-SC) introduced a bipartisan bill, the Department of State Student Internship Program Act, which will address the lack of diversity within the State Department's internship program by requiring the creation of a paid internship program that ensures interns are paid a minimum wage and provided housing and travel assistance. 


For years, the State Department has struggled to recruit people of color. Although the overall proportion of people of color working within the department full-time increased from 28 to 32 percent from 2002 to 2018, the proportion of women of color was lowest at management and executive levels. Additionally, although the overall proportion of people of color at the department did grow over this period,  the proportion of African Americans and women employed at the Department declined. 


This lack of diversity can be tied in part to the Department’s internship program—often used as recruitment and hiring tool in every industry—which is mostly unpaid and fails to provide housing or travel assistance to Washington, D.C., or abroad. This barrier  prevents many low-income and students of color from applying to internships within the department and therefore from advancing to full employment. 


"For far too long, the State Department has failed to recruit low-income and students of color within their internship program largely due to it being unpaid,” said Senator Booker. “Having a diplomatic corps that represents the diverse makeup of the United States will increase the institutional knowledge and capacity of the State Department and improve our image abroad. The Department of State Student Internship Program Act will help level the playing field and ensure everyone from all backgrounds has an equal opportunity to achieve upward mobility." 


“I am proud to support this bipartisan legislation to ensure everyone—no matter their financial status—has the opportunity to gain experience with the Department of State,” said Senator Scott. “Our foreign service personnel play a key role in our nation’s success, and this act will ensure we are recruiting the best and brightest—a workforce that truly reflects the American people.”


“This bill is the gold standard for how governmental internship programs should be structured. The bill focuses on payment, access, and opportunity and will allow working-class Americans the chance to be involved in our foreign policy without financial burden,” said Carlos Vera, Executive Director of Pay Our Interns. “We want to thank both Senator Booker and Scott, who have been leaders in making sure our democracy is accessible to all.”


 Specifically, the Department of State Student Internship Program Act will do the following: 


  1. Establish the Department of State’s Student Internship Program and recruits people belonging to traditionally underrepresented groups


    • Requires State to advertise the Program widely, including on the internet, through the Department of State’s Diplomats in Residence program, and through other outreach and recruiting initiatives targeting undergraduate and graduate students.


    • Requires State to actively recruit people belonging to traditionally underrepresented groups, including by conducting targeted outreach at minority serving institutions, to promote diversity.


  1. Provide authorization for pay, travel assistance, and housing


    • Establishes protocols for paying a fair minimum wage to interns and for providing housing and travel assistance to interns, both domestically and abroad, whose permanent address is not located near the location of the internship.



The full text of the bill can be viewed here.