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Wednesday Nov 09, 2022

See yourself at the USPTO: Find a student program for you

Blog by Kathi Vidal, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO

Images of Urban Alliance interns

Students in the USPTO’s IP skills work-based learning program conducted with the Urban Alliance (Photos by the USPTO)

“Being able to see so many people in a position that I hope to eventually reach in terms of public service has been inspiring to me.”

“I have really enjoyed the freedom and trust given to me while externing at the USPTO. Everyone treats you as they would any other employee in the office, with respect and high expectations.”

“Don’t be afraid to go outside of your comfort zone. The USPTO does a lot of cool things besides issuing patents and registering trademarks. Take advantage and explore different areas that might not first come to mind when you think of intellectual property.”

The future of our country hinges on the dreams, aspirations, and persistence of our youth. To help them achieve success, we provide high school, college, and law school students with a range of unique opportunities to leverage their innate skills while building new ones for continued growth. It is my hope that students will participate in our programs and then be ambassadors in their communities to let other students know that intellectual property (IP) is a gateway to future success.

Our student programs are unique and include:
• Paid internships
• Opportunities for high school, undergraduate, graduate, and law students to strengthen their IP knowledge and develop skills to help advance their careers
• Flexible time range: Over the summer or during the school year, full time or part time
• Flexible location: Virtual and in-person work opportunities available at our headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia, or one of our regional offices in Dallas, Denver, Detroit, and San Jose

One thing all our programs have in common is that students work on real hands-on projects, gain valuable skills for their future careers, and make meaningful contributions to our agency. In fact, this past August, we hosted a “Pitch Day” where intern groups shared their recommendations with me and other agency leaders – from social media campaigns to expanded outreach methods. We were blown away by their creative ideas! As a result, we have begun implementing many of their ideas (which include the great hashtag #YOUspto).

Photos of students in the Urban Alliance program presenting their capstone projects

Scenes from the Urban Alliance interns’ capstone project presentations in Summer 2022, which included special guests U.S. Commerce Department Secretary Gina Raimondo and USPTO Director Kathi Vidal (Photos by the USPTO)

IP skills work-based learning program

Our year-round paid work-based learning (WBL) experience for high school students is conducted with the Urban Alliance and provides students with a living wage, exposure to career opportunities in federal service, mentoring, and invention and entrepreneurship education. Over the summer, I had the chance to meet with these outstanding high school students, where they shared their ideas with me on how to expand inclusive innovation among their peers, communities, and across the country. They also presented their capstone presentations, summarizing their summer projects and skills they developed. We were even joined by a special guest, Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, a champion of work-based learning programs. These students impressed both me and the Secretary so much that we’re in discussions to expand the WBL program to other agencies throughout the Department of Commerce. More to come!

Two USPTO externs working on a project

Externs at the USPTO work in all business units across the USPTO, from finance, to communications, to international affairs, and more. (Photo by Jay Premack/USPTO)

Extern program

Our volunteer USPTO extern program provides talented high school and college students with unique opportunities to gain valuable skills and professional experience. Typically, the USPTO hires over 40 externs annually. Through this program, externs work on real projects that make an impact, while learning about the agency and its mission, networking with peers and our employees, and hearing directly from leadership about their own career paths. The program also offers invaluable early exposure to the world of IP and a chance to jumpstart a unique career in protecting American innovation.

Although we run the extern program year-round, the summer season is when we have the majority of student volunteers. The program duration ranges from a minimum 12 weeks to a maximum of one year, and many of the positions offer the option to be in-person or virtual.

USPTO internship program

The USPTO internship program provides students who are enrolled in colleges, trade schools, and other qualifying institutions with paid opportunities to work and explore federal careers while completing their education. We encourage students from all different backgrounds to apply! Assignments may include research, analysis, statistics, coordination of briefing books, assistance in developing detailed reports, attending and reporting out on hearings, legislative markup sessions, and more. Interns are paid at the GS-4 level and are offered the opportunity to gain professional work experience, develop soft skills, gain exposure to intellectual property, and earn experience working at the USPTO. 

Innovation internship program

As I announced recently, we have launched a new innovation internship program to provide hands-on job training to community college and university students from diverse backgrounds, fields, and locations. These paid internships offer third year college students with an opportunity to earn an annual GS-4 salary and can last up to two years. It is my sincere hope that other federal agencies will look to this program as a model as we create a culture of inclusiveness in innovation. I can’t wait to see what our first cohort of interns accomplishes.

Future Leaders in Public Service Internship Program

Operated by the Partnership for Public Service, the Future Leaders in Public Service Internship Program places young talent at the USPTO, as well as other Department of Commerce bureaus and the Department of Transportation. With only 7% of the full-time federal workforce under the age of 30, the program works to identify, recruit, and retain the next generation of public servants. The paid internship program develops a diverse pool of young talent for these agencies. Undergraduate, graduate, and law students can apply. Participants receive a $4,000 stipend for the summer from the Partnership for Public Service.

Connect with us!

Each year, our recruiters speak with college students across the country during the fall and the spring to recruit the best and brightest to join America’s Innovation Agency at our headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia, or in one of our four regional offices in Dallas, Denver, Detroit, and San Jose. View our student outreach schedule to see when we’ll be near you! We can speak to you not only about our student opportunities while you’re in school, but also full-time opportunities after you graduate. Application deadlines vary based on the opportunity. Any other questions? Contact us at

From real-world experience to real-world application, our student programs have the future in mind. Like I said to our interns this summer, my advice is to take what they learn from their time at the USPTO and build on it, continue to challenge themselves, and even when faced with obstacles, know that there are resources and mentors who can help them. I am thrilled that they have chosen the USPTO to advance their careers, and I hope more students join us on their innovation journeys.


What are the benefits of interning at the USPTO?

Posted by Lewis Linden on November 15, 2022 at 12:37 PM EST #

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