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William F. Helms Internship Program

USDA Pathways Program:  William F. Helms Internship Program

Interested in a career in agriculture, botany, plant pathology, entomology, or other biological sciences?

The USDA Pathways Program:  William F. Helms Internship program provides university and college-level students with the opportunity to help protect U.S. agriculture and the environment while facilitating global trade of pest and disease-free agricultural goods. Students may experience hands-on activities like inspecting plants, plant products and other regulated items for pests or disease; conducting crop and commodity surveys; assisting with the identification of suspected pests and diseases; or participating in plant health emergency response efforts.  

Students accepted into the program will receive:

  • Tuition assistance while pursuing a degree (Up to $5,000 each year the student is enrolled in a degree program);
  • Mentoring;
  • Paid work experience during school breaks (both summer and holiday periods);
  • Career exploration, and;
  • Possible permanent employment upon successful completion of education, training, and work requirements.

To Apply (We are not accepting applications in 2018.

Interested students must apply on-line via To locate the announcement, type the keywords “William F. Helms” in the search engine located under the “Student and Recent Graduates” tab.  Please note you must set up a USA Jobs account to apply. The announcement will not be open in 2018.

To be eligible you must:

  1. Be a US citizen;
  2. Be enrolled or accepted for enrollment in an accredited college or university;
  3. Be a sophomore or junior in good academic standing with a minimum cumulative 2.5 GPA;
  4. Be enrolled in programs related to agriculture or the biological sciences; and
  5. Agree to work for the Agency during school breaks (both summer and holiday breaks) a minimum of 640 hours prior to completion of studies.

The on-line application system will prompt applicants to answer self-assessment questions and to submit the following documents:

  • Resume;
  • Transcripts for all completed college work to date and proof of current enrollment on at least a half-time basis; and
  • A copy of your DD-214 if you are claiming veteran’s preference

About William F. Helms

After graduating from Auburn University, Bill Helms joined APHIS in 1958 and worked for PPQ in the field offices in Alabama, Mississippi, and Texas.  He was assigned to headquarters in 1980 as the Associate Deputy Administrator for PPQ. Subsequently, he was promoted to Deputy Administrator, the highest ranking position in his division and the position he retained until his untimely death in 1990. Mr. Helms was an active proponent for change and management improvement. He also looked for a better way of doing business. Through many organizational changes, he never lost sight of the people – the organization’s most valuable asset. An example of his feelings is reflected in a comment he made after a major reorganization in the late 1980’s: “There’s been some skepticism about the reorganization – many people are resistant to change no matter what. But I believe that it doesn’t make any difference how many boxes on the chart, how many people you have, how many interrelationships – if you have good, dedicated people, you’re going to get results. I think that’s why APHIS has succeeded over the years.”

The USDA-PPQ William F. Helms Internship Program continues the legacy Bill worked hard to establish and is further evidence of the agency’s continuing commitment to support and hire the best and brightest young people with an interest in the mission of PPQ.

About PPQ

PPQ safeguards agriculture and natural resources from the entry, establishment, and spread of animal and plant pests and noxious weeds into the United States of America; and supports trade and exports of U.S. agricultural products. 

PPQ accomplishes its mission by:

  • Preventing, detecting, managing, and if possible, eradicating foreign pests and diseases in the United States;
  • Developing scientifically advanced, environmentally sound methods to respond to plant health threats;
  • Collecting and analyzing pest data, both in the United States and overseas, to identify and evaluate pathways for the introduction and movement of invasive plant pests;
  • Partnering with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to prevent the introduction of agricultural pests and diseases at ports of entry;
  • Developing quarantine policies and regulatory requirements for agricultural commodities and plant resources; and
  • Establishing requirements for and facilitating the safe import and export of agricultural products.

By vigilantly protecting agriculture and the environment against pest and disease threats, PPQ ensures a diverse natural ecosystem and an abundant and healthy food supply for all Americans.

For More Information

This internship may be available annually.  To check availability or learn more, contact Juanita Whiting at 301-851-2062 or email

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