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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 provides university and college undergraduates the opportunity to help protect U.S. agriculture and natural resources against harmful plant pests and facilitate the safe trade of agricultural products. Students may experience hands-on activities like inspecting plants, plant products and other regulated items for pests or disease; conducting crop and commodity surveys; identifying suspected pests and diseases; or participating in plant health emergency response efforts.

Students accepted into the program will receive:

  • Financial aid while pursuing a degree—up to $5,000 each year the student is enrolled in a degree program ($10,000 maximum);
  • 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

Interested students must apply on-line via www.usajobs.gov. Locate the announcement using the keywords “William F. Helms” in the search engine under the “Student and Recent Graduates” tab.  Please note that you must have a USAJOBS account to apply. 

Upon entry of duty you must be:

  1. A U.S. citizen;
  2. Enrolled part-time or full time at an accredited college or university in a program related to agricultural or the biological sciences;
  3. At the end of your sophomore year going into your junior year, or at the end of your junior year going into your senior year; and
  4. In good academic standing, with at least a 2.0 grade point average.

The on-line application system will prompt applicants to submit the following documents:

  • Resume;
  • Transcripts for all completed college work to date;
  • Proof of current enrollment on a part-time or full-time basis and/or, if applicable, a letter of acceptance or letter of continuing education; and
  • A copy of your Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty (DD-214), if you are claiming Veterans’ Preference.

About William F. Helms

After graduating from Auburn University, Bill Helms joined the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s (APHIS) Plant Protection and Quarantine (PPQ) in 1958 and worked 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 supports farmers and the environment by preventing destructive pests and diseases from entering the United States, limiting the spread of pests and diseases that are already here, working to eradicate economically and environmentally significant pests of concern, and facilitating the safe trade of plants and other 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, email PPQHelmsScholarship@usda.gov.

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