Center for Strategic and International Studies

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  csis.org

Center for Strategic and International Studies Reviews

Updated December 8, 2014
Updated December 8, 2014
54 Reviews
3.8
54 Reviews
Rating Trends

Recommend to a friend
Approve of CEO
Center for Strategic and International Studies President John Hamre
John Hamre
41 Ratings

Review Highlights

Pros
  • Great opportunities to meet scholars and politicians from across the world (in 3 reviews)

  • Very interesting work and collegial atmosphere with engaging co-workers (in 4 reviews)


Cons
  • The internship is unpaid, though they do give (in 3 reviews)

  • Management cares very little about junior staff and despite seeming like a great place for (in 4 reviews)

More Highlights

Employee Reviews

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  1.  

    Great Think Tank

    Former Employee - Intern in Washington, DC
    Former Employee - Intern in Washington, DC

    I worked at Center for Strategic and International Studies as an intern (less than an year)

    Pros

    There are a ton of interns who work here, and, depending on the department, you can get a lot of experience working at a foreign policy think tank. There are lots of opportunities to attend policy lectures.

    Cons

    It's a very academic place and so it's not a very relaxed environment. There's definitely a clear hierarchy at CSIS, but as you work your way up, I'm sure, it becomes more exciting.

  2.  

    Summer Intern - interesting work

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Summer Intern
    Former Employee - Summer Intern

    I worked at Center for Strategic and International Studies as an intern (less than an year)

    Pros

    Very interesting work and collegial atmosphere with engaging co-workers

    Cons

    Demanding boss and low pay

    Recommends
  3.  

    Love CSIS, ambivalent about the internship

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee

    I worked at Center for Strategic and International Studies as an intern (less than an year)

    Pros

    I'm giving CSIS 1/5 stars not because I don't love the organization, but because it has the capacity to do much, much better with its internship program. And an over-riding caveat: EVERYTHING DEPENDS ON YOUR DEPARTMENT/CHAIR, so talk to current/former interns at the department you'd be working for before taking the position.

    That being said, in general, do an internship at CSIS if:
    1. You have an interest in working hard to obtain access to a particular scholar in the organization
    2. You need a prestigious, good-looking internship to do during the day while you network for full-time work elsewhere in DC (it'll really help with that!)
    3. You want to experience what a top-notch, highly professional thinktank looks like
    4. You want one of the above things AND the opportunity to work with highly motivated, intellectual and diverse peers
    5. You are being hired for an internship position with an explicit research-based focus (in other words, you are being brought on to do *this* and *this* project, not just the run-of-the-mill CSIS internship).

    Cons

    Do not do an internship at CSIS if:
    1. You want a work-heavy internship that will push your skills to the max
    2. You want an easy opportunity to forge a personal relationship with your boss/employer
    3. You prefer a fast-paced environment.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Working at CSIS can be an absolute joy in many ways: awesome colleagues, great company-sponsored social outings, sweet office, networking opportunities, debate tournaments, professional clinics, and fascinating projects. That being said, for all of the bells and whistles that CSIS provides, I think that many (but not all, of course!) of its interns quickly become disappointed with the lack of "meat" in the internship. The support structure for the overall internship program is great, but the individual departments which actually hire the interns just don't use them well. There were too many of us, and not much work to do.

    Whether they consciously do this or not, my suspicion is that CSIS departments over-pull from their applicant pools in the interest of having "farm teams" or "reserve units" of interns on hand for moments of dire necessity. Even if they don't use the interns well, the applicant list is endless, so they continue to do it without considering how this tendency affects the interns they do hire. When the moments of "dire necessity" hit, they are exciting for interns and you get to do cool work. However, these times are few and far in-between. Interns in my department asked for more work numerous times, but there just wasn't anything for the scholars or their staff to hand out. We didn't necessarily blame the staff, but it is a situation which slowly leaves interns feeling demeaned or unnecessarily insignificant (because let's face it, you should expect to feel a little insignificant no matter the internship). This situation does not hold absolutely - there are many departments which work their interns to the bone, and they interns loved it. However, there were still way too many departments that did not.

    I don't regret going to CSIS and would do it again, yet I can't say I would recommend it absolutely. CSIS accepts excellent interns who stand out from their grad program/school or age cohort. But it doesn't do much to help them develop further once they've been hired. It's akin to finally reaching the Wizard of Oz, hoping he'll offer you some transformational wisdom, and then realizing that you've already gained all the wisdom he ever could have given you simply by reaching him in the first place. Of course, CSIS can package what skills you've already developed in a great brand-name, so it's a great way to network for jobs in DC. But beyond simply stamping interns with its name, I don't think it does much to train or improve them. Positions at companies, Capitol Hill, and smaller nonprofits will probably afford you more frequent opportunities to develop professionally and feel like you are really pulling your weight.

    I will say this though: CSIS does a great job of enthusing its interns with a sense of mission, and I will never forget the people I met there (in a good way). It is a big organization, and it's fun to be part of it, no matter the role. When we did have work, standards were high and it was exhilarating to do it - you know that it's good work done by good people, and that it will ultimately go towards something awesome. Dr. Hamre is also a superb, humble leader, and I would rate him very highly. He really seems to respect interns and show them kindness.

    Overall, If CSIS could send out a directive urging departments to cut the number of interns they hire, I think it'd do the overall program a great service. Letting more people have internships at CSIS is cool, but not if it is done on the (somewhat false) premise that they are going to be gainfully employed during their time there. Free lunches, clinics, etc. are fun and meaningful only when interns have real, actual work to do when they return to their desks afterwards. The way the program works now, I think it actually just turns off people from the thinktank experience or gives them a negative impression of the pace of activity at these places.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO
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  5.  

    Great internship, but little prospect of employment

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Intern in Washington, DC
    Former Employee - Intern in Washington, DC

    I worked at Center for Strategic and International Studies as an intern (less than an year)

    Pros

    The nature of the internship depends on which chair you work for, but generally they take you seriously and give you substantive work- no coffee and copying!

    Cons

    Again it depends on the chair, but the expectations on interns can be very high and it often feels like an actual job. When it ends, it can be a bit of a come-down if you get attached.Promotion into full time work is uncommon but not impossible.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Perhaps standardize conditions/pay for interns across all chairs. This would require some pretty major financial restructuring but it would be worth it in the long run.

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO
  6.  

    Interesting place to work, but Payment is terrible compared with private sector

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee

    I worked at Center for Strategic and International Studies as an intern (less than an year)

    Pros

    1. Your coworkers are intelligent and interesting.
    2. Lots of events going on; lots of opportunities to meet big figures.
    3. Saying that you work at the CSIS makes you networking easier.

    Cons

    1. Some programs are quite hierarchical.
    2. Payment is miserable.

  7.  

    Good Think Tank with Opportunities to rub shoulders with world leaders

    Former Employee - Research Intern in Washington, DC
    Former Employee - Research Intern in Washington, DC

    I worked at Center for Strategic and International Studies as an intern (less than an year)

    Pros

    Opportunities to run into and rub shoulders with some of the top government officials of the world. CSIS is a major influencer of government policy, and several of the top staff played key roles in either previous or current administrations.

    Cons

    It can be boring if you are not one of the senior staffers, and if you are in an inactive department with less funding. The key departments are the ones with lots of funding, e.g. the Energy department. In my own department, interns were mostly neglected to cater to themselves.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Conduct more collaborative sessions involving interns as well. Keep up the good work.

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO
  8.  

    Prestigious Internship

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee

    I worked at Center for Strategic and International Studies

    Pros

    -lots of opportunities for interns to develop their skills, like Debate Clinics, brown bag lunches with the professionals at CSIS, and opportunities to meet with high level thinktank, government, NGO leaders during events
    -my supervisor encouraged us to attend thinktank events around DC, so I went to quite a few every week and learned a lot about the different trends
    -opportunities to publish in CSIS "New Perspectives" journal for young professionals
    -great place to meet and interact with leading professionals in the field among CSIS staff!
    -chance to conduct your own research
    -CSIS is a top notch thinktank and well-known, so it looks great to have interned here

    Cons

    -low stipend, but some departments don't pay interns at all, so it's good to be paid even if it's a small amount
    -positions for research assistants/program assistants don't open up very frequently (at least when I was there). you need to have good timing.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    -pay interns more please :)

  9.  

    Internship

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee

    I worked at Center for Strategic and International Studies as an intern

    Pros

    Great way to learn about how think tanks work and non-profits work. Everyone is really nice and helpful and you get the opportunity to attend a lot of interesting events.

    Cons

    Good internship experience but they take a lot of interns to basically fill full-time employee positions and if they take on too many interns, there can be a lot of sitting and waiting for assignments from your supervisors.

    Approves of CEO
  10.  

    Range of projects, some boring and some more interesting

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Intern in Washington, DC
    Current Employee - Intern in Washington, DC

    I have been working at Center for Strategic and International Studies as an intern (less than an year)

    Pros

    -Networking
    -High profile organization
    -Interesting projects to work on if you have an advanced degree

    If you meet the right people, this can be a fruitful opportunity. Graduate students will get more use out of the experience than undergrads.

    Cons

    -Work environment not very fun
    -May not be doing substantive work
    -No career opportunities after internship, unless you are lucky

    Daily tasks range from the mundane to the more exciting. Be prepared to take lots of notes and have them read by no one, spending most of your day controlling social media, and the rest of your day doing small jobs for staff. No pay unless you receive a stipend.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Make sure interns are not wasting their time.

    Neutral Outlook
    Approves of CEO
  11.  

    Great internship.

    Former Employee - Intern
    Former Employee - Intern

    I worked at Center for Strategic and International Studies as an intern

    Pros

    Really smart people, great exposure and location

    Cons

    Can get boring if your program isn't working on a project

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Keep up the good work

    Approves of CEO

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