Have you ever considered bringing your skills and experience to the table to work for your government? Government jobs can be challenging and rewarding, with yearly pay increases, good benefits, and lots of room for advancement or even lateral movement.
However, jobs with the US federal government can be incredibly tricky to land if you don’t know what you’re doing. The truth is, the federal government is a highly controlled bureaucratic environment. The hardest government job to land is your first, so I want to outline the steps to land a US federal government job to help you get your foot in the door.
- Working for the US Federal Government
- What Types of Jobs are Available with the Federal Government?
- Where to Find US Federal Government Jobs?
- Steps to Land a US Federal Government Job – Government Jobs Pay Scale
- 7 Steps to Land a US Federal Government Job
- Interview for the Job
- You’re Hired!
- Looking for other Quality Job Options?
- Final Thoughts
Working for the US Federal Government
The Federal Government employs upwards of two million people, which makes it one of the largest employers in the country. This huge number of workers means that administration of all these jobs is a huge task.
For starters, jobs are categorized into the Competitive Service, the Excepted Service, and the Senior Executive Service. The Competitive Service includes everything from the national parks to the tax department to postal workers. This is what most people think of when referring to federal government jobs. This will also be the focus of this article.
The Excepted Service includes workers in jobs outside these traditional areas, like the secret service and other agencies.
Or executive level…
Finally, the Senior Executive Service is the executive level of the government, including the Senate, House of Representatives, and the Senate.
You’ll notice the use of the word “service” a lot here. Working for the US Federal Government is seen as a service position, because all workers are employed by the American people for the operations of the state.
Location-wise, there are federal workers everywhere. However, with over 22% in the Washington DC area, there is definitely a concentration near the capital. All other states share the roughly 80% of remaining federal government jobs.
What Types of Jobs are Available with the Federal Government?
You’d be surprised just how many different jobs are available in the US Federal Government Service. These are roughly 40% administrative, but also include professional, technical, blue collar, and clerical jobs, plus those that don’t fit well into any category.
Administrative positions involve work in all types of government services. This can include accounting, training, logistics, human resources, and other departments. This is the largest group of government employees.
Professional and Technical positions…
Professionals are workers who are certified in officially regulated professions. This can mean anything from a civil engineer to a registered nurse. This list also includes financial managers, geologists, doctors, lawyers, and more.
Technical workers are highly skilled in other careers. These jobs can include chemists, biologists, mechanical engineers, computer network administrators, and much more.
Blue collar workers are those who work in the trades. They can be involved in maintenance, construction, and even production. Carpenters, plumbers, welders, and painters can all find government jobs.
And let’s get clerical…
Clerical workers work with documents and data. These jobs include things like filing information, data entry, secretarial work, and more.
There are plenty of other federal government jobs out there in other fields as diverse as firefighters and corrections officers. You just need to know where to look to find these jobs.
Where to Find US Federal Government Jobs?
If you have an interest in working for the US Federal Government in any capacity, you need to know where to look to find openings. While having a personal connection to one of the many government departments might help make you aware of what jobs are available, there’s an even easier way.
The US Federal Government is highly centralized, and so is their employment section. You can find nearly all federal government openings at usajobs.gov. A few departments do hire outside of this central hub, however. The US Postal Service is the biggest of these, but you can look for jobs with them at usps.com.
Steps to Land a US Federal Government Job – Government Jobs Pay Scale
So how much do Federal government workers get paid? Well, the answer is complicated.
First of all, it depends on what job you’re doing. Each job is given a pay grade based on the difficulty and responsibilities of the job and the experience and degree of education needed to perform it. When you hear “This is above my pay grade” in an action movie, that’s what they’re talking about. There are 15 grades from GS1-GS15.
Each grade also has 10 Steps. A step is a pay level that you can move up to within the same job. If you are a new federal employee with no previous government experience, you will likely start at Step 1 for the job you’re doing. Then you can move up through a system of raises. However, if you have a lot of valuable experience either within or outside of the government service, you can negotiate to start at a higher Step.
Finally, the location of a job is important…
Each government job is adjusted for the cost of living in the area where it is located. In other words, if it costs more to live in one city, government jobs also pay more to reflect that cost.
In 2023, a GS1 level job pays $19,738 at Step 1 and up to $24,680 at Step 10 in most locations. To contrast that, a GS15 level job starts out at $79,468 at Step 1 and up to $103,309 at Step 10. If you know the pay grade of the job you’re applying for, you can find out the exact salary you should expect at FederalPay.org.
GS1-GS3 level jobs are entry level positions that you need only a high school diploma (or not even) for. For a GS-4 job, you normally need an Associate’s degree, and for GS-5 up to GS-8, you’ll need to hold a Bachelor’s degree.
GS-9 and above are considered mid-level positions that require a lot of experience and a minimum of a Master’s degree in your field. For senior level jobs rated GS-11 or higher, you’ll need a Doctorate or professional degree (law, medicine).
Now that you know what jobs are possible, where to find them, and what they pay, it’s time to talk about applying.
7 Steps to Land a US Federal Government Job
Landing a federal government job isn’t nearly as easy as landing a regular job. There are several levels of bureaucracy to navigate through, and it takes a whole lot longer to complete the process. However, I’ve broken down the steps you need to take here to make the application process a whole lot simpler.
Go to USAJobs and Create an Account
For nearly all US Federal Government jobs, you need to apply through the usajobs.gov website. And to apply, you need to create your USAJobs profile. Do this by going onto usajobs.gov and creating a login. Once created, you can build your profile by adding all of your personal information as well as uploading your resume. You can actually save up to five different resumes individually tailored for different types of jobs.
Also, you may need other supporting documents, such as identification and proof of education. You can upload these and store them on your account for the application stage.
Thousands of job openings are posted daily on this site. It may seem like a massive task to search for jobs, but actually, you can set up automatic job searches that are specific to your skills and interests. When you find a job posting that’s interesting, you can save it in your account to look at later.
Once you find jobs that interest you, you can officially apply for them through the site. Once your application is through, you’re able to track your application status daily to see what stage the hiring process is in. You can do this with multiple jobs at the same time.
Search for Government Jobs
As I mentioned above, you can use your account to perform job searches that are tailored to your areas of expertise and qualifications. You can also search using more specific information like pay grade or location. If you have a certain government agency in mind, especially if you have been referred to one by a friend, you can search only in that agency to see if there are any jobs available to you.
Remember to search often, as thousands of jobs are posted on this site daily. You can easily miss them if you’re not consistently checking.
Read the Job Posting Details Carefully
Nobody likes to have their time wasted – not your or the people doing the hiring. Avoid wasting time by reading job postings very carefully to ensure that the details line up with what you want and what you are qualified for.
In a Job Overview, you’ll see the job title, agency, location, starting salary or pay grade, and quick symbols letting you know who can apply.
Once you click through to the full posting, you’ll find a summary that tells you more details about the above. You’ll also find out if you need security clearance, the work schedule (part-time or full-time), and even whether you’ll get paid relocation expenses.
You’ll see the Duties, which describe in depth what you’ll be responsible for in the job. This should give you a very clear idea of what you will do day-to-day in this job.
After duties come the Requirements for the job. Read this section extremely carefully. It will first describe the conditions of employment, which means all the things you’ll be required to do. This might include anything from heavy lifting to working weekends, so be sure you’re prepared to meet all of these requirements.
You’ll also see the qualifications you MUST hold to be considered for the job. You’ll also see some qualifications that are not necessary but preferred. Finally, there may be some qualifications which you will be given time on the job to meet.
Next, you’ll see the How You Will Be Evaluated section. This simply explains what they are looking for in a successful candidate and how much weight is given to things like education and experience. You may also see the core competencies that you will be evaluated on.
Required Documents comes next. This section tells you which documents you will need to include when you apply for this position. These are all going to documents like your resume, transcripts, etc., that you can upload to your account.
Finally, the How To Apply section tells you the name of the contact person for this position. It will also give you extremely detailed steps explaining how to apply for this job through the USAJobs website.
Sign Up for Daily Email Notifications
With thousands of new positions daily and tens to hundreds of applicants for each job, this website is a marvel. But to navigate it successfully, you can set up email notifications for your account. This will let the website notify you automatically when jobs that match your keywords, preferred agency, job title, or location pop up.
Each job announcement will give an opening window which is the time period within which they are accepting applications. This could be months or as little as a few days, and late applications will not be processed. That’s why it’s crucial that you are on the ball and informed daily of possible new jobs.
There is usually lots of competition for US Federal Government jobs, so be sure to apply right away. Even if the opening window is long, they may stop accepting applications if they receive too many. That’s why it’s important to be quick.
But it’s equally important to be careful and detailed.
Read the How to Apply and Required Documents over several times to be sure you don’t miss anything. An incomplete application will be rejected outright. Make sure you have everything in place so that you’re judged on your ability to do the job, not on application mistakes.
Follow Your Application Status
Once you apply for a job, you should follow your Application Status daily. You can do this through your account and follow all the applications you have active at the same time.
If your application status changes to “Reviewed,” this means that your application has been read and processed. If you later see the status changed to “Referred,” it means that you have been judged as best or highly qualified for the job. It also means that your application has been referred to the person in charge of hiring, and you can expect to be contacted further.
If you see “Not referred” in your status, you have not been selected for further consideration. In other words, you didn’t get the job.
Interview for the Job
If you’re considered as Best-Qualified or Highly-Qualified for a job, you can be granted an interview or even a series of interviews. These may be panel interviews or one-on-one. They can be in-person or a remote interview by phone or video call.
You can expect a highly structured interview that will last from 30-60 minutes, depending on the agency and the job. To prepare, look at the Duties section of the job posting in detail and be prepared to discuss these tasks in addition to questions on your education and experience.
If you’re selected as the best candidate, you will be offered the job.
This will be done by HR, who will contact you regarding the details of a contract, including start date, salary, and other conditions. If you wish to negotiate their offer, you may do so at this point.
Once an offer is agreed upon, it will still take time to finalize the contract. You will need to pass background checks, and in some cases, receive security clearance. These checks can take between weeks and months, depending on the security clearance needed.
Once you check out, you’ll be given a contract to sign and a date to start your new job as a US Federal Government employee.
Looking for other Quality Job Options?
Then take an in-depth look at the Best Remote Jobs that Pay Well, the Best Paying Jobs in Energy, the Best Jobs for College Students, 15 Part Time Jobs that Pay more than 40 per Hour, the Best 6 Figure Jobs, as well as 20 Part Time Jobs that Pay more than 20 per Hour in 2023.
Plus, when it’s time for the all-important interview, invest in a good book such as the superb Interview Like A Pro or Answering Tough Interview Questions For Dummies. Or check out our informative guides on the best ways to answer common interview questions such as Why We Should Hire You? Answering Tell Me About Yourself in Interview, how to respond to Why Do You Want to Work Here? or the always tricky, How to Answer What is Your Greatest Strength!
Getting a job with the US Federal Government isn’t easy. These jobs are highly competitive, and the process is intensive and takes time. However, the rewards can make it worthwhile.
To make things simpler, go to USAJobs.gov and follow the steps I’ve outlined for you in this article. For an even more in-depth look at applying and working for the government, take a look at Government Job: Unleash The Easy Tricks To Landing A Federal Government Job. There’s a whole lot to learn and a whole world of employment out there waiting for you.
All the very best with your US Federal Government Application.