How to Get a Government Job


Government Jobs

If you are searching for a fulfilling job that will give you the financial reward and job security you need in a field that is best suited for background, skills and experience, a government job may be what you need. The United States Government is the largest employer in the United States, and government jobs are available for people with all sorts of skills and qualifications.

There will continue to be an abundance of government jobs in America for jobseekers, and you don’t necessarily need to have a college degree to get a government job that pays as much as $47,000 a year plus benefits.

Furthermore, US government jobs are typically super-stable and recession-proof. For many positions, you get scheduled cost-of-living raises. This means your pay continues to increase the longer you stay in the job. You also get incredible benefits: health insurance for you and your family, retirement income, paid training, vacation time and overtime pay. If this is something that sounds appealing to you, keep reading to figure out how this could become your new reality!

According to, “The federal government employs over 2,700,000 workers and hires hundreds of thousands each year to replace civil service workers that transfer to other federal government jobs, retire, or leave for other reasons.” And, everyone knows government compensation and benefits are great. In 2014 federal civilian workers had an average wage of $84,153, according the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA).5

By comparison, the average wage for the nation’s 111 million private-sector workers was $56,350. All you have to do is understand where the different branches of positions are offered, and make sure that you are situated in the right place to get the position you want – or that there is a telecommuting option that you are eligible for. After all, you must go where the jobs are, so take that seriously into consideration before you apply for anything.

Government Job Application Process

Not many people understand how to begin the application process to land a great government job. Searching for a government job can be more complicated than other job searches because of the regulations, but tailoring your search to the Federal Government’s rules will increase your chances of getting a job. You just need follow the standard application process:

  1. Find the right government job opening that you are qualified to do.
  2. Apply for the job in the way the government expects you to.

It is however important to realize that government hiring decision makers do not provide any advice whatsoever to job applicants. If you haven’t followed the correct procedure when submitting your application, you’ll be weeded out, no matter how well qualified you are for the job.

Credentials and Qualifications

Jobs with the government are available at all qualification and skill levels from high school students with no experience to Ph.D.’s with established careers. Education and training requirements vary with position. A few occupations such as office clerk do not require a high school diploma or any experience. Some require a high school diploma; some a 2-year degree; some a 4-year college degree; and some require more specialized education beyond a 4-year degree.

For those who are looking at a government position with only a high school education, you’d be best suited for an entry level position until you decide which way you want to move and how you can further your education to make sure you find the best place you.

If you have a Bachelor’s Degree or higher, you can look at getting into the government positions that are meant for your education level. These mean more specialized positions in a field that you are already educated in, as well as the option of being given incentives to further your education in order to get a higher position in your field.

Note that college degrees only qualify you for a particular grade level if they are related to the job. On the other hand, for occupations requiring general college-level skills, a bachelor’s degree in any subject can qualify you.

Job Series and Grades

The US government has a system of classifying positions that determines your salary. It is important to understand the system so you can understand the highest level you can apply for.

  1. GS-1: no completed high school level education
  2. GS-2: completed high school education
  3. GS-3: same education level meant for clerk-steno options
  4. GS-4: a completed associate degree or 2 years equivalent study time after high school
  5. GS-5 (or 7, depending): a bachelor’s degree or equivalent time spend in study after high school.
  6. GS-7: a bachelor’s degree or equivalent plus one year of extra study time
  7. GS-9: a master’s degree or 2 years of graduate study; a law degree
  8. GS-11: a Ph.D. or equivalent in law.

With this chart handy, you should be able to make sure that you are applying for the right position so that you have the best chances of being successful in your job hunt.

Minimum Requirements

The general requirements for employment vary with different government jobs, but the government gives strong priority to hiring United States citizens and nationals, although non-citizens may be hired in exceptional circumstances.

Job Titles

The Federal Government uses specific lingo to describe its jobs. Some of these descriptions can be confusing, and require interpretation. For example, if you are looking for a position in web design. The Government does not use that name, even though it hires people to do that type of work. So if you’re searching for a job in web design, rather than searching for “web designer”, you’d have to search under visual arts specialist, public relations specialist or information technology manager.

Recognizing the confusion its job title lingo causes, he Federal Government does provide definitions for many of its job titles at its employment website: For more detailed information about titles, check the Office of Personnel Management’s Occupational Classification Manual, available online at

Finding Job Openings

Federal agencies advertise vacancies online at USAJobs is an online database that enables job seekers to search for positions by location, job category or by agency. Most, but not all, full-time, part-time and permanent Federal jobs are posted on USAJobs.

Searching this database online or by telephone is the first step to finding a Government job. You can also contact agencies directly for assistance and for information about special hiring programs. In addition, many government agencies use ads and fairs to supplement their recruitment efforts.

Federal vacancy announcements use a common 5-tab format to provide information about the position. It is important to read each section carefully to ensure you fully understand the position, you meet the required qualifications, and you are aware of how your application will be evaluated.

  • Tab 1 – Overview – briefly describes the job and provides basic information regarding salary, who may apply, duty location, open period for acceptance of applications, and job
  • Tab 2 – Duties – cites the major duties and responsibilities of the job.
  • Tab 3 – Qualifications and Evaluations – lists the type of skills/competencies you need to be eligible for the position and how your experience will be evaluated.
  • Tab 4 – Benefits & Other Information – highlights some of the benefits available to you as an employee.
  • Tab 5 – How to Apply – lists the required application materials and provides instructions on how to submit your application package.

How to Apply for a Government Job

Here’s a summary of the steps you will need to take in order to apply for the position you desire with the Federal government.

  1. Log on to and create an account. This is the centralized website where Federal agencies typically post their job vacancies. This website allows visitors to sort openings by occupation, location, occupational group, keyword, grade level, salary, and Government agency. The advanced option allows visitors to search by any or all of these factors simultaneously.
  2. If you are looking for a specific job title, search for it immediately using the occupational series function. It is important to keep in mind however, that one Federal title does not necessarily cover all the jobs that use a specific skill or. To cast a wider net, search by occupational group. You can also search by geographic location.
  3. You can also perform a keyword search openings you might be interested if you are familiar with Federal job titles. For example, a search for “mathematics” could yield openings for positions related to mathematics.
  4. To identify jobs that require a given level of education or experience, specify the appropriate GS level.
  5. When you find a position you’d like to learn more about, click on the Job Opening title. You will see a screen with the following tabs: Overview, Duties, Qualifications & Evaluations, Benefits & Other Info, and How to Apply. Click on the Duties tab to find out exactly what the job responsibilities are. If you feel this position is a good fit for your background, skills and experience, go ahead and print the page and the Qualifications & Evaluations page to highlight keywords that you can use to tailor your résumé specifically for this job.
  6. Ensure that you have the Vacancy Announcement Number on your job application and/or résumé to ensure that your application is processed for the specific job you’re applying for. Make sure to submit your application before the closing date.
  7. Under the How to Apply tab, you will see very specific instructions about how to submit your application for this job. Usually you can choose whether to mail, email, or Fax.
  8. Before applying, you will need to gather all of your information, beginning with your High School diploma. Make a list of your work history going back at least 10 years, including any time periods you were not employed. Include copies of training certificates, degrees and other relevant documentation.
  9. When you find a job for which you’d like to apply, create a résumé. You need a specially created resume for a government job. If you already have a resume, you can use some of the information as a starting point, but keep in mind that if it doesn’t provide all the detailed information required by the federal government, it will not be considered.
  10. Enter your résumé information into the “Résumé Builder” function on This feature allows you to create one uniform resume that provides all of the information required by government agencies, instead of having to submit multiple resumes in different formats.
  11. Since the posting will be removed from the website after the “closing date,” it’s a good idea to print a copy of the job posting for each job you apply for, along with a copy of your tailored résumé. This will allow you to see what qualifications you highlighted for that particular job.
  12. It is vitally important to use the right keywords in your application. Review other similar job announcements. Look for the description of skills, experience, education and other credentials that are important in your field.

Make sure to keep an eye on the online database that is responsible for updating job positions and titles as they become available or are filled. This will tell you the position, the education level required, the duties of each position, and the location in which it will exist. This way, you will have a chance on finding the right combination of the job positions that will suit your lifestyle with minimal need to change your life.

If you have any friends or family that work within the government ranks, it would be best to see if they know of any job positions opening up in the near future so that you have the chance to prepare your application and apply as soon as they come online. This will give you an edge in making sure that you get your name and qualifications under the nose of the person responsible for hiring you.

Students and Recent Graduates

If you’re looking for an internship, summer job, or co-op program, the Federal Government can provide those opportunities. Students can find internships, co-ops, and other jobs by checking the online database at The Federal Government also offers special programs for recent college graduates to help them advance their careers. You can learn about them by attending career fairs, contacting agencies that interest you, and searching the USAJOBS database.

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