Discover how to find government jobs and know if you're qualified.
Whether at the local, state or federal level, government jobs provide people the opportunity to develop skills and help others. Also known as civil service employment, these jobs usually offer excellent benefits, pay well and are relatively stable, although cuts to government programs may threaten some jobs during a weak economy. A variety of career opportunities in multiple areas of interest is available through the government.
The federal government is the United States' largest employer. While military defense may be what the government is best known for, the federal government provides many other services that impact the daily lives of citizens. Jobs are available in most of the same fields and occupations as the private sector, although the distribution is not the same. Most government jobs are located outside Washington D.C. at state and local offices throughout the United States.
Finding a government job may take some resourcefulness, as their posting time for jobs is often quite brief. According to FederalJobSearch.com, about 33 percent of federal job postings are only open for two weeks.
Several websites list federal and state government jobs. The U.S. Department of Labor Employment & Training Administration includes links to individual government agency listings and state job listings. USAJOBS is the Federal government's source for employment information and listings and is managed by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. The U.S. Postal Service features an online job search on its website.
There are also websites that list jobs with local governments. Govtjob.net is operated by the Local Government Institute, a private company. The International City/County Management Associations (ICMA) JobCenter lists job openings in local government offices. Local governments may also advertise in popular national job websites and in local newspapers.
Federal job listings are called Federal Vacancy Postings. Applicants should read over the vacancy announcement carefully before filling out the application to look for necessary qualifications and special requirements. Not all jobs are open to the public. The Areas of Consideration part of the job posting describes who is eligible to apply for the job. If a vacancy announcement is open to "status only" applicants, it means that the job is only accepting applicants who have federal experience or are veterans or members of the military. Applicants without these backgrounds should look in the Areas of Consideration section for jobs that are available to all qualified candidates, United States citizens or non-status candidates.
Applicants can compare their skills, experience and education to the requirements listed in the job vacancy announcement. Check the Conditions of Employment to find out whether a drug test or background check is required. Work for America advises that a resume containing specified information not included on a current resume must be included, as well as a written description of applicable skills, abilities and knowledge. Some job listings also require applicants to take tests and include copies of school transcripts, professional licenses, letters of recommendation, performance evaluations or writing samples. It is also helpful to complete and print an Optional Application for Federal Employment (OF-612) form, which is similar to a federal resume and can be used when applying for most federal jobs.
All documentation must be mailed, faxed or emailed as instructed in the job announcement.
Each form must include the following information:
• Applicant's name
• Title and General Schedule pay grade level of the position
• Vacancy announcement number
• Applicant's Social Security number
• Applicant's contact information
Thoroughly completing the Knowledge, Skills and Abilities section of a job vacancy announcement is critical to the application and hiring process. Detailed, convincing information is necessary. General experience refers to demonstrated abilities that can include unpaid experience, volunteer work and professional association activities. Specialized experience is usually required for positions higher than entry level and state the required level of experience.
Special consideration may be given to veterans or downsized government employees. Workers who have lost federal jobs for reasons other than poor performance are eligible for special consideration under the Career Transition Assistance Plan/Interagency Career Transition Assistance Plan (CTAP). College graduates and graduate students who meet certain criteria allowing them to participate in federal intern, scholar, and fellowship programs are also given preference. These positions are highly competitive and may require rigorous evaluation.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the occupations most in demand by the federal government are those considered "mission critical." They include security and law enforcement, healthcare, engineering and science, program management and administration, and business and accounting. Across all fields, information technology workers are in demand. Demand for clerical positions is in decline.
For local government, the largest portion of employment is for service workers, including police, correctional officers and other law enforcement positions. Professional services and administrative support also make up a large percentage of employment. There is increased demand for public safety, community and social services and health services as local governments take responsibility for these areas that previously handled by the Federal government.