About Federal Jobs

More Information About Federal Jobs

The United States Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is responsible for managing the Federal civil service. Their web site is the authoritative source for information on Federal jobs. The remainder of this section highlights some key points about Federal jobs. Additional information on Federal jobs can be found on the OPM web site and in the Additional Resources section of this web site. Information about Federal jobs that is specific to military service members and veterans can be found on OPM’s Feds Hire Vets web site.

What is the Civil Service?

What does it mean when someone says he or she is a civil service employee or a civil servant? It means that person works for a government agency. Civil service encompasses employment in Federal, state, and local government agencies. Each is responsible for its own employment system.

Federal civil service jobs include a wide variety of positions that are all a part of the government. Federal government civil service jobs offer many benefits, and finding a job that fits your skill set can be relatively easy because of the wide variety of jobs available.  However, the hiring process is competitive.


Types of Federal Jobs

Much like the military services, the Federal government has its own way of classifying jobs. The goal of any occupational classification system is to group jobs of a similar nature together and define the requirements for the specific jobs. The military services do this through their own occupational classification systems. For example, the Army and Marine Corps use military occupational specialties (MOSs) to classify their enlisted personnel, the Navy uses ratings, and the Air Force classifies jobs for its Airmen with Air Force Specialty Codes (AFSCs).

In the Federal government's classification system, there are three types of jobs:

  • White Collar Occupations – A position is considered white collar, even if it requires physical work, if its primary duty requires knowledge or experience of an administrative, clerical, scientific, artistic, or technical nature not related to trade, craft, or manual-labor work. White collar occupations of a similar nature are grouped into series, which in turn are grouped into occupational groups. For example, an individual involved in procurement of supplies and services may hold a position as a Contract Specialist, which is in the 1102 - Contracting Series, and is part of the 1100 - Business and Industry Group.

    White Collar Pay Scale The pay scale system associated with white collar occupations is the General Schedule (GS), which is broken down into 15 grades. Each pay grade is separated into 10 levels of pay called “steps” that define your pay level within the grade. The GS level for which you qualify is dependent on a number of factors, including education and experience. The GS levels associated with individual Federal occupational series vary as well. You can view GS levels by education level.
  • Trade, Craft, and Labor Occupations – If a position clearly requires trades, craft, or laboring experience and knowledge as a requirement for the performance of its primary duty, and this requirement is paramount, the position is in a trade, craft, or labor occupation regardless of its organizational location or the nature of the activity in which it exists. Trade, Craft, and Labor Occupations of a similar nature are grouped into occupational families. For example, a person who installs and maintains electronic controls may hold the position 2606 - Electronic Industrial Controls Mechanic, which is in the 2600 - Electronic Equipment Installation and Maintenance Family.

    Trade, Craft, and Labor Pay Scale The pay scale system associated with trade, craft, and labor occupations is the Wage Grade system. The Federal Wage System is a uniform pay-setting system covering Federal employees paid by the hour. The aim is to make sure that Federal trade, craft, and laboring employees in a local wage area who do the same kind of work get the same rate of pay. The common wage schedules consist of 15 grades, covering most nonsupervisory employees. Schedules for supervisors and leaders are based on the nonsupervisory schedules, but are separate from them. In each pay grade, there are five step rates, each 4 percent apart, with the second step based on the going rate in private industry.
  • Vessel Jobs Section – Certain jobs aboard ships and other maritime vessels are exempted from the Federal pay system. These vessel jobs have fixed pay rates that are adjusted in accordance with maritime rates. Vessel jobs are in their own occupational group (or family) and all of the associated series begin with 99. Some of the vessel jobs are very specific to the maritime industry, this includes such occupational series as 9904 – Ship Pilot, 9924 – Able Seaman, and 9951 – Deck Engineer. Navy and Coast Guard occupations tend to more closely align with these types of vessel jobs than occupations in other services. Other vessel jobs are more general, such as 9921 – Carpenter and 9974 – Ships Cook. Individuals with experience in these areas from all services might qualify for these more general jobs. Vessel jobs are not as widely available in the Federal government as White Collar and Trade, Craft, and Labor jobs.


Veterans Preference

There are several civil service employment programs available to veterans that give them preference in appointment over other applicants. Veterans Preference and the Veterans Readjustment Act (VRA) are two of the better known programs. Also, dependents and spouses of active duty personnel receive hiring preference for government jobs under the Military Spouse Preference program and the Family Member Preference Program.

Veterans who served on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces and were separated under honorable conditions may be eligible for Veterans' Preference. Veterans' Preference does not apply to positions in the Senior Executive Service or to internal agency actions such as a reassignment or promotion. When claiming preference, veterans must provide a copy of their DD-214, Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty, or other acceptable documentation. If you have questions about the applicability of veterans' preference for a particular vacancy, contact the agency posting the announcement. For more information:

  • U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM)