Once one graduates from college, it is easy to only think about a job in the private sector. The big names of Fortune 500 companies, the salaries and benefits… the lack of job security.
In an era during which job tenures are increasingly being cut short, for many, the stability of a government job is alluring. If one nabs a government job, not only do they not have to worry about the financial state of their employer, but they can take home a pretty decent sum of pay.
Whether you take a local or federal government position— 84 percent of federal jobs, surprisingly, are based outside of Washington D.C.— you will be joining nearly 22 million other Americans.
Because of the job security of government jobs, many do not leave their post until they retire. Thus, it is important to be aware of how and when to locate the openings that do arise.
Government Jobs Statistics
In terms of total employment, there are about 4.2 million employees within the federal government.
Almost 2.7 million of these federal government employees work within a department of the executive branch, 1.46 work as military personnel, and the remaining 63,000 work in a judicial or legislative capacity.
According to the Census Bureau, the remaining government jobs— about 17 million— are within state and local governments.
In most states, a majority of government employees work in education.
The Job Security Provided by Government Jobs
Although one should never take advantage of their circumstances, it is usually difficult to get fired at a government job.
It has been reported that it takes at least 170 days to fire a government employee, which causes many government employers to hang onto their bad or underperforming employees.
There are two main procedural options for firing a government worker: Chapter 43 of Title 5 of the United States Code and Chapter 75 of Title 5.
Chapter 43 allows any worker about to be fired the opportunity to appeal the decision, obtain counseling sessions, and improve their performance prior to being completely pushed through the dismissal process.
Chapter 75, on the other hand, does not give the government employee a second chance to improve their performance, but calls for a higher burden of proof on the part of the employer who is performing the firing.
Largely thanks to high levels of job security and relatively good pay, turnover in government jobs is very low. In April 2016, it was calculated to be 3.5 percent. This can be compared to a 15.1 percent rate across all industries.
In general, if you’re doing your job in a government position, you will keep your job. This, of course, does not include temporary government jobs (e.g. Census pollers) or government contractors.
Credentials and Education Needed
The credentials and education needed for government jobs varies greatly by job and location.
For example, a number of positions at the DMV require only a high school diploma; most teaching positions require a bachelor’s degree and teaching credentials; and many civil service jobs require a Master’s or Ph.D.
Regardless of educational requirements, most government jobs require one to pass an exam, whether this is part of or separate from the credential itself.
Unfortunately, government jobs are not spared from the law of supply and demand: higher-paying and more prestigious jobs will have increased competition for fewer openings.
Where To Look
Now that you both know you want and have the prerequisites for a government job, it’s time to actually go looking. But, you may ask, where to start?
The portal USAjobs.gov is great for finding federal positions. It contains information on the different federal agencies and the positions they’re looking to fill.
Gogovernment.com, sponsored by the Partnership for Government Service, is also a great site. It describes public service jobs in great detail.
Governmentjobs.com has info and listings for both state and federal government jobs.
Standard job sites can also often contain listings for government positions. Be sure to always check on Dreamhire!
Ultimately, figuring out the area and sector in which you want to work can play a big role in helping you find a position. If nothing else, it helps you narrow down the field and apply for more relevant positions.
If you feel like you still need some more experience before fully stepping in the government job market, it is never a bad idea to take a test drive with an internship or fellowship.