I didn’t want to work for the federal government, but it was the only organization that would hire me back in the Reagan Recession. There is a certain taint to going to work in what I call Weapons World that makes it hard to get other jobs, even when you have tried to cleanse yourself by getting advanced degrees. I have masters degrees in business adminsitration and chemical engineering, My agency paid for the tuition and the books.
The basics: if you have a bachelor’s degree in any field, you qualify for a GS-5. Ifyou have a 2.8 GPA or better, you qualify for a GS-7. Fear not, most jobs that require a college degree carry noncompetitive promotion to at least GS-11, so you can look forward to promotion to GS-7 in 26 weeks and GS-09 52 weeks after that, and promotion to GS-11 52 weeks after that. In 130 weeks or less, your salary will increase by at least 50%. This is how it works if you are applying purely based on education. If you have experience in the field, you can be hired at a higher grade. For instance, masters degree plus a year of experience is qualifying for GS-11, as is bachelors degree plus three years of experience.
An interesting thing about federal employment is that your degree does not matter all that much. One can qualify for federal engineering jobs by having 60 semester hours in math and science. Though my engineering degrees are in chemical engineeirng, I have been a chemical, general, and mechanical engineer and am currently classified as an industrial engineer. I have also been classified as a physical scientist. I was offered a job as an electrical engineer some years ago on the condition that I get a masters degree in electrical engineering, and I would have gotten tuition support for that.
If you have a masters degree, you automatically qualify for a GS-9 job. If you have a doctoral degree, you qualify for GS-11 jobs, and if you did a post-doctoral fellowship, you will be hired as a GS-12. The doctoral level is the only situation where your degree matters. If you are applying for a GS-12 engineering job and are qualifying based on education and not experience, you have to have the degree in that field. One of the better things about the federal government as an employer is that there is transparency concerning pay. You can go to OPM.gov and look up the salary range available. If you have previous experience, you don’t have to start at set 1 of the pay scale, which has 10 “steps” in it, each of which are worth about 3% of the step one pay.
The federal jobs portal is USAJOBS.com . Like other similar systems, you put a resume on the portal and you apply for jobs. Announcements tend to be open for anout two weeks, but nearly every one will say that they reserve the right to hire additional people from this list. They found that keyword search didn’t work particularly well, so every application that the machine says that the person is qualified gets a review by an actual person. If you decide that you want to work for the post office, you will be referred to the post office’s portal by the job announcement. The same is true of the Bureau of Land Management and other agencies of the Department of the Interior.
It is a long process, but there is some feedback. Within a couple of weeks of the time that the announcement closes, you will receive a “notice of rating” where you will be told whether or not you are qualified for the job and whether or not you have been referred for selection. My experience is if you are not called for an interview within two weeks of being referred, you will not be interviewed.
I believe that an important consequence of sequestration will be that only local hires will be permitted as exceptions to an agency’s hiring freeze. They want to avoid paying people’s moving costs, which can be substantial because one can receive reimbursement of real estate costs, moving of household goods under a government bill of lading (you don’t even see a bill), as well as 60 days of temporary quarters allowance, which covers your hotel bill up to a certain amount and gives you an allowance for meals. All of the jobs with the Veterans Adminsitration state that they do not pay for moving expensse.
It may well be more worthwhile than usual to look at the federal agencies in your area to see whether they are hiring. At worst, they are developing a standing register of candidates for jobs.