Guide to America's Federal Jobs

Book Review By Jennifer A. Smith

Book Review

Taylor, K and Ruck, J. M (2009). Guide to America's Federal Jobs: A Complete Directory of U.S. Government Career Opportunities (4th ed.). Indianapolis, IN: Jist

Guide to America's Federal Jobs: A Complete Directory of U.S. Government Career Opportunities, Fourth Edition, is a valuable resource for anyone seeking an in-depth look at the federal employment system. It will be extremely helpful to career counselors as well as individuals seeking new federal employment or to change careers within the federal government.

The guide opens with a statement that there are many myths about federal employment, one of which is that all the jobs are located in Washington, D.C. The authors use this guide to breakdown this and other myths by including detailed sections about the many different occupation groups available and the wide assortment of agencies and departments across the United States for which one could work.

Both experienced and inexperienced career counselors and federal job searchers will find the section addressing the USAJOBS website especially helpful. The authors provide information on a variety of topics, including:

  • performing basic searches
  • setting up an account and search engines
  • using keywords to define searches
  • performing agency, series and advanced searches
  • using the site's Resume Builder feature
  • accessing the site's career exploration features, which are lesser known but important resources.

The largest section of the guide breaks down the federal agencies and departments within the legislative, judicial and executive branches. The authors provide an overview of the functions of each department and then include detailed information about selected agencies. Addresses and phone numbers, pertinent websites, and sample job vacancies are provided for each one. This is especially helpful because it organizes the wide variety of available career fields.

The Appendix contains a useful section listing different types of jobs sorted by college major. Federal job titles are often different than those in private sector; therefore, it isn't always easy to identify the types of jobs for which one might qualify. For example, under the college major "Counseling", it may seem obvious that jobs such as Psychology Aides and Technicians or Social Service Representatives are listed. There are, however, a variety of other jobs also listed, such as: Chaplain, Educational Services Specialist, Equal Opportunity Compliance Specialist, Personnel Specialist, and Vocational Rehabilitation Specialist (p.339). This section can help broaden one's job search and should be reviewed by any first-time federal job seeker. One way a career counselor could use this resource is to help their client develop a list of jobs to research. The client could be tasked to find job vacancy announcements on the USAJOBS website which will provide him or her with information on the required qualifications, duties, and departments offering those jobs.

The guide also covers a wide range of federal employment topics, including:

  • pay systems and types of benefits
  • hiring procedures
  • job opportunities for veterans, people with disabilities and students
  • sample vacancy announcements, federal-style resumes and Knowledge, Skills and Abilities (KSA) responses

In future editions, it would be helpful to include information on the National Security Personnel System (NSPS), which is the Department of Defense's civilian management system. Job openings under the NSPS are different than those under the General Schedule (GS) system. They use different series codes and pay scales, a different pay-for-performance system that can positively or negatively impact pay and have different rules about career status. More information on NSPS can be found at http://www.cpms.osd.mil/nsps/index.html  

The authors, Karol Taylor and Janet Ruck bring years of federal service experience to this guide. They are both experienced career advisors to federal employees and actively give presentations and workshops on the federal employment process. Additionally, they are well-respected members of NCDA and have contributed to Career Convergence on several occasions.

Overall, this is a well organized guide that can be helpful for both experienced and first-time federal job seekers. Career counselors will find this guide easy to use and will quickly consider it a valuable resource on federal employment. Counselors who are already knowledgeable on this topic will also find it useful as it is a comprehensive directory of information that is sure to offer them new insights. Because this type of information changes often and most federal jobs are posted online at the USAJOBS website, it would be dynamic for future editions of the Guide to America's Federal Jobs to have its own website that linked directly into all the resources provided.  


Jennifer Smith Jennifer A. Smith, NCC, serves as an Education Services Specialist (ESS) for the Department of Defense, where she oversees the administration of the ASVAB Career Exploration Program www.asvabprogram.com in the western half of the US. She can be reached at Jennifer.smith2@mepcom.army.mil

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