New Developments in Federal Employment

by Elda Schwartz

(First in a Two Part Series)

In looking at the employment market in the United States one of the striking characteristics is the aging baby boomers, some 77 million strong who are approaching retirement age. These numbers have an effect on the federal job market, which is the largest employer in the country with 1.8 million workers. Over the next few years it has been estimated that nearly 150,000 jobs will be replaced in the federal government.

The Partnership for Public Service a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to revitalizing federal government service has just published a new report in February 2005. The new report  "Where the Jobs are: The Continuing Growth of Federal Job Opportunities" is the most comprehensive guide to date for job seekers interested in federal service. It lists the professional fields and the numbers of positions likely to be filled in 24 major agencies representing 95 percent of the federal government. According to the study, Security is the area in which the federal government will be making the biggest hiring push in the next two years. In that time frame, the government expects to fill 37,515 security and enforcement related positions from criminal investigators to police officers and airport screeners. Next on the government's most wanted list are jobs in
Public Health (physicians, nurses, pharmacists and medical technicians - 25,756 new hires in the next two years)
Engineering/Sciences (physicists, chemists, biologists, botanists, veterinarians - 23,806 new hires
Program Management /Administrative Jobs (public affairs specialists, human resources specialists, Congressional affairs officers - 17,353 expected)
Accounting/Budget/Business (IRS revenue agents and tax examiners, contract managers - 12,985 new hires)

Despite the number of predicted new federal hires, the number of private contractors has also increased during the Bush presidency. As a federal jobseeker it is important to be informed about this initiative to understand the big picture and issues affecting federal employment. According to reports published by the Partnership for Public Service, over the last decade or so, most public-private competitions have occurred in the Defense Department, which employs 2.1 million civilian and military workers.

President Bush wants more agencies to follow the Defense Department's lead and allow the private sector to compete for work that does not have to be done by federal employees. President Bush believes that allowing private contractors to bid for such work spurs efficiency and lowers costs whether or not the jobs stay in-house. Under his "competitive sourcing" initiative, 850,000 government jobs have been identified as commercial in nature -- from janitorial services to national park archaeologists to computer network design. Agencies must allow companies to bid for work representing at least 50 percent of those jobs, or 425,000 positions, over the next few years if they are to earn the top rating on the Office of Management and Budget's management scorecard.

The push/pull of private versus federal will continue but there will still be a large number of federal positions that will not disappear altogether. In figures compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Office of Personnel Management the average federal employee earns a salary comparable or better than his counterpart in private industry. The comparison below does not include locality pay or take into account the differences in length of time on the job. It does indicate that the government tries to be competitive.


      (in thousands)


       - note the government salary (listed first) is higher!


  • Astronomer $104 $86
  • Financial Manager $94 $84
  • Economist $84 $63
  • Chemist $80 $57
  • Electric Engineer $76 $74
  • Public Affairs Specialist $70 $51
  • Librarian $67 $54
  • Land Surveyor $63 $59
  • Nurse $61 $52
  • Secretary $37 $31
    {Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics}

    Details on career opportunities and employment benefits including 2005 salary schedules can be found at www.opm.gov .
    The official job site of the United States Federal Government is www.USAjobs.gov . This site provides vacancy announcements for most Federal Agencies. It is the first place that people looking for a federal job would go to look up available positions. At any one time there is generally around 16,000 - 17,000 available jobs. The intent of this site is to make it an easier and user-friendly process.

    In the middle 1990's the traditional way of applying to a Federal job, using the SF 171, was overhauled. Today applicants have a choice of several ways to present their qualifications. Most submit a federal resume including well-written statements about specific knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs). Many agencies have also adopted electronic application formats such as Quickhire or Resumix in which applicants cut and paste their resumes and answer questions to write a narrative of their KSAs.

    See Part Two of this series, "How to Apply for a Federal Job" appearing in the May 2005 Career Convergence. Part Two will provide detailed tips on how to turn an application into an interview.

    Elda Schwartz, M.S., NCCC, LCPC, GCDF, was in Kathryn Troutman's first training group for "Ten Steps to a Federal Job" which provides certification as a Federal Resume Writer. She currently works as an independent contractor with CDLA at the FDIC in Washington DC. She previously worked with TSA as a long distance career coach. Elda teaches GCDF for MIETP in Columbia, MD and is on the Counseling staff at the Community College of Baltimore County-Essex. She can be reached at Email: eldams@aol.com

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