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Is a College Degree Required for a Federal Job?

Page updated 5/22/2016

Education requirements for federal employment

Approximately 60% of all federal workers do not have a college degree.  The level of education required for federal jobs is dependent upon the position applied for. Each job announcement lists needed skills and abilities including education AND/OR work experience. Work experience, in many cases, can be substituted for a BS college degree. For example, in the Administrative Management career fields, 3 years of general work experience can be substituted for a 4-year course of study leading to a bachelors degree. Most are unaware of this conversion.

Read job announcements thoroughly to determine if you meet the qualifications for the position applied for. Many without a college degree see Bachelors degree in the job announcement's education requirements and discard the job announcement immediately. In many instances, had they read on, they would have discovered that 3 years of general work experience in the field for certain occupations can be substituted for a BS degree! The work experience has to be related to the specific skills sets required for the position and generally the work experience should have been obtained within the past 10 years.

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Getting in is half the battle. If you want to enter a specific career field with an agency and there are currently no openings, apply for other related jobs within that agency. For instance, if you qualify for a logistics/supply job and they have a lower graded opening that you meet the qualifications for, it may be to your benefit to apply and get on board. Agencies often advertise in-house first to offer qualified workers opportunities for advancement. You may have a better chance — after being hired — to bid on other jobs down the road if you have the qualifications and a good track record. However, other factors such as time-in-grade must be considered before making this choice. For example, Sue was applying for and was highly qualified for a GS-11 Family Support Specialist, but her application never reached the selecting official because she was blocked by an individual claiming vet preference. She decided to just get her foot in the door by accepting a GS-5 clerk position. Unfortunately, due to time in grade restrictions, she will not qualify for a GS-11 internal candidate position for several years because she is required to spend up to a year at each intervening grade.

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