Government Jobs / Federal Jobs / Civil Service Jobs / Post Office Jobs
Page updated 11/7/2015
The educational and training requirements for jobs in the Federal Government mirror those in the private sector for most major occupational groups. Many jobs in managerial or professional and related occupations, for example, require a 4-year college degree. Some, such as engineers, physicians and surgeons, and biological and physical scientists, require a bachelor's or higher degree in a specific field of study. In addition, many occupations, such as registered nurses or engineering technicians may require at least 2 years of training after high school. Many additional Federal jobs, such as those in office and administrative support, have more general requirements. Some have no formal educational requirement, while others require a high school diploma or some related experience.
In many cases you can substitute work experience for a college degree requirement. Even engineers can qualify using alternative non-degree avenues as described in The Book of U.S. Government Jobs. Job announcements that list a four-year bachelors degree requirement often permit the substitution of three-years of general work experience at an equivalent GS-4 to be eligible for an entry level GS-5 position. The exception is listed in the job announcement. This is another reason why you must be thorough when describing your work experience and include all key duties and responsibilities in your write-up.
In all but a few cases, applicants for Federal jobs must be U.S. citizens. Applicants who are veterans of military service also may be able to claim veteran's preference which gives them preferred status over other candidates with equal qualifications. For jobs requiring access to sensitive or classified materials, such as those relating to national security, applicants must undergo a background investigation. This investigation covers an individual's criminal, credit, and employment history, as well as other records. The scope of the investigation will vary depending on the nature of the position in the government and the sensitivity of the information involved.
Each Federal department or agency determines its own on-the-job training practices, and many offer workers opportunities to improve job skills or become qualified to advance to other jobs. These may include technical or skills training; tuition assistance or reimbursement; fellowship programs; and executive leadership and management training programs, seminars, and workshops. This training may be offered on the job, by another agency, or at local colleges and universities.
Advancement for most workers in the Federal Government is currently based on a system of occupational pay levels, or "grades." Workers typically enter the Federal civil service at the starting grade for an occupation and begin a series of promotions, called grade increases, until they reach the full-performance grade for that occupation. Pay grade increases through the full-performance level are usually given at regular intervals, as long as job performance is satisfactory. With each pay grade increase, an employee generally is given more responsibility and higher pay. The exact pay grades associated with a job's career ladder depend upon the occupation and specific job duties.
Once Federal workers reach the full-performance level of a position, they must compete for promotions, and advancement becomes more difficult. At this point, promotions occur as vacancies arise, and they are based solely on merit.