Page updated 10/31/2013
Federal Occupation Lists / Federal Job Series / Occupational Categories
Although the federal government employs workers in every major occupational
group, workers are not employed in the same proportions in which they are
employed throughout the economy as a whole. The analytical and technical nature
of many government duties translates into a much higher proportion of
professional, management, business, and financial occupations in the federal
government, compared with most industries. Conversely, the government sells very
little, so it employs relatively few sales workers.
Professional and related occupations accounted for about one
third of federal employment. The largest group of professional workers worked in
life, physical, and social science occupations, such as biological scientists,
conservation scientists and foresters, environmental scientists and
geoscientists, and forest and conservation technicians. They do work such as
determining the effects of drugs on living organisms, preventing fires in the
national forests, and predicting earthquakes and hurricanes. The Department of
Agriculture employed the vast majority of life scientists, but physical
scientists were distributed throughout a variety of departments and agencies.
Many health professionals, such as licensed practical and
licensed vocational nurses, registered nurses, and physicians and surgeons, were
employed by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in VA hospitals.
Large numbers of federal workers also held jobs as engineers, including
aerospace, civil, computer hardware, electrical and electronics, industrial,
mechanical, and nuclear engineers. Engineers were found in many departments of
the executive branch, but they most commonly worked in the Department of
Defense, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the Department
of Transportation. In general, they solve problems and provide advice on
technical programs, such as building highway bridges or implementing agency-wide
Computer specialists — primarily computer software engineers, network and
computer systems analysts, and computer systems administrators — are employed
throughout the federal government. They write computer programs, analyze
problems related to data processing, and keep computer systems running smoothly.
Many health professionals, such as registered nurses, physicians and surgeons,
and licensed practical nurses are employed by the Department of Veterans Affairs
(VA) in one of many VA hospitals.
Management, business, and financial workers made up about 27 percent of
federal employment and were primarily responsible for overseeing
operations. Managerial workers include a broad range of officials who, at the
highest levels, may head federal agencies or programs. Middle managers, on the
other hand, usually oversee one activity or aspect of a program. One management
occupation — legislators — are responsible for passing and amending laws and
overseeing the executive branch of the government. Within the federal
government, legislators are entirely found in Congress.
Others occupations in this category are accountants and auditors, who prepare
and analyze financial reports, review and record revenues and expenditures, and
investigate operations for fraud and inefficiency. Purchasing agents handle
federal purchases of supplies. Management analysts study government operations
and systems and suggest improvements. These employees aid management staff with
administrative duties. Administrative support workers in the federal government
include secretaries and general office clerks. Purchasing agents handle federal
purchases of supplies, and tax examiners, collectors, and revenue agents
determine and collect taxes.
Compared with the economy as a whole, workers in service occupations were
relatively scarce in the federal government. About seven out of 10 federal
workers in service occupations were protective service workers, such as
detectives and criminal investigators, police and sheriff’s patrol officers, and
correctional officers and jailers. These workers protect the public from crime
and oversee federal prisons.
Federally employed workers in installation, maintenance, and repair
occupations include aircraft mechanics and service technicians who fix and
maintain all types of aircraft. Also included are electrical and electronic
equipment mechanics, installers, and repairers, who inspect, adjust, and repair
electronic equipment such as industrial controls, transmitters, antennas, radar,
radio, and navigation systems.
The federal government employed a relatively small number of workers in
transportation; production; construction; sales and related; and farming,
fishing, and forestry occupations. However, they employ almost all air traffic
controllers in the country and a significant number of agricultural inspectors
and bridge and lock tenders.
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