Read an Excerpt
A GOOD TIME TO GO FEDERAL
The best way to predict your future is to create it.
With about 2.7 million civilian employees, the federal government is the nation’s largest employer. Every year, about 200,000 new hires join the federal workforce and hundreds of thousands of current feds are promoted.
Do you want to land an interesting job that provides a top salary, unbeatable job security and opportunities to advance the public good? If so, you’re probably primed to work for the federal government.
What does the federal government do? The federal government literally runs this country. It safeguards the strength and vitality of the US economy…manages precious natural resources…predicts tornados and hurricanes…manages the nation’s planes, trains and highways…protects our food and water supplies safe…polices the banks…keeps unsafe products off the market…and funds most of the nation’s scientific and medical research, to name just a few examples.
To run the country, feds do everything that private sector employees do — and more. So like the private sector, the federal government hires engineers, teachers, IT experts, scientists, business managers, lawyers, PR specialists, policy wonks, medical professionals, accountants, auto mechanics, electricians, property managers — and more.
Plus, the federal government has jobs that you won’t find anywhere else. Feds work as spies, volcano watchers, park rangers, terrorist hunters, disease detectives, curators of precious historical documents and diplomats. The possibilities are endless.
Feds work in every imaginable setting, from offices, laboratories, museums, libraries, hospitals, parks, forests and marine sanctuaries located throughout the United States to embassies located in far-flung countries. And they access and control resources including huge budgets that are unavailable to private-sector employees.
Another important advantage: the federal government provides one of the precious few workplaces where you can work exciting jobs, earn competitive salaries and still have a life. Most feds stick to a 40-hour work week. The federal government also offers these first-rate perks:
Job Security: The federal government continuously hires for all types of jobs and internships — even when other organizations are laying off. And while non-governmental employees may be “pink-slipped” when the economy falters, feds are rarely laid off. Also, it is generally much harder to fire federal employees than employees in other sectors.
Top Salaries and Advancement: Many types of feds earn more than their private sector counterparts. Plus, federal employees receive regularly scheduled promotions, merit-based promotions, and annual cost-of-living salary increases. For more information about federal salaries, see Chapter 14.
Generous Vacations: Full-time federal employees enjoy 10 paid holidays, and 9, 13, 20 or 26 days of vacation each year, depending on their previous work experience. They can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to attend to a birth, adoption or seriously ill family member.
Top-Notch Health Insurance: Feds choose from the nation’s best health insurance, dental insurance, vision insurance, long-term care, and life insurance programs.
Stay Close To the Kids: Many agencies have on-site childcare facilities.
Coverage for Health Care and Dependent Care Costs: Feds can pay up to $4,000 annually for child care and up to $5,000 annually for adult dependent care expenses from tax-free set aside accounts. This option helps feds save up to 40 percent in out-of-pocket health care and dependent care expenses.
Excellent, Secure Retirement Packages: As corporate scandals and cutbacks erode private sector pensions, feds remain covered by generous, secure pensions that feature cost-of-living increases, a defined benefit based on length of service, and a 401(K)-like investment program with matching. Moreover, unlike most private sector employees, feds get another coveted benefit: lifetime health insurance coverage.
Flexible Schedules: Flexible work schedules and telecommuting options are freeing feds from the straight jacket of nine-to-five schedules. Such programs, for example, currently enable about 20 percent of federal workers to work from home or from a nearby telework center at least one day per week —a figure that is increasing as telecommuting programs mature. In addition, many feds can opt to work nine hours per day in exchange for taking off every other Friday.
Loose Academic Loans: Some feds receive up to $60,000 in the student loan repayments.
Be a Do-Gooder: The ultimate aim of most federal jobs is — in one way or another — to better the world. In the words of a Peace Corps staffer, “I am doing what I love to do, and it’s all for a very good cause.” Moreover, even entry-level employees can wield tremendous responsibility in the government. “I have only been out of college for a year-and-a-half, and I am influencing huge budgets on environmental programs,” observes a Program Analyst at the Environmental Protection Agency.
RIDE THE HIRING WAVE
Linda Springer, the federal government’s top personnel manager, says that the federal government is about to be hit by an unprecedented “retirement tsunami.” During the next ten years, 60 percent of federal employees — including 90 percent of senior federal managers — will be eligible to retire, and about 40 percent of employees are expected to retire, according to Springer.
To backfill for the impending retirement tsunami, the federal government is vigorously recruiting all types of professionals at all levels of their careers. Indeed, large percentages of new federal hires are now mid-career professionals.
Moreover, every retirement at top grades is expected to trigger multiple staffing actions as lower level employees ascend to fill the resulting power vacuum. This means that the retirement tsunami will make it easier than ever to move up in the federal government.
When you think of government employees, do you visualize dowdy, school-marmish women and frumpy, pocket protector-clad men toiling in musty offices? If so, your perceptions are due for an update.
Indeed, the Office of Personnel Management’s statistics show that the federal workforce is steadily becoming more skilled and more educated. Largely because of the approaching retirement wave and because of renewed interest in government service inspired by 9/11, “a potential for a quasi-youth movement in the government job sector” promises to infuse the federal government with new, revitalizing blood and fresh ideas, according to Monster.com. In other words, the feds are registering lower and lower on the stodgy-meter.