With about 2.79 million employees, the federal government is the nation's largest employer, however it is only one of many options for a person interested in public service. Students with a passion for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness might also consider opportunities in local and state government. 

Some of the many benefits of government employment are helping the country, training and professional development, competitive health and retirement benefits, fair pay, excellent advancement opportunities, generous sick and vacation leave, assistance with student loans, and flexible scheduling.

Necessary Skills

Skills needed for a career in government
  • Written and oral communication
  • Critical thinking
  • Research and data analysis
  • Ability to work in team environment
  • Demonstrated initiative
  • Commitment to public service
  • Demonstrated ability to work under time constraint
  • Ability to influence and lead others
  • Foreign language

Degrees and Certifications

Different agencies and positions demand different degrees and certifications.

How to Get Started

4 steps to get you started in government
  1. Demonstrate your commitment to public service: Don’t just say you are interested in public service -- show it by volunteering or interning on a local campaign, for a community event, or for an elected official.

  2. Establish a strong record and stay clean: To increase your chances of successfully landing a job or internship, maintain a high GPA (shoot for a 3.5), join professional organizations, and keep your personal record clean so you can pass background checks and security clearances. Document your international travels for easy reference in the future.

  3. Develop a target list of 50 organizations and agencies: Did you know there are 17 agencies in the intelligence community? Move past your top 3 agencies or organizations in order to increase your opportunity to get hired and use your skills.

    Developing a target list also allows you to organize information about the application dates, missions, and desired qualifications for organizations and agencies. Note: Federal deadlines for internships are often earlier than those in the private sector so make sure to check agency websites for application deadlines often.

  4. Create an account on USAJOBS: In USAJOBS you can draft a federal resume in the Resume Builder (tutorial) and set up search agents to stay up to date on open positions.

Resources

Research, get experience, and get connected to governement contacts.

Industry Research

Experiential Learning

Job & Internship Search

Professional Associations

Job Functions

Since the government is so large, it may be helpful to split your options into smaller categories. Below are a few examples. For more examples, visit Federal Jobs by College Major. Note: There are many occupations in this industry that require extensive background checks, U.S. citizenship, and state licensures.

National Security
Intelligence Agent: Advise on or administer collection, analysis, evaluation, interpretation, and dissemination of information of a political, economic, social, cultural, physical, geographic, scientific, or military nature.

Combat Officer or Specialist: Develop plans, policies, and procedures for battle management.

Cryptologist (Search for Mathematician): Utilize knowledge of math to create, improve, and break encryptions.

Security Administrator: Identify and protect information, personnel, property, facilities, operations, or material from unauthorized disclosure, misuse, theft, assault, vandalism, espionage, sabotage, or loss
Regulation
Bank Examiner: Ensure compliance with laws governing financial institutions and transactions. They review balance sheets, evaluate the risk level of loans, and assess bank management.

Health Inspector: Analyze many types of work environments and work procedures. Specialists inspect workplaces for adherence to regulations on safety, health, and the environment.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection: Supervise, lead, or perform aviation law enforcement operations to detect, interdict, apprehend, and prevent terrorists and other persons, weapons, and contraband from illegally entering or attacking the United States.
Governance
Legislative Correspondent: Researches and writes legislative correspondence; conducts legislative research; assists Legislative Assistants as needed.

Press Secretary: Manages all communications with the media; speaks with reporters; prepares Member for interviews; drafts press releases, newspaper columns, and speeches.

Executive Assistant/Scheduler: Manages Member’s schedule; reviews and researches invitations; handles Member’s personal files, correspondence, and travel arrangements.

Policy Analyst or Researcher: Work to influence political and social decisions. Although their tasks vary, most policy analysts work in one or more of four areas: collecting information, analyzing potential policies and making recommendations, evaluating the outcomes of existing policies, and sharing information with the public and government officials.
Planning
Urban and Regional Planner: Assist in the development and redevelopment of a city, metropolitan area, or region

Census Clerk: Collect quality data about the nation's people and economy
Foreign Service
Foreign Service Specialist: See to the security, safety, and protection of people, technology and structures. The State Department requires specific skills in the financial, technical, and support services areas.

Ambassador: Manage the operations of the U.S. embassies in other countries.

Foreign Service Officer: Screen visa applicants and issue visas; observe elections in host countries; analyze and report on issues such as HIV/ AIDS, rights, fair trade, and technology. Foreign Service Officers work in one of five different career tracks: Consular, Economic, Management, Political and Public Diplomacy.

Resume Samples

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Matt Myers

Matt Myers, Government Industry Advisor
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