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7 Things You Think You Know About Jobs with the Federal Government

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Northeastern University Career Development
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Published on March 10, 2015

What don’t you know about working for the federal government? Maybe a lot. There are many misconceptions about the location and kinds of careers that exist in the government. While a majority of positions are in Washington, DC, there are opportunities in all states and many countries; the government seeks employees with degrees across all majors and most industries.

It’s not all politics! When people think about the federal government they think about elected officials and shy away from exploring the possibilities, but elected officials are just one part of the picture, it takes many non- elected workers to provide the public with the services that they expect. (Our focus here is on careers in the agencies of the executive branch only).

1. All of the jobs are in D.C.
Less than 10% of federal jobs are in the metro D.C. area, there are federal agencies in every state and about 50,000 federal jobs overseas. You can search gov by location for opportunities in locations that you’re interested in.

2. Government jobs are just for poly sci and CJ majors.
The federal government is the largest employer in the U.S. with almost 2 million civilian employees, with positions for all majors and industries. See Federal Occupations by College Major for job titles and occupational series.

3. The federal government is boring!
Think again. Positions include Recreation Specialist; Park Ranger (Off-Highway-Vehicle); Intelligence Research Specialist (Department of Homeland Security); Design Manager (Smithsonian Institution); Interdisciplinary (Fish & Wildlife Biologist or Fish Biologist); Nurse/Clinical Nurse (Development).

4. Corporate is better than the federal government.
It’s trite, but working for the government is an opportunity to do good and make a contribution to the public interest, which is a value many students have.

5. It’s too competitive.
Yes, it is, which is the case in most industries. It takes patience, persistence and flexibility to find and apply for government jobs. But would you really want a job that was too easy to get?

6. Federal workers are poorly paid and working conditions are poor.
Salaries can be quite competitive, benefits are good, and many agencies have flexible work schedules. The Partnership for Public Service ranks more than 389 federal organizations for overall employee satisfaction. See The Best Places to Work in The Federal Government for the 2014 rankings.

7. I don’t know how to look for federal jobs.
Here are some tips to get you started:

Finally, see Gogovernment.org  for application tips and next steps.

Northeastern University Career Development

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