Getting a Government Job

There’s no magic formula to land a federal job, but there are things you can do to improve your chances.

There’s a lot of misinformation floating around regarding applying for a job with the federal government. Though the process itself isn’t complicated, many folks just don’t know where to start.

There’s really no secret to applying for a federal job. Like any large company, they advertise their employment opportunities, accept resumes, and interview their candidate.

Hopefully, the information provided below will give you the starting points you need.

Where do I find the jobs?

As of the mid-90’s, most federal jobs are advertised on This site lets you browse and search for jobs by location, pay, occupation, and a number of other filters.

Also, by clicking on the ‘Most Popular Jobs’ link, you can see what type of jobs are listed most often.

In addition to this site, if you’re interested in a specific agency, such as the FBI, many of the larger agencies have special hiring events. It doesn’t hurt to take a look at the agency’s main site. A quick Google search will find the web site for you.

How much will / can I make?

Like any industry, the answer is, ‘it depends.’ The federal government hires both degreed and non-degreed applicants. As you’d imagine, jobs requiring degrees or highly sought after skills will probably pay more.

You can find current pay tables at Once there, you can browse or search for salaries and wages.

What do Series, Grade, and Step mean?

A ‘Series’ is just a four-digit numerical designation for a particular type of job. For example, an engineer will typically look like ‘08XX,’ where an electrical engineer is an ‘0855.’ On, you can search on ‘Series’ to get a list of these designators.

A ‘Grade’ refers to the pay scale. Most jobs are coded as ‘General Schedule,’ or GS, and Grades will run from GS-1 through GS-15.

A ‘Step’ is a level of pay within a Grade. Normally, you’ll be hired as a ‘Step 1,’ and your pay will increase every few years as you move to ‘Step 2’ onward.

Given the above information, if you’re hired as an Electrical Engineer, your Series and Grade may look like ‘GS-0855-12/1.’

How hard is it to apply? makes it very easy to apply. However, getting your information loaded into the system does take some time. Additionally, you can post several resumes and have them ready to go when you see a job you like.

My advice is, if you think you’ll apply in the future, create your account now. You don’t want to have to scramble to get this loaded when an interesting job pops up.

How can I improve my chances?

There are a few things that will help ensure you are competitive for federal jobs. Keep in mind these thoughts are also true when applying for a position at any company.

Be realistic

Don’t apply for jobs you’re not qualified for. Many jobs require a specific degree; you won’t make it through the system if you don’t have the background.

Complete all required fields and paperwork

The main thing that will keep your application from being processed is filling out the information incorrectly, or not at all. If you choose to upload your resume, ensure you include all the information required.

Automate your job search allows you to setup alerts which will notify you should jobs in your series or requested grade come available.

Be willing to move

As federal jobs are located around the world, be willing to take a job outside of your geographic area. This will greatly improve the number of opportunities you can apply for.


Again, there’s no magic formula when applying for a federal job. Like any other company, there are certain hoops and administravia to get through.

Read the instructions carefully, provide the information requested, and you’ll be successful.

Good luck!



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