How to Land a Top-Paying Federal Job

Your Complete Guide to Opportunities, Internships, Resumes and Cover Letters, Networking, Interviews, Salaries, Promotions, and More!

 How to Land a Top-Paying Federal Job

Author: Lily Madeleine Whiteman
Pub Date: June 2012
Print Edition: $24.95
Print ISBN: 9780814420225
Page Count: 288
Format: Paper or Softback
Edition: Second Edition
e-Book ISBN: 9780814420232

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C H A P T E R 1

A Great Time to Go Federal

U.S. News & World Report describes a government job as a terrific deal

and includes “governement manager” on its list of best careers.

Do you want to land an interesting job that pays a top salary, provides

unbeatable, rock-solid job security, and will advance the public good in

important ways? If so, you’re probably primed to work for the federal


What does the federal government do? The federal government literally

runs this country. To do so, it protects the strength and vitality of

the U.S. economy; creates foreign policy; manages precious natural,

cultural, and high-tech resources; forecasts tornadoes and hurricanes;

oversees the nation’s planes, trains, and highways; secures our food and

water supplies; protects the health and safety of workers; 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

almost every type of white-collar professional, including engineers,

teachers, IT experts, scientists, business managers, lawyers, PR

specialists, policy wonks, medical professionals, accountants, program

managers, and almost every type of blue-collar professional, including

auto and aviation specialists, equipment operators, mechanics,

electricians, property managers—and many 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detectives, curators of precious historical documents, and diplomats.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


Job Security: The federal government continuously hires for all types of jobs and

internships—even when other organizations are laying off. And while

nongovernmental 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: Studies and anecdotal evidence show that federal

salaries are very competitive with private-sector salaries and that feds

in many fields earn more than their private-sector counterparts. Plus,

feds receive regularly scheduled promotions, merit-based promotions, and

annual cost-of-living salary increases. For more information about

federal salaries, see Chapter 16.

With about 2 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. Why spend your career toiling in obscurity when you could be

on your way to becoming a power broker? Feds cntribute to the

high-stakes, hot-button policy issues that cover the front pages of the

nation’s newspapers every day.

GenerousvVacations: Full-time federal employees enjoy 10 paid holidays and 9, 13,

20, or 26 days of vacation each year, depending on their seniority. 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


Facilities to Help You Stay Close to the Kids: Many agencies have on-site childcare


Coverage for Health Care and Dependent Care Costs: Feds can pay up to $4,000 annually

for childcare, up to $5,000 annually for health care, and up to another

$5,000 for adult dependent care, from tax-free accounts that are set aside from

their paychecks. Depending on expenses and tax brackets, these benefits

may yield individual tax savings totaling thousands of dollars annually.

Excellent, Secure Retirement Packages: As corporate scandals and cutbacks erode

private-sector pensions, feds remain covered by secure pensions that

feature a defined benefit based on length of service (with

cost-of-living increases), and a 401(k)-like investment program with

matching. Moreover, unlike most retired private-sector employees,

retired feds get another coveted benefit: lifetime health insurance


Flexible Schedules: Flexible work schedules and telecommuting options are freeing

feds from the straitjacket of 9-to-5 schedules. In addition, many feds

can opt to work 9 hours per day in exchange for taking off every other

Friday. Surveys show that the overwhelming majority of feds feel that

their supervisors support a work-life balance.

Repayment of Academic Loans: Some feds receive up to $60,000 in student loan

repayments. In addition, the College Cost Reduction and Access Act

forgives the outstanding student loans of public service

employees—including feds—after they have made 10 years of payments.

Opportunities to 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


Forget Stereotypes of Sour-faced Feds! Recent surveys show that the

overwhelming majority of feds consider their work important and like

their work; public service is a rewarding choice.

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