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Four Myths of Working for the Government

July 18th, 2013

government jobsThe federal government has a tremendous amount of jobs across the United States. However, there are many myths associated with working for the federal government. These can drive students away from considering the federal government when looking for jobs and internships, leading them to miss out on great opportunities. By the end of this article, I will debunk these four myths.

Myth #1: Federal employees are paper pushers and are caught up in bureaucracy.
The federal government has more than 300 departments and agencies, and each performs different tasks, such as improving our education, advancing science, insuring our security and health, and preserving our environment. None of them is restricted to paperwork. Last summer, I had the privilege to intern at Brookhaven National Laboratory, the home of seven Nobel Prize winners and one of the sub-agencies of the federal government. This was not just an internship. I gained hands-on experience with cutting-edge devices, performed scientific research, made many connections with world-class scientists, and attended a wide variety of scientific lectures and career development workshops.

Myth #2: Salaries for federal employees are low and you are better off in the private sector.
The pay scale for many federal jobs uses the general schedule system and is graded from 1-15. The grades depend on the type of degree and several other factors such as class standing and GPA. For example, an undergraduate would be a GS-5, an undergraduate with honors GS-7 and graduate student GS-9. Each grade has ten steps, allowing for a range of salaries.  For example, an employee with a GS-7 step 1 salary gets paid $33,979 per year, while an employee with a GS-7 step 10 salary receives $44,176.

On top of these salaries, there is the student loan repayment assistance program. Some agencies may repay up to $10,000 of student loans per year. In 2008, 35 agencies provided 6,879 employees with $51 million in student loan assistance.

Myth #3: All federal jobs are located in Washington, DC.
In fact, only approximately 16% of federal jobs are located in the Washington, D.C. metro area. The rest are located throughout the United States, not to mention the more than 50,000 jobs overseas! The Department of Energy, for example, has office locations in 30 states across the U.S., and when I interned at Brookhaven, I was working in New York.

Myth #4: The application process is complicated and overwhelming.
I have met many students who find the application process through USAJobs.gov overwhelming. It definitely can look that way but it isn’t once you create an account and start navigating the website. The basic process of applying for a federal job is as follows:

  1. Find a job that you’d like to apply for.

When applying for a federal job, the first thing you must do is to look for available jobs before even creating your résumé. Nearly all federal jobs are posted on USAJobs.gov.

  1. Create your résumé.

The federal résumé, like private sector résumés, should be tailored to each specific opportunity. That is why you have the option to build up to five résumés in USAJobs. Federal résumés have different structures and more detail than private sector résumés. When building your federal résumé, you have two options: you can create one and then upload it, or you can build one through the website. The second option, from my point of view, is the easier one, because it only requires filling in your information by using an online form. This ensures that all the necessary information has been included in your résumé. After you are done with these two steps, you are left with questionnaires and, for some jobs, essay questions.

Overall, the federal government provides lucrative job opportunities for any level of experience, from an internship while you’re in college to a senior executive. Don’t let these four myths stand stop you from achieving a meaningful career in the private sector. Check out www.usajobs.gov for your opportunity today.

Posted by Ahmad Mohammad, U.S. Department of Energy Student Ambassador

NOTE: This post was written by a guest blogger and the content for the post approved by Oregon State University Career Services. We are not responsible for the content of  the websites linked in the post.

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