The federal government is the nation’s largest employer. It also offers some of the best job security of any employer. There are many opportunities in federal government, and they offer some recession-proofing; for instance, in the last recession, the federal government increased its hiring while private sector was laying off. Current federal employees receive “tenure” after a couple of years, meaning it is very hard to get fired. In addition, there are many policies in place that provide significant advantages to current federal employees in the rare event of a layoff– they are placed on a priority list for hiring at other agencies, for example.
The jobs aren’t cushy, though. Everyone I’ve spoken with in a federal agency works hard to provide a real benefit for each tax dollar that makes up his or her salary. Many people are really passionate about what they are doing, from the people who enforce environmental laws at the EPA to the foreign service officers who represent our country at the State Department. A lot of jobs can only be found in federal service, including National Park rangers, diplomats, and many others. The benefits, aside from the job security, are also excellent. The federal government offers an outstanding retirement package, with part of it being a defined benefit based on years of service and ending salary. In addition, the federal government often pays for people’s student loans and/or continuing education. They also encourage telecommuting in many agencies. The job opportunities are excellent, since once you become a federal employee you have significant advantages in the hiring process for jobs in other agencies.
Getting into the federal government is not that easy, though. The application process is quite different from that in the private sector. Federal resumes ask for things that non-federal ones never would, like social security number, prior salaries, names of prior employers, etc., and there are often long application questionnaires and essays to fill in. One great way to start the process of finding a perfect government job is to read my new book, Jobs That Matter: Find a Stable, Fulfilling Career in Public Service. There are other great books out there, too, like those by Kathryn Troutman or Lily Whiteman.