Competitive pay package, increased job security, and a chance to serve the people. These perks surely make government jobs one of the top picks for a lot of job seekers.
At the same time, how to get a government job is one of the toughest questions most applicants face.
The process of getting a government job is comparatively a bit more complicated than getting a private job.
Every step from the initial government job search to the government hiring process is different from the private sector job market.
Moreover, there’s a lack of easy to follow and comprehensive resources and guides to the government job search and application procedures.
To help government job seekers, we have compiled all of the essential information on how to land a government job in this article.
Types of Government Jobs (Federal, State, Local)
As you probably know, there are 3 types of government jobs.
Government jobs include:
- Federal government jobs
- State government jobs
- Local government jobs
In the US, there are around 23.7 million government jobs combining all three levels of the government, including the contract and part-time positions, military personnel, and postal service workers.
This is definitely a huge sector for job seekers.
Federal Government Jobs
The federal government employs more than 4.3 million people, including military personnel, and postal service workers.
The federal government is made up of 3 categories of jobs:
- Competitive service (largest and most common service)
- Senior executive service or SES (executive positions in government, just below Presidential appointees)
- Excepted service (neither competitive or senior executive service)
These jobs include numerous civilian positions in federal agencies and departments, military personnel, political positions, and their staff.
Searching for federal government jobs is easy, but getting one is not as easy.
It is easy because there is a centralized job search website that publishes almost all federal job announcements.
It is not as easy because the application process and the hiring process includes extra elements that are otherwise unknown to the general population.
State Government Jobs
Around 5.4 million Americans are employed by state governments nationwide.
State government jobs are mostly centered around public health, education, policing, and public works.
There are positions similar to federal government jobs as the state government is also comprised of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches, and there are state government agencies that mirror federal agencies.
Although there are no centralized job boards for state government job announcements, state governments mirror the federal recruitment processes to some extent so the hiring process remains somewhat similar to the federal positions.
Local Government Jobs
Local governments employ more than 14.1 million Americans including both full-time and part-time positions.
Local government jobs are the jobs under the county, city, town, or village jurisdiction.
In rural areas, local government jobs could be the most lucrative jobs available to you.
The approach to government and the administrative structure varies among the local governments. The municipal services offered also varies from city to city.
Therefore, the types of available local government jobs also vary.
Local government jobs are mostly in firefighting, education, healthcare, social work, and different government offices like the office of the mayor, social service department, or the sheriff’s office.
We will take a detailed look at the most common job types at these three levels of the government a few moments later, but first, let’s have a look at the best government job search websites for each type of government job.
Best Government Job Search Sites
The government job search process is the beginning step of getting the government job that you want so much.
Searching for government jobs in the right places is crucial and depends on what level of government you are searching for work in.
1. Federal Government Jobs Website
For federal government jobs, USAJOBS.gov is the holy grail.
It is a centralized platform for all federal agencies and departments where almost all the federal job announcements are published.
It is maintained by the United States Office of Personnel Management (OPM), which serves as the chief human resources agency and personnel policy manager for the Federal Government.
When searching for federal government jobs, you will:
- Open a USAJOBS.gov account
- Create your profile
- Upload or build your resume
- Make your resume searchable
- Know your skills and which job titles suit your professional background
- Use USAJOBS’ job search engine to find the jobs you want
Be aware that although almost all the federal jobs are published on USAJOBS, there are a few agencies that may not publish their job announcements there.
These agencies are called excepted service agencies. If you are targeting these agencies, you will also need to keep an eye on the career pages of their websites.
(Learn more details about how to get a federal government job.)
2. Official State Government Job Websites
For state government jobs, there are no better sources of job announcements than the official career pages or websites of the states.
Although there are other job boards or websites that accumulate all the state government job announcements from the individual state websites, no single website guarantees listing each and every one of the job postings.
So, it is always the best option to regularly visit the official state websites of the states that you are targeting for a job.
If you want to get a state government job in California, you should keep tabs on their website for the latest job announcements and career resources.
Keeping an eye on specific state agency and department websites, like the California Department of
Corrections and Rehabilitation, for example, is also a good idea for getting better results from your job search efforts.
3. Official Local Government Job Websites
For local government jobs at the county, city, town, or village levels of the government, you will have to follow the local government websites.
If you want a job in Houston, keep an eye on their website for job announcements and other resources.
You will set up an account and apply to jobs through the city or town’s official career websites.
Some states and cities also actively publish the latest vacancy announcements on social media platforms like Twitter, so you should start following the social handles of the states and cities that you want to get a job in.
Govtjobs.com is solely focused on publishing state and local government jobs.
According to its website, it specializes in executive level state and local government job opportunities to better serve government agencies as well as government job seekers.
Public sector employers can open an account here and can post jobs for a fee.
You can search for government jobs for free using the search functions and filters from the site and apply to jobs directly through the site or by going to the agency or company website.
Just like any other job search website, you can also open an account and upload your resume for the prospective employers to find you in the portal.
5. Careers In Government
Similar to GovtJobs.com, careersingovernment.com also mainly focuses on connecting state and local government employers with prospective candidates.
Employers have to open a paid account to post jobs.
Job seekers can open an account and upload their resume for free, but there is a paid Priority Resume Posting service that offers enhanced resume exposure and functionalities.
The website also offers additional resources, like, career advice, news, and community access, for job seekers and employers.
6. Government Jobs
Governmentjobs.com is yet another website for searching for government jobs by state and city.
You can open an account, upload your resume, and search for jobs for free.
You can also apply to jobs and track your application progress directly from your account.
7. Google Jobs
The Google job search option can be a great tool for government job seekers.
Just type in search terms like:
- Government jobs [state, city, or county name], i.e. “government jobs Houston”
- “Government jobs near me”
- [State name] state government jobs, i.e. “Texas state government jobs”
Then, click on the blue bar titled “Jobs” and you will get job announcements from the official websites as well as other job boards.
You can also narrow down your search results using the search filters available on the top of the Google Job’s dashboard and turn the email job alert for your search by clicking the switch on the bottom-left.
The only drawback of Google Jobs is that you can’t directly apply through it.
You need to apply through the employers’ website or via the job board from where Google sources the announcement.
8. Indeed and Glassdoor
Although most of the popular job boards for private job searching, like ZipRecruiter, LinkedIn, and Monster, are not optimal for the government job search process, there are a few sites that post government jobs.
If you are already using Indeed or Glassdoor for a private-sector job search, you can use search terms like “government” or “government attorney” or “government entry-level” as the job title.
Apart from using the job title and location on the Indeed or Glassdoor search bar, you will need to use the company filter to specify the state, city, or other government entities, as your target employer to see only the jobs from those employers.
However, you must keep in mind that your regular Indeed or Glassdoor resumes may not work when applying for government jobs. Check the application requirements.
The downside of searching for government jobs on a job search engine that is dedicated to private jobs is that the job postings get mixed up with private job listings.
As the private job search websites seldom include the government entities in their company filters options, like Indeed and Glassdoor do, it becomes difficult to keep your search solely focused on the government jobs you want.
So, if you want to use any other private job boards, make sure their filters let you choose the government bodies you want to see jobs from.
(Learn more about an Indeed job search.)
7 Tips for Applying to Government Jobs
Of course, there are no secret recipes out there.
You have to prove your worth to get any job, be it private or public.
However, a bit of strategy always helps along the way.
Here are 7 tips for getting a government job:
- Know Yourself. The age-old adage, but still holds so true. You must know your skills, knowledge, abilities, and interests to choose the jobs that suit you.
- Search the Right Websites. Government job announcements are not available on every job board. Pick your job search websites according to the type of government jobs you want.
- Make Sure You Are a Good Fit. Before you jump into applying for a government job, make sure you have researched the job from top to bottom. Double-check that you match all of the qualifications and eligibility requirements of the job.
- Update Your Government Resume. For any government application, you should always tailor your resume for each job you apply to. Include the skills, experiences, and other details that match the job posting. Understand that the format of a federal government resume is much different than a civilian resume.
- Include All Required Documents. When applying to a federal government job, you will often need a few very important additional documents that are not required to apply for other jobs. These documents include KSAs (Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities statement), TQs (Technical Qualifications), PTQs (Professional Technical Qualifications), MTQs (Mandatory Technical Qualifications), and ECQs (Executive Core Qualifications).
- Apply As Soon As You Can. Competition is fierce for government jobs. Submit your application as soon as you can, but not at the expense of making mistakes. You still need a thorough and accurate application.
- Be Patient. The government hiring process can take much longer than that for a private-sector job.
While you wait for a callback, use that time to prepare for interviews!
Differences Between Government & Private Jobs
There has always been a debate about this.
Which sector is better for your career – government or private?
There is no one size fits all situation here. You may like private jobs and your friend may disagree.
So, instead of going into the debate, let’s have a look at some of the major differences between government and private jobs.
Government vs. private sector jobs:
- Government jobs offer more stability in terms of job security and career progression compared to private jobs.
- The compensation package offered by the government is often much better than most similar private positions.
- The recruitment process is much more lengthy and complicated for government jobs than private-sector jobs.
- The resume for applying to federal government jobs is more detailed than a resume for private jobs and most state and local government jobs.
- In private jobs, career progression (i.e.: promotions and raises) can be attained faster based on the level of the employee’s performance, than in government jobs.
- The freedom to switch between private-sector jobs is easier than switching between government jobs.
- Both private and public sector jobs have an impact on the economy and the progress of the nation, but many public sector jobs offer the opportunity to serve the people in a more direct manner than private jobs.
There are a few other differences between these two sectors of employment, such as work environment and culture, work-life balance, freedom of individual employee, and professional vision, but these factors are mostly subjective and vastly vary from job to job.
You should always research the specific job to get the most accurate information.
Most Common Government Jobs
You may be wondering whether there are government jobs matching your skills, experience, and education.
There are government jobs for almost all professional backgrounds.
Although we won’t be able to mention every possible government position, we can certainly take a sneak peek into the most common ones.
Most Common Federal Government Jobs
Here are the most common job types in the federal government:
1. Office and Administrative Support Occupations
Total employment: 762,030
Annual Mean Wage: $50,610
2. Material Recording, Scheduling, Dispatching, and Distributing Workers
Total employment: 552,260
Annual Mean Wage: $51,620
3. Postal Service Workers
Total employment: 525,070
Annual Mean Wage: $51,540
4. Business and Financial Operations Occupations
Total employment: 515,770
Annual Mean Wage: $86,470
5. Business Operations Specialists
Total employment: 426,530
Annual Mean Wage: $86,180
6. Postal Service Mail Carriers
Total employment: 342,410
Annual Mean Wage: $51,780
7. Healthcare Practitioners and Technical Occupations
Total employment: 216,390
Annual Mean Wage: $89,570
8. Management Occupations
Total employment: 188,910
Annual Mean Wage: $121,920
9. Business Operations Specialists
Total employment: 170,950
Annual Mean Wage: $86,760
10. Health Diagnosing and Treating Practitioners
Total employment: 154,040
Annual Mean Wage: $101,640
Most Common State Government Jobs
Among state government employers, schools and hospitals are some of the heavyweights.
The most common state government jobs excluding school and hospital jobs are:
11. Correctional Officers and Jailers
Total employment: 223,690
Annual Mean Wage: $49,870
12. Office Clerks
Total employment: 71,000
Annual Mean Wage: $37,490
13. Child, Family, and School Social Workers
Total employment: 65,200
Annual Mean Wage: $49,650
14. Police and Sheriff’s Patrol Officers
Total employment: 60,850
Annual Mean Wage: $72,850
15. Secretaries and Administrative Assistants
Total employment: 51,920
Annual Mean Wage: $42,280
16. Business Operations Specialists
Total employment: 50,820
Annual Mean Wage: $68,380
17. Management Analysts
Total employment: 49,970
Annual Mean Wage: $64,520
18. Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists
Total employment: 46,330
Annual Mean Wage: $57,240
19. Eligibility Interviewers
Total employment: 44,430
Annual Mean Wage: $44,180
Total employment: 43,380
Annual Mean Wage: $92,270
Most Common Local Government Jobs
Schools and hospitals are the major employers at the local government level as well.
The most common local government jobs excluding schools and hospitals are:
21. Police and Sheriff’s Patrol Officers
Total employment: 562,570
Annual Mean Wage: $65,210
Total employment: 288,710
Annual Mean Wage: $54,230
23. Office Clerks
Total employment: 171,770
Annual Mean Wage: $37,490
24. Correctional Officers and Jailers
Total employment: 151,430
Annual Mean Wage: $48,670
25. Maintenance and Repair Workers
Total employment: 128,310
Annual Mean Wage: $43,110
26. Secretaries and Administrative Assistants
Total employment: 123,000
Annual Mean Wage: $42,280
27. Recreation Workers
Total employment: 116,280
Annual Mean Wage: $28,360
28. Court, Municipal, and License Clerks
Total employment: 105,640
Annual Mean Wage: $40,370
29. Highway Maintenance Workers
Total employment: 104,710
Annual Mean Wage: $41,340
30. Water and Wastewater Treatment Plant and System Operators
Total employment: 95,220
Annual Mean Wage: $49,720
(Source: U.S. BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS)
Although this list of common government jobs is far from exhaustive, it will give you an idea to start from.
What have we learned about government jobs so far?
- Government jobs are available at all three levels of the government – federal, state, and local levels.
- You have to choose specific job search sites, like USAJOBS.gov and official state and local government websites, for finding government job announcements.
- There are government jobs for almost every skill and career option.
- Government jobs are different from private jobs with respect to benefits, stability, career progression, and the recruitment process.
- You need a targeted and detailed resume for each government job you apply to.
- You will need a few additional documents to apply to government jobs that are not required for private jobs.
Good luck to you in your government job search!