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Education and Federal Jobs: What You Need to Compete

Education and Federal Jobs: What You Need to Compete

Dennis V. Damp / Monster.com

According to the Office of Personnel Management’s 2004 Fact Book, the federal government employs 2.7 million civilian workers, about 2 percent of America’s total workforce. Forty-one percent of them have college degrees, but if you don’t, don’t worry. In many cases, related work experience can substitute for a diploma, an important consideration when 27 percent of those civilian workers – that’s more than 735,000 people – are currently eligible to retire.

Generally for federal jobs, one academic year of full-time study (30 semester hours or 45 quarter hours) is equivalent to nine months of work experience. A bachelor’s degree is equivalent to three years of general experience. Therefore, when applying for entry-level positions, applicants can qualify with either a four-year bachelor’s degree, three years of general work experience or a combination of education and work experience.

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You can also combine post-high school education and experience to meet total qualifications. For example, with two years of general work experience and 45 semester hours of college that include at least nine semester hours in related coursework, an applicant can meet the requirements for an entry-level position.

Don’t overlook courses taken at nonaccredited institutions, such as work-related training, seminars, workshops and vocational training. These courses are acceptable if they meet the following criteria:

The courses are accepted for advanced credit at an accredited institution.

The institution’s transcript is given full credit by a state university.

The courses have been evaluated and approved by a state department of education.

The coursework has been evaluated by an organization recognized for accreditation by the Council of Post Secondary Accreditation.

You can search government job postings here on Monster Public Service as well as on USAJOBS – the vacancy announcements can be confusing and lengthy, but make sure you read the entire listing so that you don’t miss hidden job opportunities. Then review the occupation’s published qualification standards for education and experience requirements. For example, the “Group Qualification Standard for Administrative and Management Positions” provides a table listing education and work experience equivalents for each General Schedule (GS) pay grade.

The average salary in the federal sector now exceeds $54,000, and there is considerable competition for federal jobs. Daniel Lauber, author of Government Job Finder, says it best: “To succeed, learn how to use the system. Savvy federal job seekers use all of the resources available to them, including online and print job listings and job hotlines. Using all these resources, identify the announced jobs for which you qualify and send in your applications.”


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