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Federal Job Opportunities: Opt In or Opt Out?

By Jo-Ann Raines, Director, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Career Development Services

The federal government is a source of challenging and rewarding internship and career opportunities.  It has also suffered from an image problem.  Uncle Sam has been characterized as an employer with boring, predictable jobs for paper pushers.  The myth exists that you have to work in Washington, DC to be a fed.  Another bad rap is the salary structure—non competitive with the private sector. Less tangible is the premise that it wasn’t “sexy” to work for the feds, and even if you wanted to, the application process was a mystery at worst and cumbersome at best.

So should the federal government remain in our repertoire of options to suggest to students?  Indeed, yes!  Through an Innovation Grant from the Partnership for Public Service, NJIT came to a deeper appreciation of what the federal government has to offer someone in the job search process.  The jobs are first and foremost an opportunity to serve the country.  Only 15% of federal positions are located in Washington, DC.  The rest are spread across the United States and some abroad.  The jobs can be exciting and unexpected in the variety of challenges they offer.  Salaries are competitive, commensurate with level of education and experience, and the benefits are excellent.

The economic downturn that began in 2008 and lasted several years had an impact on hiring in the federal sector as it did with private industry.  Budgets were reduced and this caused frustration in applicants and advisors alike.  But there has been an uptick in hiring, especially as it relates to cyber security, and some facts remain true.  The federal government has an aging population who is taking its knowledge and experience with them into retirement.  Also there are certain functions within agencies that must be maintained, most evidently the afore-mentioned cyber security.  Under President Barack Obama, hiring practices were revamped and the Pathways Program for Students and Recent Graduates was created.  Pathways provides opportunities for federal internships for current students and provisional full time opportunities for graduates up to two years out.  Eligible participants may be considered for conversion to full time employment. For details on the Pathways Program, go to https://www.usajobs.gov/Help/working-in-government/unique-hiring-paths/students/

Jo-Ann Raines is the Director of Student and Alumni Career Development at  New Jersey Institute of Technology.

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