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Veterinarians and Curators in the Federal Government? Your Career Field Might Just be in the List.

And tips for Applying to the Obama Administration

If you thought Federal employment was for people with job titles like public administrator and government analyst, or Ambassador and government relations liaison, you are right. But, most likely your job title is also a title found in the Federal government. Read on to learn more about the jobs, agencies, and benefits of civil service jobs; an overview of Federal resumes and posting requirements; and tips for applying to the new Presidential administration (all with links to help you explore the Federal resumes and applications procedures process) …

By Diane Hudson Burns

The Federal government employs approximately 2.7 million employees (including postal workers) with a wide array of job titles: chemist, information technology specialist, finance specialist, veterinarian, clergyman, auditor, operations director, logistics specialist, doctor, nurse, lawyer, biologist, transportation manager, counselor, therapist, curator, Federal Security Director, program or project manager, administrative officer, pilot, government relations advisor, park ranger, police officer, and the list seems nearly endless (if you can imagine the job title or function—the government probably employs it).

Federal Agencies
There are more than 2,000 separate job categories at 15 cabinet-level agencies; 20 large and 80 small agencies.

Many Federal agencies fall under umbrella Departments; some names include (short sample list): Department of Agriculture (Forest Service); Nuclear Regulatory Commission; National Transportation Safety Board; National Archives and Records Administration; Department of Labor, Department of Housing and Urban Development (Center for Faith-based and Community Initiatives); The Department of Treasury (IRS, Bureau of the Public Debt, Financial Crimes Enforcement Network); Department of the Army (Army Corp of Engineers, Army Criminal Investigations Command); Department of the Air Force (Air Force Materiel Command); Department of Commerce (Bureau of Economic Analysis); Department of Defense (Army/Air Force Exchange Service, Defense Intelligence Agency); Department of the Navy (Military Sealift Command); Department of Justice (FBI); Department of Education (Office for Civil Rights); Department of the Interior (Bureau of Land Management); Department of Energy (Export-Import Bank of the United States); General Services Administration (Public Buildings Service); Department of Health and Human Services (National Institutes of Health); Department of Homeland Security (Customs and Border Protection); Library of Congress; Office of Personnel Management; NASA (Langley Research Center); Peace Corps; Department of Transportation, (FAA, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration); U.S. Capitol Police; Department of Veterans Affairs (National Cemetery Association), and many many more.

About 86% of Federal jobs are located outside of Washington, D.C., and close to 50,000 are stationed abroad. Areas in the USA with the highest numbers of Federal workers include Los Angeles, New York City, Atlanta, Philadelphia, San Diego, Salt Lake City, Chicago, Oklahoma City, Baltimore, and Norfolk-Virginia Beach.

The salary range is from entry level of about $14K a year, to Senior Executive Service, with salary upwards of $160K+. The benefits are excellent and include medical, dental, Thrift Savings, life insurance, a retirement, and plenty of leave time. It also offers flextime and telecommuting in some areas. The employment opportunities are global.

The Terms Involved in Applying for a Federal Job
The Federal application process is not a one-size-fits-all two-page formatted presentation resume. Rather is uses several types of resume formats for various agencies. Below we will explore some federal resume types and federal application procedures:


Army: Civilian Service Online – including Europe; 20,000 characters total (12,000 characters for the employment block). The Army Resumix is one of the easier resumes to upload:

Navy: The Navy Resumix allows for 7,5000 characters per employment block, but requires a five-page maximum (which means highlight jobs that are most relevant to the job for which you are applying):

USAJOBS: USAJOBS.GOV is the Federal government official employment website and now links to upload the resume (3,000 characters per job block) to many agencies including Air Force, NRC, and many others:

Avue: Avue is a resume application builder for the Department of Justice, Forest Service, and many others:

Specialty Agencies: NASA, DIA, FBI, CIA, FAA, FDIC, and other specialized agencies use their own version of the Resumix and Resume Builder; each announcement needs to be analyzed to determine the application procedures, requirements, and type of resume used for posting.

Application Manager: See the following: How-To-Build

Federally Formatted Hard Copy Resume: For the exception to many rules — some agencies do not use electronic resumes yet; these agencies accept hard copy resumes via fax, mailing, or word attachment (no zip files).

Please note, if an announcement offers an option to send a resume as a Word attachment, Fax, or USAJOBS — if you do not choose to apply using the USAJOBS resume builder, then you will not have access to the online tracking system.

What goes with a Federal Resume?
For many federal resume applications, several other documents may be required for submission to complete an application. Incomplete documents may cause a client to lose consideration.

KSAs = Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities statements (essays)
Write KSAs in the CCAR (context, challenge, actions taken, results) format. Develop and write one very strong example or two examples (stories) per essay. Online applications with required KSA statements normally have a maximum character limit (1,000, 1,500, 3,000, 4,000 or 8,000). If it does not have a limit, keep to one page maximum for each essay.

KSAs may be also called:

  • TQs (Technical Qualification Statements)
  • PTQs (Professional Technical Qualification Statements)
  • Dimensions
  • Supplemental Questions

Understanding the Federal Announcement
Each federal job vacancy announcement will contain many acronyms or refer to federal items that may be unfamiliar. Here is a general list of translations:

  • Keywords: Keywords are competencies and skill sets required to qualify for the federal job. Keywords may be located in the major duties section of the application, in the KSAs, or under other qualifying factors. Carefully read the entire announcement.
  • Selective or Screen-out factors may include such items as commuting distance, languages, educational requirements, proficiencies, internal agency candidate, and other considerations.
  • Preference points for veterans: A SF-15 is required for 10 point vets and a DD214 is required for 5 and 10 point vets.
  • Educational requirements: Check the vacancy announcement to determine if you need to submit transcripts for the application.
  • SF-50: If you are or were previously a federal employee, you need to submit the Civilian Personnel Actions form.
  • Self-assessment questionnaires: Some announcements require an applicant to respond to several self-assessment questions to qualify for a position. An applicant must respond to the questions, or be automatically disqualified.
  • Resumes that request KSAs in the body of the text: Some announcements address KSAs, but do not ask for KSAs as separate essay statements. Rather, these KSAs need to be incorporated into the body of the resume text.

Senior Executive Service (Above GS-15): The Senior Executive Service (SES) federal application includes an SES-level resume (4-6 pages plus addenda as needed) and Executive Core Qualification statement essays. Each essay is no more than 2 pages (12 point font with one inch margins), and must stand on its own merit.

Applying for a Job in the New Administration
The new administration will accept applications at (it was changed from on January 20, 2009). The application is several screens, and asks questions similar to the federal application. There is a place to upload a resume and include a cover letter. To date, the transition team has received over 300,000 resumes.

The Whitehouse Presidential Personnel Office recommends 100 appointments to be confirmed by April 1 and 400 by August 1, 2009. Historically, only 25 confirmations were made by April 1. Processing of applications, congressional confirmation, and background security clearance procedures further stall the appointments. Overall, 1,146 appointees need confirmation.

The Plum Book is published by the U.S. Congress to facilitate the process of all presidential appointments. The Plum Book lists more than 7,000 noncompetitive appointments nationwide and includes data on positions such as agency heads and their immediate subordinates, policy executives and advisors, and aides who report to these officials.