Government Job Search Strategies

Student sitting at desk conducting a job search on a computer

Reasons to Work for the Federal Government

  • Student loan repayment assistance
  • Superb health insurance and retirement benefits
  • Enjoy work/life balance through flexible schedules and generous vacation
  • Opportunity to transfer to other agencies and expand your horizons
  • Training and professional development

Tips for the Federal Job Search

  • Make sure that you have and identify all of the candidate qualifications in your application materials
  • Be prepared for assessments that evaluate your past experience
  • 80% of agencies are required to post their positions to, the rest will post to their agency website or hire internally

Experiential Education

Pathways – For Students and Recent Graduates

The Pathways Programs are designed to help agencies provide students and recent graduates with clear paths to internships and full-time employment, as well as meaningful training, mentoring and career-development opportunities.

  • Internships: For currently enrolled part-time or full-time students; many agencies participate and many positions are paid.
  • Recent Graduate Program: Full-time, yearlong programs for individuals with an undergraduate or graduate degree from a qualifying educational institution; participants receive training and professional development.
  • Presidential Management Fellows (PMF): The federal government’s premier leadership program for individuals with qualifying advanced degrees; participants receive training and professional development and have at least one rotational or developmental assignment.

Pathways Program opportunities can be found at

Job Search Sites

Agency Search

In addition to the general job search sites, federal recruiters recommend searching by agencies of interest. Some agencies post their positions on their internal sites and not to

  • Go Government – Select “Find Your Fit” and then “Browse information by agency” or “Browse information by field”
  • The Best Places to Work in the Federal Government
  • Can find a list of agencies, A-Z on USAJOBS
  • Search by keyword or location – advanced searches help the process
  • Select “Students and Recent Graduates” to search by Pathways programs
  • Create an account and save searches to have vacancies emailed to you when posted

Federal Resume Writing

Federal resumes differ from industry resumes. Watch the "Writing Your Federal Resume" (video). Additional tips for writing your federal resume:

  • Federal recruiters STRONGLY recommend using the Resume Builder available on
  • Upload a general resume to USAJOBS; agencies search resume books
  • No page limitation for a federal resume (typically 1 -2 pages for an undergraduate student)
  • Schedule an appointment with a Career Center advisor to review your resume.

Understanding Federal Pay Grades (GS)

Pay grades in the federal government are identified by General Schedule (GS) numbers, which vary by location, agency, and educational background.

GS Grades and Qualifying Education

  • GS-4: 2 years above high school education OR an Associate’s degree
  • GS-5: 4 years above high school leading to a Bachelor’s degree OR a Bachelor’s degree
  • GS-7: 1 full year of graduate school OR Bachelor’s degree with one of the following:
  • Class standing (upper third of class)
  • 3.0 or higher GPA; 3.5 or higher GPA in major
  • Honor society membership
  • GS-9: Master’s degree (or equivalent) OR 2 years of graduate school

Additional Resources