If you work in the computer and information technology field, you likely already know that the job outlook is bright. In an article from earlier this year, we listed five top careers for IT in 2020. And according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in computer and information technology is projected to grow 11% between 2019 and 2029, which is faster than the average for all occupations.*
But what about information technology jobs in the federal government? This article examines why working for the federal government may be attractive to you and how to find and apply for information technology jobs in the U.S. government. First, a few definitions:
- Public sector refers to taxpayer-funded organizations, which include public schools and local, state, and federal governments and agencies. This article focuses solely on federal government jobs.
- Private sector refers to revenue-driven entities, such as small business, corporations, and any for-profit business. They’re not the focus of this article, but we do compare private sector jobs with U.S. government ones.
Civil service jobs are those in the public sector. Civil service employees work for local, state, and federal governments.
Health and Other Benefits of Working for the U.S. Government
Working for the U.S. government comes with many pros and cons, as does working in any industry, in any field, in any part of the country.
Employer stability: One advantage U.S. government jobs have over private sector jobs is stability. Businesses come and go, but the federal government will never go out of business. (Yes, it may shut down when the executive and legislative branches of government can’t agree on a budget, but shutdowns are unusual. There have been three since 1996.)
Competitive salary: According to Go Government, a nonprofit, nonpartisan group that helps to inspire young people to work in civil service jobs, salaries are competitive with private sector jobs.
Because federal government jobs are funded by taxpayers, their salary information is part of the public record. Anyone can visit the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and request the information in person or online. Pay tables and salary schedules for almost every job in federal government are updated online annually.
Medical and dental insurance: According to the OPM, federal employees enjoy the “widest selection of health plans in the country.” For example, Florida federal employees have more than 30 plans to choose from, Indiana has 26, and Colorado has 28. You can use their website to compare plan options or download brochures to explore plan types in your home state. They also offer dental and vision plans, life insurance, long-term care benefits, and more.
Paid time off (PTO) and sick leave: It should be no surprise that most federal employees enjoy all federal holidays off. To see a full list of federal holidays, visit OPM’s federal holidays page. Generally, full-time federal employees earn a half-day of sick leave during every biweekly pay period, but you should check with the recruiter. Vacation days depend on your years of service:
- 0 to 3 years: 13 days of vacation per year
- 3 to 15 years: 20 days of vacation per year
- 15+ years: 26 days of vacation per year
Federal employees may carry over 30 days of annual leave from year to year.
Student loan forgiveness: Perhaps one of the most attractive benefits of working for the federal government is its Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, which may allow government workers to get their qualifying student loans reduced or even forgiven. To qualify, you must work full time for a government agency, have federal student loans that you repay on an income-driven repayment plan, and have made 120 qualifying payments.
Job Security and Federal Jobs
Jobs with the federal government tend to come with longevity. Federal employees enjoy the most job security over any other sector in the U.S. economy, according to the The Heritage Foundation.
Two main reasons for job security in the federal sector are: (1) the longevity of the government agencies themselves, which we touched on in the previous section, and (2) the strict process federal agencies have to go through if they eliminate positions and terminate employees.
How to Find Jobs With the Federal Government
Start your search at USAJobs.gov. It is the official recruitment site for the federal government.
You’ll create a profile, which includes verification that you are eligible to work in the United States. Like any employment application, you’ll be asked to provide work and employment history. You can browse USAJob’s database of open positions without creating an account, but an account is needed to get alerts and apply for jobs.
You can choose a category, such as Computer Science (shown in the screenshot below). You’ll notice that all government jobs are posted with a title, department, location, and starting salaries. Because these are federal government jobs funded by taxpayers, the salary information is public. You’ll also note that some jobs offer relocation assistance.
USAJobs has one of the easiest user experiences among job-search sites. You can sort by keyword (IT specialist, software developer), location, department, or agency.
They offer virtual job fairs and job webinars throughout the year, which you can view and register for at no cost by visiting USAJobs.gov/notification/events. Topics include how to create a resume for the federal government, the federal hiring process, and much more.
IT and Computer Science Jobs With the Federal Government
USAJobs.gov includes a list of the most urgent hiring needs of the U.S. government. Included in this list are positions in information technology management, computer engineering, computer science, and IT cybersecurity.
Jobs in IT and computer science are in high demand. There are more than 79,000 federal employees who work in information technology fields, according to GoGovernment.org, and more than two-thirds of all government agencies have at least one IT employee. Below are the top agencies for IT employees based on the number of employees as of July 2019:
- Army (10,900+)
- Navy (10,300+)
- Air Force (7,300+)
- Department of Defense (7,200+)
- Department of Treasury (7,200+)
- Department of Veterans Affairs (6,800+)
- Homeland Security (3,900+)
- Social Security Administration (3,800+)
- Department of Agriculture (3,300+)
- Department of Commerce (3,200+)
To get an idea of the number of open positions you’ll find in the U.S. government, use the federal government job series search codes for information technology management —2210—in the search field. On the day we searched, we saw more than 600 open positions throughout the country, including 121 designated for military spouses.
If you narrow your search, you’ll see the departments and agencies with open positions.
Tip: Search by using not only your desired job title, but also words from your ideal job description.
For example, when you search for “computer network architect,” you’ll also find listings for computer engineers. If you search “computer network support specialist,” you’ll find several listings for “IT specialist.”
It’s important to read the job descriptions so you can understand how the federal government classifies its employees. This is also where you’ll find descriptions of the duties, as well as notifications such as this:
Save the search, and you’ll get email announcements each time a new position is listed that matches your search filters.
Cybersecurity Jobs in U.S. Government
The OPM has a website devoted solely to people who are looking to work for the government in the field of cybersecurity. Visit Cybercareers.gov to learn about jobs with the Department of Transportation, Homeland Security, Army, Air Force, and more.
Remember, the job title for federal government positions might not be a one-to-one match with private sector job titles. So, it’s important to search these databases for your skills, in addition to job titles.
Cybercareers.gov includes information from the OPM’s USAJobs.gov website, so you may see the same listings. The "Featured Jobs" section lists the hot careers that the government has high needs to fill.
IT cybersecurity specialists and supervisory IT cybersecurity specialists are in demand through various departments and agencies of the U.S. government.
Summary of Resources for IT Jobs with the U.S. Government
Go Government: This site is designed to guide you as you consider, apply for, and secure federal employment. It is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that offers career guides and answers to FAQs for applying for government jobs.
U.S. Office of Personnel Management: This is the job site for federal employees. The site features hiring practices, data, and employee benefits and wages for federal jobs.
CyberCareers.gov: Part of the Federal Cybersecurity Workforce Strategy, this site, managed by the OPM, provides a platform for cybersecurity job seekers to get connected with opportunities within the federal government.
Bureau of Labor Statistics
- May 2019 Report: Industry-Specific Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates for the Federal Executive Branch
- Occupational Outlook Handbook: The handbook features career information on duties, education and training, pay, and outlook for hundreds of occupations
Ready to Start Your IT Career?
With a higher-than-average outlook for careers in information technology and computer sciences, and the job security and high demand for these positions in the national government, you may be about to embark on an rewarding career path.† Explore undergraduate and graduate IT degree programs and certificates with Purdue Global. Or, request more information today.