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The U.S. government's civil service system has many different careers and jobs. One of the most common of these is the program support assistant position. A lower-to-mid-grade example of this job is the General Schedule (GS) level 5 support assistant. In general, these assistants work to support a certain office or function within a larger government organization. An example of this is the Veterans Health Administration. It employs many such assistants within its hospitals and clinics.
Program support assistants are found in almost every government agency and department. Most have to be flexible in the duties they perform. Some may not be involved in office automation matters while others are. Most such assistants in a non-medical environment specialize in higher-level support issues within an office or agency. Without them, much of the background research needed by that office or agency might not be accomplished. That's why many are paid at the GS-5 level.
In non-medical offices and agencies, a program support assistant works at collecting relevant data for her agency or office. In addition, she also helps to prepare a variety of reports. Skill with various software programs that prepare charts and graphs is important in this regard. Assistants also have to have experience with word processing programs, spreadsheet and database management tools as well. Some skill with office automation systems is also usually required.
Medical Program Support Assistants
Program support assistants in federal medical offices and agencies usually have to have certain types of medical office experience. This may be in medical billing, transcription or coding, or all three. They also may have to possess basic clinical administrative skills, such as the ability to read patient charts or medical records. Some also have to have clinical abilities. These include the ability to draw patient blood samples or take vital signs.
Many GS-5 program support assistant positions don't require agency-specific experience. Rather, most are general hire positions. This means that the hopeful applicant will need to possess a variety of administrative and office automation support skills. Usually, one year of specialized experience in computer software programs and higher-level secretarial skills gained at the GS-4 level is required. This may mean proficiency in keeping employee time and attendance documentation, and the ability to ably schedule meetings and conferences.
Many level GS-5 program support assistants often gain experience that makes them good candidates for eventual promotion. Starting pay at the GS-5 level exceeds $27,400 per year. With locality pay included, it isn't usual to make anywhere from $31,000 to more than $35,000 per year. Positions also come with many different benefits. These include thrift savings plans, comprehensive health insurance and paid federal holidays. Many positions also offer bonuses, merit awards and cash incentives for performance.
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Tony Guerra served more than 20 years in the U.S. Navy. He also spent seven years as an airline operations manager. Guerra is a former realtor, real-estate salesperson, associate broker and real-estate education instructor. He holds a master's degree in management and a bachelor's degree in interdisciplinary studies.