The federal government is the nation's single largest employer, providing jobs to about 2 million civilian employees, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Most of these jobs are civil service jobs, made up of employees of federal government agencies.
Civil service employment is classified as competitive--where applicants are awarded jobs based on merit--or excepted, which includes primarily those jobs related to the military, intelligence and national security.
The civil service system was created in 1872, and defined civil service as "all appointive positions in the executive, judicial, and legislative branches of the government of the United States, except positions in the uniformed services,"according to the U.S. Code.
The creation of the civil service helped protect government workers from political pressures and provided stability for government agencies, which were no longer at risk of losing employees to unwarranted dismissal.
Types of Civil Service Jobs
Civil service employment includes jobs of all types, from blue-collar labor jobs to the highest level of administrative and regulatory positions. Requirements for obtaining a civil service job are set based on the activities of the job itself. Not all government jobs require a college degree and instead let applicants substitute equivalent experience in place of education.
Qualifying for Civil Service Jobs
To qualify for some civil service jobs, including entry-level jobs, clerical/administrative positions, law enforcement and air traffic control jobs, applicants are required to complete civil service employment tests. These tests ask applicants to demonstrate the special skills required for the position they are seeking. Most civil service jobs do not require such tests and rely instead on a combination of work experience and education.
Benefits of Civil Service Employment
In addition to offering competitive pay, civil service employment includes a wide range of benefits and access to services, from health insurance that is partially subsidized by the government to retirement savings plans with matching by the government. Additional benefits may include transit subsidies, flexible work schedules, child-care programs, and other programs designed to make civil service employment a competitive alternative to private employment.
Finding Civil Service Jobs
Most government agencies are required to regularly post available positions, although there is no stipulation that openings must be aggregated in a single location. Accordingly, those seeking civil service jobs should identify the best online and physical locations where positions are posted. The Office of Personnel Management is the agency charged with recruiting and serving the needs of federal government employees, so OPM can be a good starting point for finding a civil service job.