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How to Transfer From One Federal Job to Another

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While you might be working for the same employer when you transfer within the federal government, the process for transferring is not necessarily the same for all jobs. Some jobs require new clearances, while others do not. When it comes to eligibility, though, you'll have a bit of a leg up. When you're already a federal employee, you can apply for "open" jobs as well as "merit promotion" jobs that are available only to internal candidates. But you still have to be qualified to actually land the job.

The Facts About Transfers

If you're in the competitive service -- the most common type of federal job -- it's relatively easy to transfer to jobs that are lower, higher or at the same grade as you are now. One difference between you and other applicants not already employed within the federal government is that you won't have to take the civil service exam again. If you are still in your probationary period, it still stands, but you won't have to go through a new one after the transfer. After a transfer, your years served in your previous job still count toward your retirement.

Search USAJobs

To transfer to a new job, first search for openings. The federal government's USAJobs website can be an excellent resource for finding out about open jobs for which you're eligible. According to OPM, more than 30,000 jobs are listed there on a daily basis. Start by browsing for jobs based on keywords or locations right from the main page. Generally, the site will post jobs open to the public, as well as "merit promotion" jobs open only to internal candidates -- basically those who want to transfer. Read over the "Qualification and Evaluation" section carefully to ensure that you meet the guidelines. Sign into the website -- or create an account if you don't already have one -- and use the site's resume builder feature to create a resume tailored to that job.

Department Websites

Excepted service jobs exist in certain defense or intelligence departments and often have hiring criteria that differs from that of the competitive service. If you're interested in transferring to a particular department, check its website and look for a "Careers" page. Read over the job postings, then follow the directions on the page to apply. Unlike with competitive service jobs, you might find you'll have just as many hoops to jump through as applicants new to federal service. For example, an excepted service job might involve a lengthy security clearance process that you didn't have to complete for your other federal position.

Interviews and Applications

When it comes to the interview and hiring process for a job transfer, don't expect any special treatment. You'll have to fill out the same application or turn in the same materials required of everyone else. You'll also attend the same types of interviews and be considered for each job based on your merits, not your existing employment within the government. A prospective employer might also ask to see your SF50, or the Notification of Personnel Action -- basically your personnel file -- as part of your application.


Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.

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