The advantage of searching for a government job is that when the economy is slow and the private sector is down-sizing, in order to stop the unemployment rate from increasing too rapidly, the federal government starts hiring. In the past applying for a government job was difficult because you had to deal with lots of bureaucracy. But today applying for a job at a federal agency is similar to applying for a job in private industry. But today, you contact a federal agency directly for job information and each agency does its own hiring.
Although each federal agency does their own hiring, you don't need to go searching for each agency, the U.S. government still maintains a central job site, USAJOBS, At any given time, there are approximately 20,000 positions posted on the site. Here you can search for a job and you can find loads of useful information.
A good place to start is at the site's Site Map where you'll find tutorials, including how to create and submit a resume. You'll need to create an account where you can save your searches, your resume and other documents.
There are two types of U.S. government jobs, most positions are part of the competitive civil service. To obtain a a job, you must compete with other applicants in open competition. These are the types of jobs you find on the USAJOBS website. The other type of jobs are excepted service agency jobs. These are jobs in agencies that have their own hiring system and are not included in the competitive civil service listings.
Some agencies have some jobs in the competitive civil service listings, and some excepted service positions. Some agencies, such as the FBI and the CIA have only excepted service positions. To locate excepted service positions look at individual agency Web sites. This is a good place to look if you are a veteran because they are subject to veterans preference. You'll find a partial list of excepted service agencies here
Who is Eligible for a U.S. Government Job
When a vacancy is listed as open to "all sources", it means any U.S. citizen may apply. In rare cases when there are no qualified U.S. citizens available, agencies may hire non-citizens, unless that is prohibited by statute. Individuals who are current or former Federal employees have a higher status for consideration.
When hiring, agencies may give special consideration to people with disabilities. If you're a veteran, you'll also receive special consideration, and a disabled veterans with a service-connected disability usually goes to the top of the list. However, if you're not in a group that gets special consideration, don't give up because qualifications and experience is still required.
How Long Until I Know if I'm Under Consideration?
Agencies have a 45-day goal for notifying applicants of either non-selection or to schedule an interview. But the 45-day goal is not legally binding and the time to notification may vary. You should try to maintain contact with the hiring department of the agency so you can obtain information about the status of your application.
Advantages of a U.S. Government Job
As the U.S. population keeps growing, more federal workers will be needed to provide government services. It's possible for layoffs to happen in Federal service, but they're very rare. A Federal job is the secure job for these insecure times. And, by law, Federal salaries are based on a comparison with jobs in the private sector.
The Federal Government offers a wide variety of options for health insurance. You can choose from 15 fee for service plans or from over 300 HMOs. The Government pays a large percentage of the cost and you pay the rest. And all Federal employees covered under the Federal Employees Retirement System and Social Security and are eligible for the Thrift Savings Plan which is similar to 401k.