Uncle Sam's hiring spree

The federal government is hoping to hire almost 200,000 people between now and 2009. The perks can be generous and you don't have to live in D.C.

By Anne Fisher, Fortune senior writer

(Fortune) -- The federal government is about to embark on a hiring spree, according to a new study by a nonprofit group called the Partnership for Public Service (www.ourpublicservice.org).

Indeed, 193,000 jobs will open up between now and 2009, according to the report, which is based on a detailed survey of 34 agencies representing about 99% of the federal workforce.

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Most of the hiring is due to two big factors - the aging of the workforce and the war on terror. Nearly one-third of the government's 1.6 million full-time employees are expected to retire over the next few years, and they all need to be replaced. At the same time, more than 83,000 jobs are being added at agencies charged with protecting the United States, including 47,897 jobs at the Department of Homeland Security and 35,505 at the Department of Defense.

There will be 62,863 security and law-enforcement openings. "The number of compliance and enforcement hires is up nearly four-fold compared to 2005 figures," the study found. Uncle Sam wants to add 27,243 new border patrol agents, customs officer, immigration agents, food inspectors, criminal investigators, and airport screeners.

But, if your background isn't in law enforcement or security, don't fret. The government also wants to hire:

  • More than 23,000 nurses and nursing assistants, along with physicians, pharmacists and physical therapists to fill a total of 35,350 medical and public health jobs.
  • Biological scientists to address the threat of bioterrorism. In this field, the Department of Agriculture projects 2,462 hires and the Department of Homeland Security nearly 1,000 more.
  • More than 8,300 contracting experts at the departments of Defense, Homeland Security, and other agencies.
  • Accountants, tax examiners, auditors, and budget and financial analysts to fill 21,248 openings at the IRS, Treasury, and other agencies.
  • Information technology experts for at least 11,562 positions.
  • Attorneys, paralegals, and other legal professionals for 9,691 jobs at Treasury and other agencies.
  • Air traffic controllers to fill 15,004 jobs at the Department of Transportation.

Altogether, the report says, "there are jobs for every interest and skill, with more than 2,000 separate job categories at 15 cabinet-level departments, 20 large agencies, and 80 small agencies."

And you don't need to move to Washington, D.C. About 86% of federal jobs are located outside the D.C. area, and more than 50,000 are overseas. Cities with the greatest concentration of federal employees include Norfolk-Virginia Beach, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Atlanta, San Diego, New York City, Chicago, Salt Lake City, Oklahoma City, and Los Angeles.

Uncle Sam is willing to be generous to the right candidates, offering "recruitment bonuses, retention incentives, [and] relocation incentives," the report says. Some positions will pay new hires' graduate-school tuition, and many offer student-loan repayments - up to $10,000 per year for a total of $60,000 - in exchange for at least three years of government service. Right now, the Department of Justice leads the pack in student loan repayments, having granted 3,073 repayments totaling over $27 million.

Interested? Federal job vacancies are listed on the web site of the Office of Personnel Management (www.USAJOBS.gov). Last time I looked, the job board there listed 35,828 immediate openings.

But before you start wading through them, it might help to take a look at www.makingthedifference.org, a web site designed by the Partnership for Public Service to provide useful tips for job applicants who are crossing over from the private sector and may not be familiar with government lingo. (For example, the site explains how to narrow your job search to the right level by using federal pay grade ranges. In general, with a bachelor's degree, select ranges GS-5 through GS-7 in the OPM database. With a master's, start at GS-9.)

If you've ever considered a career in public service, now may be your chance. "The job opportunities are there," says Max Stier, president of the Partnership for Public Service. "People just need to seize them."

Have you worked for the federal government? What advice would you give people from the private sector seeking federal jobs? Would you like to work for Uncle Sam? Post your thoughts on the Ask Annie blog.  Top of page

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Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.