By Carol Tice
State and local governments may be trimming their staffs, but the federal government has out its "now hiring" sign. Washington needs to hire 270,000 workers in the next two years, the Partnership for Public Service reports. One reason for the hiring boom: The government is confronting a "retirement tsunami" as longtime civil-service workers near age 65, says Janet Ruck, co-author of 'Guide to America's Federal Jobs.'
In the past, applying for a federal job meant taking tests and writing lengthy essays, but a directive from President Barack Obama in May has eliminated most of these barriers. If you think you have to live in Washington, D.C. to work for Uncle Sam, think again – there are federal job sites around the country, and in many fields.
Data from online salary database PayScale.com reveals what federal workers earn in a wide variety of jobs. Here's a look at six of the top areas for federal hiring:
1. Medical and public health
With veterans returning from wars overseas, military hospitals and clinics are bustling. They need 19,000 nurses (RNs: $61,150) in a variety of specialties, dieticians ($51,870), occupational therapists ($69,040), and radiologic technologists ($45,000), to name just a few of the in-demand jobs, says Ruck.
2. Security and protection
If you've been to an airport lately, you know security screening is a growing field. The Transportation Safety Administration needs to hire 30,000 security screeners ($37,320) for airports and other transportation hubs across the country, says Heather Krasna, author of 'Jobs That Matter: Find a Stable, Fulfilling Career in Public Service.' Also needed: corrections officers for federal prisons ($42,140), and federal police officers ($49,500).
3. Compliance and enforcement
Roles here include criminal investigators – the Department of Justice is looking for more than 3,700 of them ($69,220). To aid our growing efforts to protect our borders from both illegal substances and illegal immigrants, nearly 5,000 customs agents and 9,800 border-patrol agents ($56,350) are needed by the Department of Homeland Security.
4. Information technology (IT)
"This is a huge one," says Krasna, "with hiring across many agencies." As our society increasingly relies on technology, the federal government has to keep up. The many military applications for IT are a big reason why the federal government is seeking more than 11,000 IT workers. Departments hiring heavily for information technology managers ($72,980) include the Department of Defense, Department of the Treasury, Departments of Army and Navy, and Department of Homeland Security.
Needs here aren't all for attorneys. Federal legal jobs that require less education include serving as a paralegal ($45,760), passport/visa examiner, and claims assistance representative (claims processor, $36,690).
6. Administration/program management
Yes, the government hires secretaries, too. They anticipate needing 600 support clerks at the Department of Housing and Urban Development alone ($29,430). Program managers are in huge demand at many federal agencies, says Krasna, and median salary is $75,497. If you have previously done project or program management elsewhere, especially in the military, you may make an easy transition.
One factor that can be a challenge in landing a federal job – preference goes to workers who've previously held federal jobs. How can you break this cycle? Serve with a federal program such as the Peace Corps or AmeriCorps. There's also constant demand for inner-city teachers in the Teach for America program. Secondary-school teachers average $45,761. You'll be considered a federal worker for a year after your service ends.
Business reporter Carol Tice contributes to several national and regional business publications.
Source: All salary data is from PayScale.com. The salaries listed are median, annual salaries for full-time federal government workers with 5-8 years of experience and include any bonuses, commissions or profit sharing.