How to Get a Government Job: US Federal Government Careers

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Learn how to search for government jobs, the qualifications, and the application process to help you land a federal government career.

[Featured Image] Three government workers talking in a federal office.

If you want to work in a career that serves the public, then a local, state, or federal government job could be an excellent fit. As of January 2024, the federal government employs nearly 3 million people [1]. Working in government gives you stability with a range of benefits, including health, dental, vision, life, and long-term care insurance. Benefits depend on employment status.

On the surface, applying for a government job involves the same steps as finding a job in the private sector. However, federal government jobs have specific regulations that govern what resumes, job titles, and openings look like.

This article examines the kinds of jobs available in the federal government, salaries and compensation, and how to get a government job. 

Who works in the federal government?

The United States government is the country’s largest employer [2], with jobs in nearly every industry, from engineers and administrative workers to database administrators and public health officials. It also includes politicians, department heads, and high-level jobs like vice president and president.

Requirements to apply for a job in the federal government

To apply for a job in the federal government, you must meet a few basic requirements in addition to any job-specific requirements on the posting:

  • You are a US citizen or a US national

  • You are at least 18 years old

  • You meet the educational, experience, and licensure requirements of the specific job post

Finding a federal government job

One way to find a federal government job is through USAJOBS at, the official job posting website of the US government. You can apply to any job that lists itself as open to the public. Current federal employees, veterans, and military spouses have different paths to a job in the federal government open to them.

  • Current or former federal employees have different hiring options open to them, like the ability to search for federal jobs that are only hiring internally.

  • Veterans have veterans’ preference over non-veteran applicants when applying for a job, with three tiers of preference for disabled veterans, non-disabled veterans, and sole survivors.

  • Military spouses can use the federal government’s non-competitive hiring process as long as they meet the job qualifications and specific military spouse requirements.

If you have a college degree, use federal occupations by college major search to narrow down jobs that directly apply to your degree. A unique occupational code organizes all federal jobs. There, you find many majors and occupations with their four-digit occupational codes under them. You can then search for specific jobs using those codes. 

How to get a government job

If you find a federal government job that interests you, the next move is to apply for the job. This process requires a series of steps:

  1. Register and search for jobs at USAJOBS.

  2. Assess your skills and experience.

  3. Create a federal resume.

  4. Fill out and submit an application. 

  5. Track the status of the application.

  6. Interview for the job.

  7. Review the job offer.

Let’s examine each step further. 

1. Register and search for jobs at USAJOBS.

Create an account using, a government website linked to the USAJOBS. This allows you to save jobs and create a profile where recruiters can reach out to you. You can also save your resumes, required documents, and job preferences. Begin your job search using their filters for things like location, agency, schedule, and salary.

2. Assess your skills and experience.

When you find a job posting that interests you, review your skills and experience to ensure you qualify for the job. The federal government allows for years of work experience in an industry to sometimes cover education requirements. Ensure your eligibility for a job is a requirement not tied to skills but rather the USAJOBS path the particular posting falls under, such as recent graduate, student, public, or veteran.

3. Create a federal resume.

Some jobs may require a federal resume, which is a more detailed version of a regular resume. Because of the specified nature of positions in the federal government, they require a more detailed resume with more specifics related to qualifications, experience, and personal details like citizenship. Here is a brief layout of what to include in a federal resume:

  • Your name, the job title, and the grade you are applying for 

  • All contact information, such as address, phone number, and email 

  • Your citizenship status

  • Veterans status, PeaceCorps description of service, or proof of disability 

  • Full education information such as school attended, degree received, major, high school diploma, or GED completion dates 

  • Include your work experience, and remember that federal resumes allow for more detailed and specific work experience to explain how your current and previous jobs give you the qualifications for this one

  • Contact information to your current supervisor 

  • Any training courses you completed with your current or previous jobs 

  • A list of your knowledge and skills

  • Any applicable certifications or licenses that are relevant to the job you are applying to 

  • Any honors, awards, club memberships, or activities outside of work relevant to the job 

4. Fill out and submit an application.

After finding a position that interests you and you have your resume ready, click the apply button in the job listing to begin your application. You need to complete five necessary steps to fill out the application:

  1. Add your resume.

  2. Upload any necessary documents, like citizenship.

  3. Review the qualifications package.

  4. Add your personal information.

  5. Continue onto agency-specific application requirements.

Applications save as you make edits, so you can work on your application around other commitments if needed. After you complete your application and agency-specific questions, review that everything is correct and submit your application. 

5. Track the status of the application.

USAJOBS gives you the ability to track the status of your application after submission and provides a notification confirming its receipt. Job applications are only viewed after the job posting closes. Once reviewed, the hiring manager sorts applicants into minimally qualified and highly qualified, passing along the highest qualified applicants to the hiring official. 

6. Interview for the job.

Federal jobs include an interview process with the highest qualified applicants as determined by the hiring official. These interviews take a range of forms based on agency guidelines. Expect an interview to be a panel of interviewers, in-person, on the phone, or through video. Like many kinds of interviews, multiple rounds are typical. 

7. Review the job offer.

The agency sends a tentative job offer, typically contingent upon completing a background check. If you need security clearance, they perform those additional checks at this time as well. Once you pass all needed checks and negotiate the job offer, it becomes final, and you and the agency select a mutual start date. 

Get started with Coursera.

Are you looking to learn in-demand skills to help you get a government job? Try a Professional Certificate from a top company on Coursera to gain the skills and credentials to demonstrate your knowledge. If you need to polish your resume, cover letter writing, and interview skills, try the Interviewing and Resume Writing in English Specialization from the University of Maryland, College Park, also found on Coursera.

Article sources


FRED. “All Employees, Federal,” Accessed February 24, 2024.

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