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Thread: Federal government jobs

  1. #1
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    Federal government jobs

    A few questions about federal government planning jobs:

    About how many planners does the federal government employ?
    Which agencies employ the most planners?
    How intense is the competition for these positions?

    And, if anyone here has experience working in a federal position: what do you do, and how do you like it?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian chupacabra's avatar
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    About how many planners does the federal government employ?
    I'm not sure. Somewhere between 12 and 6 million.

    Which agencies employ the most planners?
    Look towards the land management agencies and the branches of the military for most jobs: BLM, NPS, USFS, USFWS, USACoE, BoR, Army, Navy, AF, Marines.

    How intense is the competition for these positions?
    During a normal economy, if you have graduate degrees and/or quite a bit of experience, sort of competitive. But I know a few people who were picked up by the feds as a second/third choice during the boom years. Right now it is crazy competitive and just going to get worse.

    And please note that "planners" often have any number of job titles with the feds, not just "community planner" or "outdoor recreation planner".
    You can grow ideas in the garden of your mind.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Tide's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by chupacabra View post
    And please note that "planners" often have any number of job titles with the feds, not just "community planner" or "outdoor recreation planner".
    And also note that many times what the Federal Govt calls a planner does not mean they are looking for land use or AICP type planners either you need to read each job descriptions.

    Your biggest competition will be getting into the Federal hiring system having to beat out recent vets, former Federal employees of other departments, and spouses of certain groups (military) will automatically get preference ahead of you.

    The hiring process will also take a lot of writing and 6 months to a year.
    Last edited by Tide; 11 Mar 2011 at 10:45 AM.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Don't forget DOT, HUD, EPA, NPS, NFS.......
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    If you are seriously interested in Federal positions, I would place far more emphasis on networking. Spending hours perfecting an application that will be picked apart by computer algorithims isn't going to improve your chances of landing a job. Federal jobs already have a pay freeze. It's only a matter of time before the federal jobs start loosing their security as we have already seen in Wisconsin.
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
    "M&Ms. I ran out of paprika."

    Family Guy

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Rygor's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by DetroitPlanner View post
    Don't forget DOT, HUD, EPA, NPS, NFS.......
    ...FEMA, USGS...
    "When life gives you lemons, just say 'No thanks'." - Henry Rollins

  7. #7
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by nrschmid View post
    Spending hours perfecting an application that will be picked apart by computer algorithims isn't going to improve your chances of landing a job. Federal jobs already have a pay freeze. It's only a matter of time before the federal jobs start loosing their security as we have already seen in Wisconsin.
    Anyone paying the slightest attention sees that if these people continue to grab power, there will be far fewer fed jobs and many of the remaining ones will be miserable indeed. Their mission is to break stuff. If you want a real challenge and want to place band-aids from the inside, that's the path for you.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian chupacabra's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by ColoGI View post
    Anyone paying the slightest attention sees that if these people continue to grab power, there will be far fewer fed jobs and many of the remaining ones will be miserable indeed. Their mission is to break stuff. If you want a real challenge and want to place band-aids from the inside, that's the path for you.
    Yep. The federal workforce is going to contract soon. There's going to be a huge wave of retirements over the next 5 years and many of those positions will never be refilled.
    You can grow ideas in the garden of your mind.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by ColoGI View post
    Anyone paying the slightest attention sees that if these people continue to grab power, there will be far fewer fed jobs and many of the remaining ones will be miserable indeed. Their mission is to break stuff. If you want a real challenge and want to place band-aids from the inside, that's the path for you.
    This is a whole different topic. Regardless of political party, there has been complaint for decades about reducing redundancies and waste in the federal government. Yes, it's sometimes on a campaign platform but I think the view is looking at the day-to-day running of the government as a corporation.
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
    "M&Ms. I ran out of paprika."

    Family Guy

  10. #10
    The agencies that employ the most "planners" (quotes because planning for the federal government is nothing like planning for local governments or as a consultant), off the top of my head: DOT, HUD, and the DOD, with the DOD employing a shit-load. The DOD is the single largest bureaucracy, in the world, ever. So there are a lot of jobs here and there, for three branches of the military (Army, Air Force, Navy). Also the Army Corps, of course. The job series you are looking for is 0020, Community Planner, as listed on USAJOBS, although there are other job series that do planning as well.

    But like someone else said, trying to get a job through USAJOBS is madness. You will spend too much time honing your resume, and doing it over and over again, that you could grow old trying to trick their computers into isolating your application. Besides, you're not already in the competitive service, so you won't be able to apply to a lot of the real postings.

    Federal hiring was way more easy when they could hire through the FCIP authority, but as of March 1st, that program no longer exists. So agencies are back to Square 1, which is going through the competitive hiring process where vets have preference. This is longer, more expensive, and often yields less preferable candidates.

    Anyway, if you want more details about what its like working as a planner for the DOD, pm me.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian rover's avatar
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    Well, even though I don't have a job, I think I can give some serious feedback while asking a few questions.

    1) My general thoughts on Federal work:

    -Well, my thinking has been you want any kind of job right now that is related to planning or your degree. It does not have to be directly related, you just want your foot in the door and you want it to be a career pathway...so don't be discriminate and just look for pure planning jobs.
    After all..if you get hired by the Feds, you are set man. Nobody else can touch their pay or benefits, and the best part, if you get hired, you can always transfer to a different job/agency within the Feds.
    So say you start off as a Program Analyst for the GSA, do it for 1-2 years or whenever until you see say "Community Planner" openings with HUD, and you got first dibs.
    Getting Fed work, if you can, is great.


    2) Which agencies hire planners:
    When I have been doing my Federal search, I have used the following agencies:

    USDA, Census, DOD (Army/Army Core of Engineers/Air Force/Navy),
    Department of Energy, EPA, FEMA, HUD, Department of Interior (USGS), Department of Labor, NASA, Department of Transportation.

    The army/navy/air force have had posting for Community Planner which leads to point 3

    3) What jobs to look for?
    This depends on your specific background but I have been looking for:
    0020-Community Planner
    0029-Environmental Protection Assistant
    0028-Environmental Protection Specialist
    0150-Geographer
    1170-Reality Specialist
    1530-Statistician
    2101- Transportation Specialist

    All of these jobs have some relation to my Geography degree and planning. I really wouldn't given how dismal the planning market is discriminate to just planning jobs, because those jobs I listed and others hit in some way or another on planning topics. If you get in the Feds, take it!



    Quote Originally posted by chocolatechip View post
    Federal hiring was way more easy when they could hire through the FCIP authority, but as of March 1st, that program no longer exists. So agencies are back to Square 1, which is going through the competitive hiring process where vets have preference. This is longer, more expensive, and often yields less preferable candidates.

    Anyway, if you want more details about what its like working as a planner for the DOD, pm me.
    I can second this.
    I actually had a real good interview a few months ago with the GSA.
    I went to the career fair at my school, and the GSA was taking applications for the Reality Specialist position through FICP. This position definitely relates to planning. My interview went well, and oddly they wanted to fingerprint me and all other people who were going to be interviewing this way they would have all the paperwork in order to hire before the 2/28 deadline.
    Just as I was about to get fingerprinted, HR called to get approval, only to be told that had gone over their hiring ceiling and could not hire anybody else until further notice.
    With 2/28 passing, the job was never filled.
    HR told me "Pathways" is scheduled to replace FICP, though there is no guideline as to how and when it will be implemented.
    I like Obama and I know he has stated he wants to make it easier to be hired through the Feds...but this doesn't help!

  12. #12
    Cyburbian rover's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by nrschmid View post
    Spending hours perfecting an application that will be picked apart by computer algorithims isn't going to improve your chances of landing a job.
    I'm not sure you really have to spend hours designing a resume for USAJOBS.
    What was my understand, just make sure your resume and/or cover letter use at least of the KSA keywords.

    [Quote}
    Federal jobs already have a pay freeze. It's only a matter of time before the federal jobs start loosing their security as we have already seen in Wisconsin.[/QUOTE]
    Do you really think this is the case, or is this speculation?
    Everything I read says Fed jobs will be opening because
    1) Obama wants the process streamlined
    2) Many Fed employees are near retiring

    Quote Originally posted by Tide View post
    The hiring process will also take a lot of writing and 6 months to a year.
    It depends, in all of my many applications (which resulted in 2 interviews), the writing hasn't been that bad.
    Mainly it's cover letter/resume matching a few of the KSA keywords+sometimes answering questionnaires.

    Quote Originally posted by chupacabra View post
    Yep. The federal workforce is going to contract soon. There's going to be a huge wave of retirements over the next 5 years and many of those positions will never be refilled.
    Again, is this speculation because based on what I read the wave of retirement will open up spots.

    Quote Originally posted by chocolatechip View post
    But like someone else said, trying to get a job through USAJOBS is madness. You will spend too much time honing your resume, and doing it over and over again, that you could grow old trying to trick their computers into isolating your application. Besides, you're not already in the competitive service, so you won't be able to apply to a lot of the real postings.
    I do agree though that USAJOBS is madness.
    They post jobs in such a horribly inefficient manner.
    Each posting has way too much information in way too many words and is often not clear.
    Again though, I've read and been told by people I know in the Feds just make sure your resume has some keyword KSA matches, you don't have to spend hours having it perfect.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian chupacabra's avatar
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    Nobody else can touch their pay or benefits
    Yes, they can. There is a hiring freeze for the next two years and some politicians are already talking about pay cuts. There will likely be a two week furlough in the near future. I see why they want to do this but the economy is strong in my location, so I get to take a hit on my pay when my private sector peers are not. In normal times, though, it's very stable. The FERS retirement isn't all that great but you can get lots of leave time if you stick around forever. The health care bennies were comparable to what I was offered in both local government positions and in the private sector (some private were worse, however) but that is a more stable benefit for federal employees. Health care is so unstable now, it's the only almost safe bet.

    the best part, if you get hired, you can always transfer to a different job/agency within the Feds.
    So say you start off as a Program Analyst for the GSA, do it for 1-2 years or whenever until you see say "Community Planner" openings with HUD, and you got first dibs.
    Yes and no. You still have to be the most qualified/person the hiring party wants. You have the opportunity to apply for more positions but don't think you'll be able walk into anything. In my agency most people VOLUNTEER for years before getting their first paid position and it's not unusual for people to work for crap pay and subject to furlough for a decade or more before they get a "career" type position. And these are people with graduate degrees. One caveat is that my agency attracts people for whom it is much more than a job, so there's more people around here willing to put up with a lot more shit than I would. Maybe the DoD jobs are different. Also, some agencies don't like to hire outsiders because they fear they won't understand the culture. I think it's a load of crap but I've seen it influence hiring decisions. You do not have first dibs on shit.

    I'm not sure you really have to spend hours designing a resume for USAJOBS.
    What was my understand, just make sure your resume and/or cover letter use at least of the KSA keywords.
    You don't need to worry about it too much to get past the first assessment. However, once your application hits the hiring party's desk it is the same scenario as you would see in the private sector. You want to be able to set yourself apart at this stage, so I don't think it would hurt your chances to spend extra time targeting the people who want to hire you. Overall, I think your strategy is pretty good. The tough part is that just about every position has hundreds of applicant right now.

    Originally posted by chupacabra View post
    Yep. The federal workforce is going to contract soon. There's going to be a huge wave of retirements over the next 5 years and many of those positions will never be refilled.
    Again, is this speculation because based on what I read the wave of retirement will open up spots.
    I'm involved in my region's "workforce transition plan". The federal workforce is going to contract due to a slew of retirements and the elimination of positions. It's speculation but it's speculation based on what congress and the directors of federal agencies seem to think is going to happen.
    You can grow ideas in the garden of your mind.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian rover's avatar
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    Thanks for the advice.

    From what I understand where I have applied, the Feds in my view have the best compensation. They offer benefits (time off), retirement (Thrift), healthcare, and overall stability in terms of not being laid off that can not be matched in the public sector for most planners.
    I mean, correct me if I am wrong, but how can the private sector match Federal pay, retirement, health care, and benefits?
    Local government? To me they seem to offer good benefits (not to the level of the Feds though), but pay below the private and Federal sector.

    I am disappointed that the Federal workforce may shrink, I really was hoping for a Federal career. I know many people who have worked in the Federal government and they all have a stable, well paying, long term career with great retirement packages.

  15. #15
    Cyburbian chupacabra's avatar
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    Federal pay is linked to local wage levels (locality pay). Basically, when compared to private sector pay and taking total compensation, blue and pink collar positions are overpaid, professions (such as engineers, lawyers, planners) are often underpaid, and higher level managers are either underpaid or completely unnecessary. I know I can make more in the private sector right now in my market area (I've had offers) and I plan to move on to something different in the future.

    Things have gotten out of whack with the recession. The federal government remained stable in part because it is so massive and slow moving. In a way the feds are going to be the last to cross the finish line in the race to the bottom. The way I see it shaping up, the core years of the recession were stable but the recover is when the feds will finally respond to the weak job market, pay cuts, etc. that has already occurred in the private sector. The private sector will be on the up when the feds are really getting hammered.

    As far as pensions go, fed jobs have a pension so that certainly makes it better than not having one (assuming you aren't entrepreneurial). I'd rather have a shot at having my own shop. I also think that the pension system is going to be revamped and cut back.

    Thinking back to before I accepted this job I was seriously considering 4 different job offers: the fed job, a city planner job, and two private sector jobs. One of the private sector jobs had the best overall compensation in all respects except for the pension, but it also paid 15% more than the fed job. The second best overall was the fed job I took. The third was the city planner job. The worst overall was the second private sector job. I ended up taking the fed job because I figured it would have the most stability short-medium term and because it was located near family and in a location I knew would weather the recession better than most.

    If you think a job with the feds is the place for you, don't let me discourage you. The workforce will shrink but there is still going to be openings.
    You can grow ideas in the garden of your mind.

  16. #16
    Federal benefits are good (not as great as the GOP would like you to believe), but only as long as we're talking about retirement, insurance, etc. When it comes to flex-time, paid time off, etc, things can get draconian.

    Federal pay depends on what you do, what your grade level is, and your locality, so can't really say if it's great or not.

    Federal positions have stability, but only if you have competitive service status. FCIPs were hired under the excepted service, so they could be canned at any point during their intern period.

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