Government (Federal, State, Local)

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Roles and Work Environment

Federal, State and Local Government or the public sector, as it is often referred to, offer a variety of jobs and opportunities.  Roles in government are similar to the nonprofit and private sector in that many job titles that exist in these sectors also exist in government.  What differentiates the public sector is that some positions within government are elected or appointment by someone in a leadership role. Below is a sampling of roles you might find:

Examples of Federal, State and Local Government Jobs:

  • Auditor
  • Administration and Program Management Specialist
  • Budget Technician
  • City Manager
  • Contract Specialist
  • Economist
  • Environmental Engineer
  • Interpreter
  • Health Educator
  • Human Resources Assistant
  • Public Affairs Specialist
  • Recreation Center Manager
  • Safety and Occupational Health Specialist
  • Volunteer Administrator

Want information about working on Capitol Hill or campaigns? Check out Politics, Policy and Lobbying.

Below is a list of a few departments and agencies where you might find opportunities. For a more extended list, check out our resources section below.

Examples of Federal Departments and Agencies:

Examples of State Departments and Agencies in Virginia:

Examples of Local Departments and Agencies:


Skills and Training

Because of the diversity of roles that exist in government, it is important to think not only about why you wish to work in government but also what you hope your function or role to be in government as it will help you to identify what kinds of training to pursue or skills to develop.  Employees in government represent a wide variety of disciplines from an even broader mix of academic backgrounds and experience. Therefore, we do not recommend one academic track over another in general. Overall, organizations advise that you do your best in all your academic pursuits.

Examples of coursework relevant to a career in government:

  • History/Government
  • Politics and Policy
  • Economics
  • Data Science
  • Computer Science
  • Public Health
  • Foreign Languages
  • Courses that emphasize writing like Philosophy or English

Examples of places to develop your skills or research graduate programs for government jobs:

  • GovLoop is a great resource and information sharing social network for and about government. It provides opportunities to learn about career opportunities, trainings, and resources to help you explore and see innovations in the public sector at all levels.
  • Master’s degrees are not required for entry-level jobs in government, but it may be something you want to pursue later in your career.  Some programs you might consider include Public Policy, Public Affairs and Public Administration.

Industry Timeline

Many opportunities in the federal government that require a security clearance and background check will recruit in the fall or sometimes for full-time, a full year in advance.  Timelines vary for state and local government opportunities, but overall most federal, state and local governments normally hire interns and full-time employees based on immediate needs.  Some positions may become available in late spring/early summer, so you should continue to look for opportunities throughout the academic year and beyond. Review the Public Service and Government Community page for examples of recruiting timelines of PSG industries.

Background Checks & Security Clearances

Background checks and security clearances are required for some government positions. Making yourself aware of the specifics that go into clearing these checks, and the various levels of clearance required, is important to help you as progress through your educational career and plan to embark on one of these careers.

These are great resources to serve as a broad overview of the background check and security clearance process. Researching the specific criteria or requirements for any position early is vital to ensure that you are prepared and qualified to pass the background check and security clearance processes - you don't want to miss out on an amazing opportunity because you started too late or can't get the right kind of clearance.


Find Opportunities

On-Grounds

One of the best ways to gain experience in this industry is through volunteer work in the community, exploring service learning opportunities in the classroom, and involvement through student organizations. Below are some ideas for how to find these opportunities on Grounds and within the Charlottesville community:

Off-Grounds


Applying and Interviewing

Resumes and Cover Letters

First impressions are critical in the job search. Developing and executing the best documents possible will help to ensure that you put your best foot forward and increase the likelihood of progressing to an interview.  Make sure to check out the Resumes and Cover Letters  sections of the website for helpful advice and sample resumes and cover letters.  

Federal Resumes

The Federal Resume is required for many positions in the federal government.  Many government agencies utilize the platform usajobs.gov to post their opportunities.  This website will allow you to create an account and within your account you can utilize their resume building tool to create your federal resume. For specific information on how to write federal resumes, check out the resources below.  

Interviewing

If you have never interviewed before, make sure to check out the Interviewing section of our website.  Interviewing with the federal government has a lot of similarities to interviewing with any industry, but there are some unique aspects that you want to make sure to expect. You can also conduct a mock interview with a career counselor for practice. Most interviews will contain some mixture of questions about your past experiences (resume-based) and your ability to handle typical workplace situations (behavioral).  For full-time positions, depending on the size of the organization, you should expect to start with a 20-30 minute phone or virtual (e.g., Skype, Google Hangout) screening interview, then a longer virtual or in-person final interview. A thank you letter should be written after every interview with an employer. Send the note by email within 24 hours after the interview.

Salary

Many federal, state and local government opportunities will also post hiring ranges which will give you a sense of what to expect:


Additional Industry Resources

Blogs and Industry Research

Professional Associations

More to Explore

Country-specific career and employment database with information on work permit/visas, resume writing tips, cultural advice, and corporate profiles.

Drop-In Hours: Thursday 1-5p, Newcomb 170

Counselors: Dreama Johnson & Hannah Guffey

Jobs, internships, and volunteer positions in non-profit and government agencies. Includes guides on how to conduct a non-profit job search.