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If you earn a master’s degree you may qualify for a competitive and prestigious internship program called the Presidential Management Internship (PMI). In the PMI, an intern rotates among different agencies within the executive branch, as well as on Capitol Hill, and then selects a permanent position within the government.
Another option is to obtain a graduate degree after you become a federal government employee. Often the government will pay for part or all of the expenses for coursework if the courses are job related.
Careers in Political Science
AMERICORPSAmeriCorps www.americorps.org is a national service movement administered by the Corporation for National Service that engages thousands of Americans of all ages and backgrounds in a domestic Peace Corps, working throughout urban and rural communities. In exchange for one or two years of results-driven service, you receive education awards to help finance your college education or vocational training or to pay back your student loans.
Building on the work ethic of the Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps, AmeriCorps strives for real results from real work. Embracing the educational advancement of the G.I. Bill, the program rewards commitment and responsibility with educational opportunity. And in the spirit of the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps offers life-changing experiences that extend to lifetime legacies of service and citizenship. AmeriCorps also charts its own course to ensure results, civic responsibility, and a lasting legacy of change.
The AmeriCorps objective of providing educational opportunity for community-based service has created a new national service movement of predominantly young adults, although AmeriCorps comprises men and women of all ages (over age 16), economic backgrounds, racial and ethnic groups, regions and religions, and physical capabilities.
Although AmeriCorps is community based and community driven, all programs and all members work within the national priority areas of education, public safety, human needs, and the environment.
In exchange for one or two years of service, participants receive a living allowance averaging $9,300 per year, health care, child care when needed, and an education award of $4,725 per year to finance higher education or to pay back student loans.
AmeriCorps offers a variety of time options for service. You may serve after high school, or during or after college, graduate school, or vocational training. And you can serve at home right in your own community—or in any other part of the country.
The Corporation for National Service selects community-based programs for participation in the AmeriCorps National Service network. Local programs do much of the recruitment themselves. They seek persons with a commitment to community service and leadership potential.
Special note: You may apply directly to the Corporation for National Service for two nationally operated AmeriCorps programs that are part of the National Service Network. These programs are the National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) and the VISTA program. As with all programs in the AmeriCorps National Service Network, AmeriCorps members with both the NCCC and VISTA will serve their communities in exchange for living allowances, health- and child-care benefits, and awards to finance their higher education or to pay back their student loans. To request applications for either NCCC or VISTA, call the Hotline at 1-800-942-2677.
JOB PLACEMENT IN THE EXECUTIVE BRANCHThe federal government is so vast that you will want information about specific agencies and their activities. If you are uncertain about what type of government work you might be interested in, the U.S. Government Printing Office publishes annually the U.S. Government Manual. It is available online by section www.gpoaccess.gov/gmanual/index.html and in most libraries. The manual names and describes the functions of the federal government’s departments, agencies, and offices and gives telephone numbers. Also it identifies the national, regional, and field offices of each agency. Other publications—such as the Federal Yellow Book or Congressional Quarterly’s Washington Information Directory—describe federal organizations and list names and numbers and provide additional useful information. A reference librarian can assist in locating these publications.
Careers in Political Science The campus recruiting or career placement office can also help. Federal agency recruiters have stepped up their efforts to visit college campuses and to supply recruiting materials to college placement offices. You may want to ask your advisors to identify specific federal agencies to contact about placement. It is important to start looking for a federal job early in the senior year and not to wait until spring.
There are six basic entrance points for jobs in the executive branch of the federal government: the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), independent agencies and commissions, the intelligence community, the defense agencies, the foreign service, and political appointments. Check each agency’s web site for additional information.
The Office of Personnel Management
Most of the hiring for federal agencies occurs through the civil service in a process managed by OPM. In the civil service, jobs are classified by “grades.” In general, the higher the grade, the higher the qualifications needed in terms of education, experience, and technical training. Students with B.A. degrees are usually eligible for positions in grades 5 and 7 (in 2001, $21,947 and $27,185, respectively [depending on geographic location, it may be higher]); grades 9 through 14 (which begin from $33,254 to $67,765) generally require advanced degrees or substantial experience.
Civil service positions are classified by job titles representing the detailed description of the qualifications. The best rule for an applicant is to apply for any job in which one may be remotely interested and qualified. OPM is the major agency to contact about openings in the federal executive branch. There are OPM offices in all major cities, and its web site www.usajobs.opm.gov has listings of available positions. This web site not only allows you to search for federal jobs, but to save up to three categories of search-and-receive automatic e-mail updates if any new jobs are posted for someone with your qualifications.
Most agencies have their own personnel office and web site that lists vacancies and helps to coordinate an application with OPM. Contacting agencies directly and/ or searching their web sites offers additional information for applicants on how to present their particular qualifications for a position. You need not rely exclusively on job listings, especially if you have some personal contact with a federal office, such as prior internship experience or a referral from personal networking.
Something to remember when applying with OPM is veterans’ preference, which recognizes the economic loss suffered by citizens who have served in the military in times of strife, restores veterans to a favorable competitive position for government employment, and acknowledges the larger obligation owed to disabled veterans. Historically, Congress has reserved preference for those who were either disabled, who served in combat areas, or during certain periods of time. If you are a veteran, you should check to see if you are eligible.
Independent Agencies and Commissions
Most federal civilian positions in the executive branch are part of the competitive civil service. To obtain a federal job, you must compete with other applicants.
However, some agencies have their own hiring systems that establish the evaluation criteria used in filling their internal vacancies.
These so-called excepted service agencies include the Federal Reserve System, Board of Governors; Central Intelligence Agency; Defense Intelligence Agency; U.S.
Department of State (foreign service positions); Federal Bureau of Investigation;
Agency for International Development; National Security Agency; U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission; Postal Rate Commission; U.S. Postal Service (contact your local postmaster); Tennessee Valley Authority; and U.S Mission to the United Nations.
For information on job openings in these agencies, go to http://jobsearch.usajobs.opm.gov/agency_search.asp.
Another category of quasi-independent agencies and government corporations are under OPM jurisdiction, but may be overlooked. These include the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms; Bureau of Labor Statistics; Bureau of the Census;
Commodity Futures Trading Commission; Consumer Product Safety Commission;
Drug Enforcement Administration; Environmental Protection Agency; ExportImport Bank; Federal Aviation Administration; Federal Communications Commission; Federal Election Commission; Federal Trade Commission; Food and Drug Administration; National Aeronautics and Space Administration; National Archives and Records Administration; National Institutes of Health; National Park Service;
Amtrak (National Railroad Passenger Corporation); National Science Foundation;
Peace Corps; Securities and Exchange Commission; Small Business Administration;
and Social Security Administration.
The Intelligence Community
As mentioned above, the intelligence community hires many entry-level employees each year outside the civil service. These persons may become analysts working at desks in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere analyzing political, economic, social, and military conditions in countries across the world. Indeed, many intelligence employees carry out political and related analysis similar to that elsewhere in government and the private sector. The Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the National Security Agency have their own selection procedures.
Students interested in applying for such jobs should contact these agencies directly.
The Defense Agencies The military has been a major employer of civilians in the federal government—in Careers in Political Science the Defense Department generally and in the Army, Navy, and Air Force particularly.
In fact, the variety of employment in defense agencies in the United States and overseas is extensive, because the management of military bases is akin to running modest-sized cities. The military has personnel in teaching and management as well as in political, social, and strategic analysis.
Defense-related organizations include the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, Ballistic Missile Defense Organization, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Defense Information Systems Agency, Defense Intelligence Agency, Defense Logistics Agency, Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, Defense Security Service, Defense Threat Reduction Agency, and National Imagery and Mapping Agency. Check their web sites to determine hiring procedures.
Military service itself also offers opportunities for political scientists—probably best realized through the officer ranks. You may obtain information about Officer Candidate School and career opportunities from the applicable web sites, from military recruiters, and from ROTC officials on campus. However, closings of military bases in the United States and abroad have caused reductions in this work force and there are fewer new career opportunities in this sector.
Careers in Foreign Countries
If you are interested in international affairs you should investigate career opportunities in the State Department. Such careers usually require passing the entrance examination for the Foreign Service, which is very competitive. The number of openings in any given year is small. Information about the examination and Foreign Service selection procedures can be obtained from the Department of State and its web site, www.state.gov.
The federal government has technical, administrative, and supervisory employment opportunities overseas. These positions are usually in the competitive federal service, and, as vacancies occur, positions may be filled by transferring career federal employees from the United States. Only when federal employees are not available for transfer overseas, and qualified United States citizens cannot be recruited locally, are these vacancies filled from outside.
You may also apply directly to federal agencies for excepted service positions such as attaché office clerk-translator, translator, interpreter, and foreign service positions at the Department of State. Federal agencies that employ individuals overseas include, but are not limited to the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, State, the Air Force, the Army, the Navy, the Agency for International Development, and the Peace Corps.
Generally, the qualification requirements are the same as those established for positions in the United States. You may, however, be required to meet certain Federal Government additional or higher standards. For example, a foreign language capability, although not required in all federal jobs overseas, would obviously be a valuable qualification.
Overseas employees are paid the same base salaries as federal employees in the continental United States. Where warranted by conditions at the post, employees may receive a post differential or cost-of-living allowance.
For political science graduates with teaching backgrounds, the Department of Defense (DoD) operates dependents’ schools, kindergarten through grade 12, in overseas areas for the purpose of providing American, public school–type education for minor dependents of active duty military and civilian personnel of DoD who are stationed overseas.
Normally, applications for teaching positions are accepted from September through January 15 for employment for the following school year. For further information about DoD Dependents’ Schools opportunities, contact Department of Defense, Education Activity, 4040 N. Fairfax Drive, Arlington, Virginia 22203, or visit its website at www.odedodea.edu.