You can work for the federal government.
Although the economy is having some effect on U.S. government recruiting on college campuses, federal employment remains a viable option for students seeking career opportunities.
As the nation's largest employer, the federal government offers competitive salaries and benefits. However, it has always struggled to compete with the private sector for high achievers on college campuses. With the nation in a recession, that's the case more than ever.
Katherine Williams, director of career services at Alabama State University, says government recruitment has dropped off somewhat at ASU, but so have private-sector efforts.
In lieu of on-campus appearances, Williams said, government employers are increasingly resorting to less costly recruitment measures such as e-mailed and faxed announcements.
However, that's not quite the case at Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, which each fall hosts a federal job search panel consisting of federal government representatives. Despite the economy, the number of participants will remain comparable to previous years, according to Walter Tarver, director of career services. In fact, the college will host supplemental federal jobs workshops throughout the year, including agencies such as the Secret Service, the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Internal Revenue Service.
"The workshops help market and promote federal opportunities," Tarver says.
In fact, the largest federal agencies expect to hire some 193,000 new employees by next year, largely due to an aging workforce, according to the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service. But those estimates are dependent upon stepped-up recruitment efforts.
Before the economic downturn, government employers had strengthened their on-campus presence. That was preceded by a downturn during the government's hiring freeze in the late 1990s. In 2005 a congressionally funded effort designed to promote federal service examined how government could better recruit college students into civil service. Among the findings was that cost-efficient federal recruiting efforts can make a difference.
Depending upon classification level, annual government salaries currently range from $ 17,540 to $ 127,604, up from $16,630 to $120,981 in 2007, according to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.
Some private-sector positions may offer higher starting salaries, but recruiters say government jobs often have better benefits and more opportunities for advancement. And with corporation acquisitions, buyouts and mergers out of the equation, there is more job security.
Before applying for that civil service job, there are some other things new graduates should consider. First, civil service exams are required for specific groups including secretarial and clerical, air traffic control, law enforcement and certain entry-level positions, according to Federaljobs.net. Contrary to widespread belief, eighty percent of government jobs are filled through a comprehensive review of a candidate's background, work experience and education--not through civil service exams.
Recruiters and career counselors suggest that a willingness to relocate, sometimes overseas, can help with a government career. It's also important for students to begin the application process early in their senior year since, depending on the position, the process could take a few months. Students should also check out Web sites for specific government agencies to see what positions they have to offer, and what is required.
Being open to learning a language, particularly Spanish, will help to nab some government positions and, as in the private sector, an internship can help obtain an entry-level position. Students may check numerous entry-level governmental options. According to a survey by the Partnership for Public Service, this year's best places to work in the federal government include the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Department of State, the Government Accountability Office, NASA, Intelligence Community, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Justice. More than 280 federal agencies are considered.
By next year, it's predicted that 80 percent of federal job openings will be in these professional fields: security, protection, compliance and enforcement, accounting, budget and business, engineering and sciences, medical and public health, and program management and administration. The Partnership for Public Service said 35 federal agencies completed the 2009 survey to identify their hiring plans for next year. Those agencies represented nearly 99 percent of the federal workforce.
But job openings mean little if the recruitment isn't there. That's not a concern at Rowan University in New Jersey. Ruben Britt, assistant director of the school's career and academic planning center, concedes that recruitment in general is down, but that the federal government continues its strong presence. Rowan recently hosted a government job fair--up to 20 agencies were represented--and another one will be held in November. Among those signed up are the Department of Navy, the National Parks Service, the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Mint, the Social Security Administration, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Labor, and Housing and Urban Development.
"Students ... know job security with the feds is a lot greater than working for the private sector," Britt says.
Regardless of the economy, staff at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, a component of Homeland Security, know recruitment presents its own set of challenges. The agency's minority recruitment strike team, for example, has focused its efforts on areas where college students might not be as aware of Customs and Border Protection. And sometimes, in some places, Black border patrol agents might be the only African Americans in the city.
However, after attending the 55-day academy, border patrol agents can earn $70,000 annually after 2.5 years, and have many opportunities for advancement.
Last December Customs and Border Protection completed a major hiring initiative to meet a 2007 presidential mandate to increase the number of border patrol agents by 6,000, which would result in 18,319 agents by the end of last year. With 18,332 agents employed, the mandate was exceeded.
"A key component of CBP's recruitment strategy was diversity," says spokesman Claude Knighten. "We aim to diversify employee ranks by increasing the number of women and minorities who apply for Border Patrol and other CBP positions, with the goal to create a workforce that reflects the diversity of America."
At the beginning of CBP's diversity initiative, African Americans made up 1.05 percent of the total Border Patrol workforce. Currently, Blacks represent 1.46 percent. Knighten adds, "We continue to recruit at various events and venues for other positions.
"In good or bad economic times, CBP maintains its requirements, and is looking for certain attributes."
With more than 530,000 Baby Boomers expected to retire by 2012, the federal government could become an employer of first resort, said a recent Harvard Kennedy School study titled "From Brain Drain to Brain Gain, Fixing U.S. Government College Recruitment."
The study further stated, "With the election of President Obama inspiring millions, and the economy's current recession making the security of federal government more attractive, those graduating in 2009 should be seeking these federal opportunities like never before."
JOBS BY AGENCY
* Agency for International Development
* Broadcasting Board of Governors
* Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency
* Department of Agriculture
* Department of Commerce
* Department of Defense
* Department of Education
* Department of Energy
* Department of Health and Human Services
* Department of Homeland Security
* Department of Housing and Urban Development
* Department of Justice
* Department of Labor
* Department of State
* Department of the Interior
* Department of Transportation
* Department of Treasury
* Department of Veterans Affairs
* Environmental Protection Agency
* Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
* Federal Communications Commission
* Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
* Federal Trade Commission
* General Services Administration
* Government Accountability Office
* Intelligence Community
* National Aeronautics and Space Administration
* National Archives and Records Administration
* National Labor Relations Board
* National Science Foundation
* Nuclear Regulatory Commission
* Office of Personnel Management
* Securities and Exchange Commission
* Small Business Administration
* Social Security Administration
The Following School Districts ARE HIRING
Anne Arundel County Public School, MD
Polk County Schools, FL
Prince Georges County Public Schools, MD
Berkeley Unified School, CA
Wicomico County Board of Education, MD
Garland Independent School District, TX
Keller Independent School District, TX
The Siemens Foundation, International
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, NC
Clark County School District, NV
Indian Prairie School District 204, IL
Tucson Unified School District, AZ
Region 4 Education Service Center, TX
Rochester City School District, NY
Madison Metropolitan School District, WI
Gwinnett County Public Schools, GA
Jefferson County Public Schools, KY
Bright Horizons Family Solutions, MD
Hazelwood School District, MO