U.S. Federal Government Job Categories

Updated: July 15, 2020

Table of Contents

    If you’re new to U.S. federal government jobs, you might not understand how the three basic categories of these jobs work. These categories should not be confused with specific job options (we’ll discuss that U.S. Federal Government Job Categories below). The three categories are:

    • Excepted Service
    • Senior Executive Service
    • Competitive Service

    These should not be mistaken for job classifications, which have federal standards and definitions. Such classifications include:

    • 0000 – Miscellaneous Occupations Group
    • 0100 – Social Science, Psychology, and Welfare Group
    • 0200 – Human Resources Management Group
    • 0300 – General Administrative, Clerical, and Office Services Group
    • 0400 – Natural Resources Management and Biological Sciences Group
    • 0500 – Accounting and Budget Group
    • 0600 – Medical, Hospital, Dental, and Public Health Group
    • 0700 – Veterinary Medical Science Group
    • 0800 – Engineering and Architecture Group
    • 0900 – Legal and Kindred Group
    • 1000 – Information and Arts Group
    • 1100 – Business and Industry Group
    • 1200 – Copyright, Patent, and Trademark Group

    That is a small portion of a list known as an “occupational family” of federal job classifications. They include both Competitive Service classifications of General Schedule (GS positions) and Wage Grade positions.

    That is not a comprehensive list, and newcomers to the federal hiring process may not recognize the list above as being part of a certain classification of federal jobs offered under the Competitive Service category. We’ll discuss Competitive Service jobs (the largest pool of federal job openings) in more detail below.

    Each type of federal government job categories has a different definition and application.


    Senior Executive Service (SES)

    Described by official sources as “the smallest category” of federal government jobs. At press time, fewer than 10,000 people are working or have been hired under the Senior Executive Service (SES) category.

    SES was created as part of the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 and those who are hired in such positions serve as a go-between for Presidential appointees and federal employees. According to government sources, SES jobs are “just below” those of Presidential Appointees and federal law permits up to 10% of SES jobs to be filled at the pleasure of the President. SES jobs can be found in agencies such as:

    • Department of Agriculture
    • Office of the Inspector General
    • Consumer Product Safety Commission
    • Office of the Secretary of Defense

    Excepted Service

    Federal government jobs defined as Excepted Service are often “authorized agencies” that are not part of the Executive branch of the federal system. These jobs can include U.S. Postal Service openings, FBI, Secret Service, the National Science Foundation, and many other government agencies including Congress.

    These jobs may be advertised at the specific agency seeking new hires, but USAJobs.gov (the official government job site) may not carry these vacancies–there is no requirement for them to be listed there.

    If you seek a federal job in the Excepted Service, start your job search at the agency you want to work for rather than beginning at USAJobs.gov.


    Competitive Service

    The Competitive Service is described as the “largest category” of federal job openings and if you sign up for USAJobs.gov, Competitive Service is the type of employment you’re most likely to find listed there.

    Of the three categories, Competitive Service hiring is the most standardized and predictable. Job seekers must read each job opening carefully before applying as federal jobs listed in USAJobs stretches across a wide range of agencies, requirements, and application procedures.

    Newcomers to USAJobs soon learn that jobs listed there are organized into something called an Occupational Series. A portion of that series is listed above in the beginning of this article, but there are many such classifications falling into General Schedule jobs and Wage Grade descriptions.

    Some federal literature refers to these two descriptions as “blue collar” (Wage Grade jobs) and “white collar” (General Schedule jobs)–you can identify these jobs by the WG or GS designation in the job description.


    Occupational Families

    Below you’ll find a list of occupational families for both GS and WG positions as published by the federal government’s Office of Personnel Management (OPM).

    Keep in mind that there are subgroups under most, if not all of these categories. For example, under Legal and Kindred Group, job positions are listed to include:

    • 0901 General Legal and Kindred Administration Series
    • 0905 General Attorney Series
    • 0950 Paralegal Specialist Series
    • 0965 Land Law Examining Series
    • 0967 Passport and Visa Examining Series

    …just to name a few.

    Newcomers to this process will need to take some time to explore and review these job descriptions as they pertain to the type of government jobs desired.

    Your professional experience may be represented by a category you don’t expect or that doesn’t seem to be directly relevant to your experience–learn the nuances of the federal job listing process before you start applying for best results.

    0000 – Miscellaneous Occupations Group

    0100 – Social Science, Psychology, and Welfare Group

    0200 – Human Resources Management Group

    0300 – General Administrative, Clerical, and Office Services Group

    0400 – Biological Sciences Group

    0500 – Accounting And Budget Group

    0600 – Medical, Hospital, Dental, and Public Health Group

    0700 – Veterinary Medical Science Group

    0800 – Engineering and Architecture

    0900 – Legal and Kindred Group

    1000 – Information and Arts Group

    1100 – Business and Industry Group

    1200 – Copyright, Patent and Trademark Group

    1300 – Physician Sciences Group

    1400 – Library and Archives Group

    1500 – Mathematics and Statistics Group

    1600 – Equipment, Facilities, and Services Group

    1700 – Education Group

    1800 – Investigation Group

    1900 – Quality Assurance, Inspection, and Grading Group

    2000 – Supply Groups

    2100 – Transportation Group

    2200 – Information Technology Group Wage Grade (WG) Occupational Families

    WG-2500 — Wire Communications Equipment Installation and Maintenance

    WG-2600 — Electronic Equipment Installation and Maintenance

    WG-2800 — Electrical Installation and Maintenance

    WG-3100 — Fabric and Leather Work

    WG-3300 — Instrument Work

    WG-3400 — Machine Tool Work

    WG-3500 — General Services and Support Work

    WG-3600 — Structural and Finishing Work

    WG-3700 — Metal Processing

    WG-3800 — Metal Work

    WG-3900 — Motion Picture, Radio, Television, and Sound Equipment Operating

    WG-4000 — Lens and Crystal Work

    WG-4100 — Painting and Paper

    WG-4200 — Plumbing and Pipefitting

    WG-4300 — Pliable Materials Work

    WG-4400 — Printing

    WG-4600 — Wood Work

    WG-4700 — General Maintenance and Operations Work

    WG-4800 — General Equipment Maintenance

    WG-5000 — Plant And Animal Work

    WG-5200 — Miscellaneous Occupations

    WG-5300 — Industrial Equipment Maintenance

    WG-5400 — Industrial Equipment Operating

    WG-5700 — Transportation/Mobile Equipment Operation

    WG-5800 — Transportation/Mobile Equipment Maintenance

    WG-6500 — Ammunition, Explosives, and Toxic Materials Work

    WG-6600 — Armament Work

    WG-6900 — Warehousing and Stock Handling

    WG-7000 — Packing and Processing

    WG-7300 — Laundry, Dry Cleaning, and Pressing

    WG-7400 — Food Preparation and Serving

    WG-7600 — Personal Services

    WG-8200 — Fluid Systems Maintenance

    WG-8600 — Engine Overhaul

    WG-8800 — Aircraft Overhaul

    WG-9000 — Film Processing


    About The AuthorJoe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News


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