U.S. Federal Government Job CategoriesUpdated: July 15, 2020
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 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
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.
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.
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
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News