Scientific Research Jobs in the Federal Workforce

The U.S. government is hiring in many areas of science as employees from the Baby Boomer generation begin to retire. Below are some resources and tips to use in the Federal application process.

#1 Source. The number one source for all federal jobs is where you can search all advertisements for every level and type of service. Students (high school, college or graduate) might prefer to locate internships, coops or temporary jobs. Both sites allow you to conduct advanced searches, post resumes, apply online for posted jobs and track your application through the system. You can also receive notification of new listings.

General Schedule Salary. Most federal service workers, the science fields included, are employed on the General Schedule or GS scale. Salary ranges from $20K to more than $150K depending on the level. Internships are usually between GS-1 and GS-4. Most college graduates start at the GS-5 level with promotion potential through GS-9. Postdoctoral research positions usually begin at GS-11. Permanent scientists begin at GS-12 and go through GS-15.

Attention to Keywords. Knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) are essential to determine whether your qualifications (experience and education) match the requirements of the job. Most scientific jobs have KSAs to evaluate candidates. If a job posting has KSAs listed, you must supply a narrative description of the experience and/or training that demonstrates your possession of a particular element. If the KSA lists experience in High Performance Liquid Chromatography, you should write it out in your response: “High Performance Liquid Chromatography” not HPLC and not LC or chromatography. The evaluator (human or computer) may not know the acronyms or the definitions. Keep in mind that the primary supervisor only sees screened applications so your application has to make the initial cut based on what you submit electronically or in hard copy.

Ask yourself. Can the evaluator/supervisor see your qualifications within 15 seconds of looking at your resume? Does the critical information (KSAs!!) leap off the page? Take some time and use keyword headers on your resume. Don’t be redundant and don’t write science fiction. Your supervisor will, in all probability, be a scientist and can spot it. Do convey your willingness to learn new skills.

It’s worth a look. Read the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has a guide entitled, “USAJOBS Ten Tips for Letting Federal Employers Know Your Worth”.

This article was written by Victoria Finkenstadt, Ph.D., a research scientist in the Plant Polymer Research Unit at the National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research (USDA) in Peoria, IL.

5 Responses to Scientific Research Jobs in the Federal Workforce

  1. Rita says:

    Be aware that many boomers plan to work after retirement either because they want to change careers or work fewer hours or because they are ill prepared for retirement. A recent AARP study showed that about 25 percent of boomers haven’t planned adequately for retirement and will be short of funds.

    I write a boomer consumer blog called The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide at

  2. The USDA is implementing some strategic plans regarding the anticipated turnover in non-SES and SES (Senior Executive Service) management positions in the next 5-10 years. Human Resources estimate that in the next 5 years, over 20% of its leadership employees will separate from government service. There is a plan to provide in-house supervisory training to early career scientists as well as hiring mid-career scientists in order to fill the anticipated gaps in leadership continuity. Full information can be found at

  3. corinne says:

    I wrote a story in the March 12, 2007, issue of C&EN called “Overlooked Opportunities In Government” that people might be interested in looking at too.

  4. […] begin to retire. Below are some resources and tips to use in the Federal application process. &gt House Panel Considers Easing Restrictions for …H.R. 3579 would cover only […]

  5. Great blog from what I’ve read already. I’m Christy from Levallois-Perret, France and I was so glad to have seen this blog.
    Actually, I’d love to get in contact with you. Will you make sure you drop me a e-mai?

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