5 Tips for Landing a Government Job in a Competitive Market

With room for promotion and appealing salary and benefits, Federal, state and local government jobs are some of the most stable careers available. In an economy where unemployment has skyrocketed, you’re not only one seeking work with the government, especially since there are myriad types of government careers. Stand out from the competition by making yourself a more impressive candidate.


Earn an Advanced Degree

Earn an advanced degree related to government jobs that offers opportunities, like the MPA. A graduate degree shows you’re dedicated, driven and familiar with the latest technologies and developments in the field. An MPA in particular prepares you for a wide scope of government-related jobs, such as a policy manager or a parks and recreation director. When the job competition is between you and dozens, if not hundreds, of candidates, the applicant with the higher degree will likely get first consideration.

Decide on a Specialization

Although a general graduate degree prepares you to tackle any number of tasks, it helps in the application stage if you have a specialization related to the specific job. For example, if you’re applying for an urban planning and development director position, an MPA degree with that specialization will get more consideration than say, a public administration degree with an emphasis on investigation. Specializing in a particular area will show employers that you are already interested and proficient in certain tasks, which means they won’t have to spend time and money training you in the minutia.

Brush Up on Basic Skills

Before you get too far in the government job application process, brush up on basic math and English. Requirements differ from state to state and city to city, but many government jobs require a standardized skill test before you can even submit a resume. These tests differ depending on the specific job in question, but most will test applicants on basic skill sets in math and English. Go to the library, find a government job test guidebook and brush up a few weeks before your first exam.

Get Experience First

Before you jump straight into a government job, consider locating a related job in the private sector. The best part of a degree like the MPA is that although it aims to prepare you for a job in the public sector, it makes you such a skilled worker, the private sector will be eager to hire you as well.

Although potentially less stable with smaller salaries and benefit packages, private sector jobs do offer less competition than public sector jobs. Plus, they offer real-world experience that your degree program may not provide. Get a few years as a director in a private firm under your belt, for example, and you may be more likely to get a job as a city director in the future. At the very least, apply for both private and public sector jobs simultaneously. If you get the private sector job first, you’ll be better prepared to apply for public jobs in the future.

According to Forbes, the average wait time from application to job offer is 105 days. If you’re in a tight financial situation and you need a job fast, it’s probably not best to rely on a public sector job alone. Continue to apply for private sector jobs, and do not give up on your dream of a government job.

Be Persistent

Be persistent and be realistic. Tell yourself that it may be months or even years before you’re working a government job, but you’re willing to continue studying, taking exams, getting experience and applying in the meantime. Prepare to supplement your income in other ways, or volunteer to continue filling your resume.

Government jobs — at the local, state and federal level — are hard to come by. Not because there aren’t enough openings, but because applicants are competing against so many other qualified job seekers. To get a government job, you have to go above and beyond — but once you get one, you’ll enjoy a stable job with competitive income and benefits for years to come.


About the Author: Angela Ramirez is a public affairs director.