Federal Employment: Numbers, Jobs, and Trends

This section talks about employment with the federal government only.  There are many opportunities for chemists with state and local governments.  For example, crime labs (forensics), water quality monitoring and control (country water districts), environmental monitoring, regulation, and compliance, and so on. 

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Federal Hiring Trends

Where the Jobs Are by Geography

Not all federal government jobs are located in Washington DC.  In fact, only about 9% are in that metro region, the remainder are scattered across the country, with some 50,000 additional jobs overseas.  Being willing to relocate can significantly improve your chances of obtaining a position. 

The GS Schedule for Pay and Qualifications

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is responsible for overseeing compensation for civilian Federal employees, and publishes the General Schedule (GS) of locality pay, which has 15 grades, each of which has 10 steps.  Each position is assigned a grade and step, based on the qualifications, responsibility, and level of difficulty. A newly-graduated chemist with a bachelor’s degree would start at a GS-5 level, or GS-7 if they were in the upper third of their class, had a GPA over 3.0, GPA in major over 3.5, or membership in an honorary society.  A chemist with a master’s degree would start at a GS-9 level, and  PhD at GS-11. 

Keeping Up to Date on Federal Employment

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) collects and provides data and reports on federal civilian employment. They also provide analysis of policy options, legislative changes, and trends in Federal employment.