This blog, “Federal Agencies Looking To Fill High Demand Positions” is part of a series on how to effectively explore careers and opportunities in the federal government. It is also partially extracted from federal senior manager and HR expert Angela Freeman’s recent webinar, “Exploring Federal Career Paths” held on Feb. 8, 2022.
By Alex Harrington & Angela Freeman
We kicked off this series, Exploring The Federal Careers Landscape, with our first blog, An Introduction (Feb. 20), followed by Where to Find Occupations That Make Up The Federal Government’s Civil Service System (2/26/2022).
In this blog we’re going to highlight the most urgent hiring needs today in the federal government—especially those associated with the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM) hiring authorities associated with the jobs act, along with critical jobs associated with the pandemic.
Top Skills Needed Across Government Today
Since the 1970s, there has been a notable shift from clerical to professional and knowledge-based work among federal employees. In fact, federal employees today are more educated—both technically and academically—compared to the private sector. Over 50% of the federal civilian workforce (excluding U.S. Postal workers) have a Bachelor’s Degree or higher, whereas about a quarter of the labor force had a bachelor’s degree. According to Partnership for Public Service, “federal workers possess bachelor’s and advanced degrees at a higher rate than the overall U.S. labor force—47.7% to 41.0% in 2018.” While the government has a higher ratio of educated employees compared to the private sector, there continues to be a growing need for professional and knowledge-based workers.
In order to meet operational demands and congressional mandates, agencies will need to fill the skill gaps in areas of acquisitions, information technology, organizational or programmatic expertise, finance, analysis, and engineering. So for those who aspire to go into public service, they will not only have to showcase their technical skills, such as project management and analysis, but also meet agencies’ skill requirements in grants, insurance, legal, and telecommunications; management support skills such as performance management, project management, and strategic planning; and soft skills such as critical thinking and professionalism (2018 Federal Workforce Priorities Report).
This high demand in specialized skills is great for those job seekers—perhaps you—with education and/or experience in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The demand will be especially strong for specialized workers in areas related to public health, information security, scientific research, law enforcement, and financial services. On top of agencies’ demand for specialized skills, there is also demand in specific occupational fields driven by Executive Orders by the current Administration and Congressional legislation, such as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act
On Nov. 6, 2021, Congress passed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal (Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act), “a once-in-a-generation investment in our nation’s infrastructure and competitiveness.” To support the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal, agencies will need to recruit and hire for a variety of essential positions including mission-driven roles: scientists to combat climate change, engineers to repair and rebuild our roads and bridges, and workers to help ensure that every community in America has clean water, just to name a few. Legislation like this inevitably brings increased workloads because of the expanded operational requirements on the agency, which then increases the staffing.
Here are some of the career occupations—taken directly from O*NET OnLine, a free online database that contains hundreds of job definitions— that agencies will be looking to recruit for:
- Civil Engineer. Develop plans for surface transportation projects, according to established engineering standards and state or federal construction policy. Prepare designs, specifications, or estimates for transportation facilities. Plan modifications of existing streets, highways, or freeways to improve traffic flow.
- Financial Examiners. Enforce or ensure compliance with laws and regulations governing financial and securities institutions and financial and real estate transactions. May examine, verify, or authenticate records.
- Technical Writers. Write technical materials, such as equipment manuals, appendices, or operating and maintenance instructions. May assist in layout work.
- Economist. Conduct research, prepare reports, or formulate plans to address economic problems related to the production and distribution of goods and services or monetary and fiscal policy. May collect and process economic and statistical data using sampling techniques and econometric methods.
Coronavirus COVID-19 Schedule A Hiring Authority
OPM extended the Coronavirus COVID-19 Schedule A Hiring Authority for agencies through June 30 of this year. The new extension gives job seekers who qualify under the Schedule A Hiring Authority, more time to apply for federal positions tied to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic efforts.
According to an OPM Fact Sheet, “COVID-19 continues to be a serious public health emergency. OPM recognizes the presence of this pandemic requires that agencies can conduct strategic, targeted hiring for specific critical, short-term roles to meet mission and/or hiring needs.”
OPM first introduced the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Schedule A Hiring Authority in March 2020 to address the need for hiring additional staff in response to the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19.
Three Top Career Occupations That Are In High Demand
The Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that over the coming decade domestic programs are likely to see an increase in employment. With this in mind, you should keep abreast of those careers that are in high demand in federal service, such as health care, cybersecurity, and national security.
There should be no doubt in your mind that health care is among the top concerns in our country. The U.S. population has a significantly large share of Americans who are growing older; consequently, they will require a higher demand for health care benefits and services. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this will lead to a substantial number of new jobs in federal hospitals and other health care facilities for registered nurses and physicians. And according to the Partnership for Public Service “the biggest demand in government for new employees is expected in the medical and public health category, with federal agencies estimating that they need to fill more than 50,000 positions, including doctors, nurses, pharmacists, medical technicians, occupational therapists and industrial hygienists. As in previous years, the Department of Veterans Affairs is the most active employer, projecting that its hiring needs will include more than 25,000 nurses and 8,000 doctors to staff hospitals throughout the country.”
As cyberattacks become more sophisticated, the federal government will need more individuals with technical and analytical skills to devise defense methods, monitor computer networks, and execute security protocol. And there are some agencies that are conducting specific recruiting strategies to recruit cybersecurity experts. For example, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently finished hiring “Sprints” to onboard nearly 300 cybersecurity professionals and the extension of an additional 500 tentative job offers. “This hiring initiative,” according to a DHS press release, “exceeded its goal by almost 50 percent, is part of a 60-day Cybersecurity Workforce Sprint focused on building a more diverse cybersecurity workforce.”
National security is not only the top concern for federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement officials, but it is also a priority for many, if not all, Americans. Our country has faced many challenges and will continue to face similar challenges ahead. These will include confronting both homegrown and international terrorist plots and threats, while simultaneously facing catastrophic natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods, and fires. For these reasons the federal government must hire many new law enforcement officers (e.g., detectives and criminal investigators), according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Likewise, the Partnership for Public Service estimates that a projected 52,077 new hires in the security and protection category will be for airport screeners, police and correctional officers, and intelligence analysts.
To learn more about national security positions, check out U.S. Intelligence Careers. This is a great online resource for those who have a desire to protect our country from domestic and foreign adversaries through intelligence analysis and sharing. The U.S. Intelligence Careers portal is the official source for careers in the U.S. Intelligence Community. It provides a profile for 17 federal intelligence agencies that focus on an ever-expanding range of issues, from terrorist financing to drug trafficking, from climate change and environmental issues to foreign technology threats and nuclear proliferation.
OPM recently launched a special Bipartisan Infrastructure Law jobs page on USAJOBS.
For more information on COVID related jobs go to:
- OPM Fact Sheet – COVID-19 Excepted Service Hiring Authority
- Coronavirus (COVID-19) Schedule A Hiring Authority, March 2020
- OPM Extends Schedule A Hiring Authority Thru December 31
You can learn more about how to navigate to cybersecurity careers at:
- DHS Sprint To Hire Cybersecurity Professionals (July 6, 2021)
- America Needs Trained Cybersecurity Professionals, Like You, To Fight Against Malicious Actors (April 27, 2021)
- Protect America In The Cyberspace Battlefield (Jan. 15, 2021)
Be sure to check out our other blogs in this series:
- Exploring the Federal Careers Landscape: An Introduction (2/20/2022)
- Where to Find Occupations That Make Up The Federal Government’s Civil Service System (2/26/2022)
- Before You Apply for a Federal Job, Learn the Industry’s Landscape (7/29/2021)
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Please follow us on Twitter @FedCareer and join our Federal Career Connection page on LinkedIn or find us on Meetup at meetup.com/mbc-cnm.To get updates on upcoming workshops and career coaching sessions, visit https://federalcareerconnection.org/events/
Alex Harrington, a federal hiring manager, is currently serving as the Executive Director for Federal Career Connection, Inc. He is also Certified Career Services Provider and Global Career Development Facilitator. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps and is a Persian Gulf War veteran.
Angela Freeman, a federal HR advisor, is an experienced Human Resources professional having served more than 25 years in progressively responsible senior management positions in the federal government and several HR leadership positions in the private sector.