Qualifying for a Federal Civil Service Position

If you are a U.S. citizen or a national, you are eligible to apply for a federal civil service position. (Note, in some special instances, a non-U.S. citizen may be eligible.) The Federal Government expects its employees to be well qualified for the jobs they hold.


The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) publishes qualification standards to help ensure federal employees can successfully and safely perform the work of the position. (Federal job announcements will detail the qualifications.)  

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How to Get a Civil Service Job at a Military Base

How to Get a Civil Service Job at a Military Base

(Essential Guidebook for Obtaining a High Application Score and Getting Hired)

Are College Degrees Required?
Some federal occupations require a college degree with specific fields of study or completion of specific academic courses at the baccalaureate or graduate level.7 These occupations tend to involve research; scientific or professional work (e.g., contracting, legal, medical, engineering, biology, psychology, accounting, etc.). However, there are many federal civilian occupations where a baccalaureate degree in any field is acceptable. Job applicants usually enter these occupations at entry grade levels (typically GS-05 or GS-07 and acquire specialized “on-the-job training” and work experience before qualifying to advance to higher grade levels. These occupations are often advertised as “trainee”, “intern”, or “student program” positions.7 You might qualify for a GS-9 grade (or above) on the basis of possessing an advanced post graduate degree (Master or PhD) that is directly related to the job’s work description.

Qualifying for Positions Based on Previous Work Experience

If you have an extensive work history, you may be well-qualified for many federal positions even without a college degree. Plus, having previous related work experience can help you qualify for a higher entry grade level.

Civil Service Tests No Longer Required

For most federal civilian positions, written civil service tests are no longer required. Review the job announcements on USAJOBS to determine if there are any required tests or specialized selection assessments associated with a position.7

Miscellaneous Specialized Qualification Requirements

Many civil service positions have special qualification requirements attached to them.7 These specialized qualification requirements are not necessarily related to an individual’s knowledge, experience, skills, or abilities for a particular position. Instead, these specialized qualification requirements are related to an individual’s “suitability” to a particular position.7 Specialized requirements can relate to a person’s reliability, medical condition, financial history, age, criminal history, or current family situation. Not all Federal positions will require any of these specialized qualification requirements. The position vacancy announcement in USAJOBS will state which of these specialized qualification requirements will apply.7