The federal government offers great job opportunities for military spouses. Most installations have federal civilian job openings, and your benefits, which can include paid leave, medical and life insurance, and retirement, often go with you when you move to a new federal job at a new duty station. But landing a competitive civil service job with the federal government may seem like a daunting task. The civil service hiring system is huge, and it often looks complicated and confusing. It can be tough to break into the system, but new rules make it a little easier for military spouses. The following information will help you understand the benefits of federal civil service employment and navigate the complex hiring system.
Understanding civil service job opportunities for military spouses
Federal civil service positions for military spouses are filled by Civilian Personnel Offices (CPOs) on local military installations. Procedures vary from region to region, so it's always best to check with your installation's CPO for details on local civil service vacancies.
Most federal positions are posted through USAJOBS, the federal government's official jobs site. Once you create an account, you can search for jobs by geographic location and type of job. The job posting offers detailed information on how to apply for the position. In most cases, you will complete an application or create a resume on a specific resume-building website.
Many jobs at USAJOBS are open to the public. Others are open only to those who meet certain criteria, which may include
- previous military service with an honorable discharge
- a current competitive civil service position, including federal employment in Appropriated Fund (AF) positions
- previous competitive civil service employment with eligibility for reinstatement (federal employees who held a career-conditional appointment)
- being “interchange eligible,” which includes employees in other types of federal employment, such as Non-Appropriated Fund (NAF) jobs, for at least one year (NAF jobs include jobs involving Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) activities such as military exchanges, recreation facilities, and restaurants).
- eligibility for a noncompetitive appointment, including some military spouses (see "Programs for military spouses," below).
When you create an account on the USAJOBS site, you will find detailed information on these eligibilities.
Programs for military spouses
These programs are designed to help spouses land jobs in the federal civil service system. Talk to your local hiring authority, or CPO, to understand how these programs work in your area.
- Noncompetitive appointment of certain military spouses. Under this program, a hiring authority, or CPO, can hire a military spouse without going through the usual competitive process. To be eligible, military spouses must meet the job qualifications and have moved with their spouse under permanent change of station (PCS) orders within the last two years. Military widows or widowers and spouses of 100 percent disabled veterans are also eligible. When applying for a position, note in your cover letter or application that you wish to be considered for the position under the noncompetitive hiring authority for military spouses. You will need a copy of your spouse's PCS orders and a copy of your marriage certificate.
- Priority Placement Program (PPP) for military spouses. If you meet the requirements, you should apply for Program "S" or the Military Spouse Preference (MSP) program. This is the only way you can receive military spouse preference for a civil service position within the continental United States (CONUS). You can apply for the program through your local CPO. You will be asked to provide certain documentation, including your marriage certificate and a copy of your spouse's PCS orders. Although employment is not guaranteed, MSP does give priority to military spouses when they apply for certain positions. For detailed information, visit the Army's Civilian Personnel Online Military Spouse Preference page. If you are applying for a federal civil service job outside the contiguous United States (OCONUS), visit the Family Employment Readiness Program office at your installation CPO for more information.
Searching for federal jobs
There are thousands of federal positions available, so navigating the federal hiring system can be difficult. Your first step is to visit USAJOBS, the federal government’s official jobs site. These tips will help you begin your search:
- Networking. Networking is one of the most effective tools you can use when searching for a federal job. Family members and friends who work for the federal government may be able to provide important information, including details about potential job openings.
- Know your occupational group and series. Each federal agency chooses how it will recruit for open positions, but most jobs are posted on job websites, and sometimes on several sites. Navigating the sites might seem overwhelming, but you can easily search for jobs that match your qualifications once you know the group and series numbers. Go to the Federal Occupational Groups section of USAJOBS for a listing of series numbers and job descriptions.
- Federal job websites. Almost all federal jobs are posted on the USAJOBS website. But you will need to follow the vacancy announcement instructions on how to apply, which sometimes means applying for the job using an online resume-builder at a different site. Sites for Department of Defense (DoD) job listings include:
- Civilian Human Resources for the Navy and Marine Corps
- Army Civilian Service
- Follow the instructions. It may sound simple, but many job applicants don't follow the instructions in the job announcement. Be sure to submit your resume and any additional information by the closing date on the job announcement and in the manner requested. Your resume may not be considered if you haven't followed the instructions carefully.
- Applicant pools. Some agencies create applicant pools by continuously accepting resumes for certain job series. As positions become available, agencies may draw from that pool of applicants.
Your military support services
Each Service branch sponsors information and support programs for service members and their families. You can call or visit any installation Army Community Service Center, Marine Corps Community Services, Fleet and Family Support Center, or Airman and Family Readiness Center regardless of your branch affiliation. If you aren't near an installation, National Guard Family Assistance Centers are available in every state. The Local Community Resource Finder on the National Guard Family Program website will identify your closest center.
This free twenty-four-hour service is available to all active duty, Guard, and Reserve members (regardless of activation status) and their families. Consultants provide information and make referrals on a wide range of issues. Free face-to-face, phone, or online counseling sessions are also available. Call 1-800-342-9647 or go to Military OneSource to learn more.