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Government Intro

By Laura Gordon

As one of the principal employers in the nation, government jobs can accommodate just about anyone with all sorts of interests or backgrounds, from high-profile federal positions to local public service jobs.

In a world where "nothing is certain but death and taxes ," generations of US government bureaucrats, from George Washington to George W., have ensured that Uncle Sam-and his cousins in every American state and town-would collect money to pay for services, provide security, and enforce the laws of the land.

These are government jobs. Good pay, even better benefits, and a chance to change the world.

In 2005, the government employed about 21.8 million civilian workers: at the federal level, this represents about 2.1 percent of all employment, while the state and local governments are responsible for 3.5 and 10.5 percent of all employment, respectively. It's understandable, then, why there is an opportunity for just about anyone in the "Public Sector," which is by far the single biggest source of jobs in the nation.

Government entities tend to be fairly stable. Unlike private companies, the government has little to sell, so it tends to be less affected (in the short term, at least) by competing agencies, booms, busts, consumer spending, and Wall Street.

Government employees may miss some of the opportunities for rapid promotions and big raises found in the private sector, but they can look forward to predictable reviews, promotions based on merit, good job and retirement benefits.

Nearly every occupation available has a spot at the federal level of government. The executive branch, with 15 cabinet divisions and nearly 90 independent agencies, employs 98 percent of federal workers. Management, business, and financial workers are primarily responsible for overseeing operations and can be found within all three branches of the government. Professionals such as research scientists, foresters, conservation and geological specialists, and all types of engineers are also critical to the federal government.

At agencies and offices throughout the federal government, there are entry-level positions open to grads with diverse interests and backgrounds and (usually) a bachelor's degree.

Competition can be stiff for many of these openings, however. Knowing someone at an agency can be helpful, but you can also make your own contacts with the staff in the office of a local Representative or Senator. Many government departments also have relationships with professors and administrators at colleges and universities, so be sure to let them know if you are interested in a particular job.

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