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Earnings Potential

In an effort to give agencies more flexibility in how they pay their workers, there are now several different pay systems in effect or planning to be implemented over the next few years within the Federal Government. The two largest departments that are experimenting with new pay systems are the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security. The new systems incorporate fewer, but wider, pay “bands,” instead of grade levels. Pay increases, under these new systems, are almost entirely based on performance, as opposed to length of service. The amount of pay ranges from over $20,000 for GS level 1 to over $115,000 for GS level 15. For state and local government, salary ranges from over $7,000 a year to over $80,000 a year (the latter is for the position of city manager).

Facts at a glance

Local government employs more than twice as many workers as State government; fire fighters and law enforcement workers, concentrated in local government, are the largest occupations.

Employment growth will be dampened by budgetary constraints due to the rapidly increasing proportion of revenues devoted to the Medicaid program, reductions in Federal aid, especially at the county level, public resistance to tax increases, and outsourcing of government jobs to the private sector.

With nearly 2 million civilian employees, the Federal Government, excluding the Postal Service is the Nation’s largest employer.

About 5 out of 6 Federal employees work outside the Washington, DC metropolitan area.

Job growth generated by increased homeland security needs may be largely offset by projected slow growth or declines in other Federal sectors due to budgetary constraints, the growing use of private contractors, and the transfer of some functions to State and local governments.

Summary of what this career entails

Workers in the federal government are in charge of defending the United States from terrorist attacks and other international incidents, representing the United States internationally, enforcing the laws of society, and administering domestic programs. They also are involved in what we do in our everyday lives, out taxes, weather reports, grocery shopping, travel and bank deposits are all affected by the actions of the government. The three branches of the federal government, the legislative, judicial and executive branches were created by the United States Constitution in 1791. An example of the duties of a federal government worker is the legislative branch, which forms and amends the legalities of the United States. State and local governments provide the citizens of the state with important services including transportation, public safety, health care, education, utilities and courts. 70 percent of local government employees work for counties, special districts, cities and towns. Other employees work in public education and public hospitals. As late as 2002 there were as many as 87,500 local governments, 3,000 county governments, 19,400 municipal governments, 16,500 townships, 13,500 school districts, and 35,100 special districts. In other words there are plenty of opportunities for people who want to work in his/her local government. Many places have more than one government unit, such as townships or counties. A special district government body is an independent body that is usually focused on one area, for example natural resources.

Examples and or details of work

In the 1990’s, states received more power from the federal government to implement programs that are appropriate to the particular state. Welfare is an example of the federal government passing on responsibility to the states. The transfer is called “devolution.” Education is a major part of the job for government workers in terms of what curriculum that students have to learn, as well as the types of tests students take and the requirements for graduation. For example, the local government in New York City has made the Regents exam a major factor in graduating from a New York City high school. An example of the job of the federal government is ID regulation; when an individual goes into get his/her social security card or Driver’s license, he or she must have a lot more identification than before because of the events of September 11th.

Degrees that lead to this career

Degrees that lead to a career in government include public administration, urban planning and regional planning.

Specific Career openings in this field

Specific jobs in the government include patrol officers, office clerks, social workers, firefighters, attorney, criminal investigator and air traffic control. 


Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Career Guide to Industries, 2006-07 Edition, Federal Government, Excluding the Postal Service, on the Internet at

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Career Guide to Industries, 2006-07 Edition, State and Local Government, Excluding Education and Hospitals, on the Internet at