Students seek government work

Young potential job seekers are highly motivated to join the federal government and that trend may be strengthening, according to a report from the Partnership for Public Service. However, the students may need to adjust their salary expectations downward if they choose government work, the report also said.

Among the 32,000 U.S. undergraduate students surveyed from December 2007 to April 2008, 17 percent chose government/public service as their choice for jobs after graduation. That was the most popular choice out of 46 options, states the report, which was published Jan. 14. The survey was conducted by Universum USA.

The five most popular agencies cited by the would-be job seekers are the State Department, NASA, the Peace Corps, the Central Intelligence Agency and the FBI, in order of popularity. Those agencies are among the most popular 15 employers named nationwide.

The trend appears to be driven by the ailing economy that is reducing the availability of job opportunities in the private sector, the report said. The circumstances may create an opportunity to revitalize the federal workforce.

"With the slumping economy, a lot of job seekers are giving our federal government a second look. This poll suggests young applicants will like what they see,” said Max Stier, president of the partnership.

“The conditions are right for federal agencies to bring in top talent,” Stier continued. “The question is, ‘will they take advantage of this opportunity or let it pass?’”

The trend may be gaining force. Following the November 2008 presidential elections, the change.gov Web site of President-elect Barack Obama has received up to 100,000 applications a week, the partnership said.

Meanwhile, federal job seekers may need to revise their salary expectations. While the undergraduates were expecting to get paid $49,000 or more annually in their first job after graduation, the entry-level federal jobs typically pay $30,000 to $38,000, the report said.

Also, while students with technical and scientific majors are in great demand in government, they are the least interested in government jobs, in comparison to other students, the report said.

Students also are worried about “bureaucracy and red tape” if they become employed by a federal or state agency, the report said.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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