How to Land a Job with the Federal Government | AccountingWEB

How to Land a Job with the Federal Government

By Eric Goldman, CMA, CPA

Member of IMA Young Professionals Committee
I’ve worked for the federal government for eight years, and I can say with confidence that the hardest part is getting hired into the system. There are three keys to getting a government accounting job; know what to look for, know how to apply and be persistent.

Know what to look for

The first step is to go to the policies page of and determine what “grade” you fall into based on your prior experience. Jobs are categorized on a 1-15 scale, and most college graduates fall under the GS-5 or GS-7 categories. Those with a master’s degree can target a GS-9. Above the GS-12 level, experience is the primary determinate of qualification.
As you will see, a prerequisite for a GS-7 category job is having “superior academic achievement.” To easily find these jobs, go to the advanced search and search for keywords such as “intern” and “superior academic achievement.” These positions will be most relevant for a recent college graduate or young professional.
It is important to pay attention to these categories in the job listings, as they can denote whether there is potential for you to be promoted. When multiple categories are listed, i.e., “GS-07/09,” these jobs have non-competitive promotions each year until you reach the full promotion potential. Each of these promotions is worth about a 20 percent pay increase.
Know how to apply
Remember how you were taught to write a resume in college and perhaps business school? Forget that. When applying for a government job, first include the job description in your resume followed by your relevant qualifications and accomplishments.
Do not use a generic resume. Include specific keywords that are listed in the job description so that your resume gets sufficient points from computer scoring. The hardest part of this process is actually getting a human to look at your resume. Even if you are the most qualified candidate, if the computer can’t find it then you will never be considered.
Be persistent
Persistence is important in life and imperative for getting a job with the federal government. The hiring process can be very long, so start at the beginning of senior year if you’re in college. If you are out of college, don’t get discouraged if you don’t hear back immediately.
I applied to over 200 federal positions when I was a senior in college, and with the current economy it is even more competitive. There are many military veterans applying for jobs and they will have preference over you. As long as you meet the minimum qualifications, apply and move on to the next application. Remember, you’ll never get a job you don’t apply for.
Benefit of Certifications
Having both a CPA and a CMA, I’ve found people appreciate your certifications. Computers only do when they are listed in the job description. In terms of on-the-job applications, I have been on the side of analyzing accounting data and find the skills I learned useful in my day-to-day job functions.


This blog

The IMA Young Accounting Pros Blog features the insights of IMA's Young Professionals Committee. Committee members share advice and experiences on careers, continuing education, work/life balance, and other issues affecting young accounting and finance professionals.

More from this blog

Bloggers crew

Steve Knowles has spent 25 years in business and practice in the UK, but he also worked in the states and the years haven't dulled his way of seeing an alternative view to everyone else, and every day is a new adventure.


Joel M. Ungar, CPA is a lifelong resident of the Detroit area and a graduate of The University of Michigan. He is a principal with Silberstein Ungar, PLLC, a Top 15 auditor of SEC public reporting companies.


Allan Boress, CPA, with over 25 years as a practitioner and consultant to the accounting profession. Mr. Boress is the author of 12 published books in 6 different languages, including a best-seller, The "I-Hate-Selling" Book.


Larry Perry, CPA, CPA Firm Support Services, LLC, is the author of accounting and auditing manuals, author and presenter of live staff training seminars, and author of webcast and self-study CPE programs. He blogs about small audits, reviews, and compilations.

Sandra Wiley, COO and Shareholder, is ranked by Accounting Today as one of the 100 Most Influential People in Accounting as a result of her prominent role as an industry expert on HR and training as well as influence as a management and planning consultant. She is also a founding member of The CPA Consultant's Alliance. Sandra is a certified Kolbe™ trainer who advises firms on building balanced teams, managing employee conflict and hiring staff.

Maria Calabrese, CIR, Human Resources manager for Fazio, Mannuzza, Roche, Tankel, LaPilusa, LLC in Cranford, New Jersey, Maria's topics revolve around the world of: Mentoring, Performance management, and The "Y Generation," a.k.a. "The whY generation".


William Brighenti is a CPA, Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, and Certified [Business] Valuation Analyst, operating an accounting, tax, and QuickBooks consulting firm in Hartford, Connecticut, Accountants CPA Hartford.


Ken Garen, CPA, is the co-founder and President of Universal Business Computing Company (, a software development firm of high-volume, high-productivity accounting and payroll technology.


Eva Rosenberg, MBA, EA, is the publisher of, and author of the weekly syndicated Ask TaxMama column. She provides answers to tax questions from taxpayers and tax professionals worldwide.


Amy Vetter, CPA, CITP is the CPA Programs Leader for Intacct Corporation responsible for leading the CPA/BPO Partners nationally.

Brian Strahle is the owner of LEVERAGE SALT, LLC where he provides state and local tax technical services to accounting firms, law firms and tax research organizations across the United States. He also writes a weekly column in Tax Analysts State tax Notes entitled, "The SALT Effect." For more info, visit his website:
Scott H. Cytron, ABC, is president of Cytron and Company, known for helping companies and organizations improve their bottom line through a hybrid of strategic public relations, communications, marketing programs and top-notch client service. An accredited consultant, Scott works with companies, organizations and individuals in professional services (accounting, finance, medical, legal, engineering), high-tech and B2B/B2C product/service sales.

Rita Keller is a nationally known CPA firm management consultant, speaker, author, mentor and blogger. She has over 30 years hands-on experience in CPA firm management, marketing, technology and administrative operations.

Stacy Kildal is the mom of two fantastic kids, an Advanced Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, Certified Enterprise Solutions ProAdvisor, Sleeter Group Certified Consultant, a nationally recognized member of the Intuit Trainer and Writer Network, and co-host of RadioFree QuickBooks.
Michael Alter's blog specializes in providing practical advice to those who seek greater profitability and practice management tactics that enhance deeper client relationships.

Sally Glick, CMO, Principal, Marketer of the Year in 2003 and AAM Hall of Famer in 2007, leads a lively discussion of the constantly expanding roles of marketing and the professional marketers that drive this initiative in accounting firms of all sizes.


The IMA Young Professionals Blog features the insights of IMA’s Young Professionals Committee. Committee members share advice and experiences on careers, continuing education, work/life balance, and other issues affecting young accounting and finance professionals.


FEI Financial Reporting Blog provides highlights from SEC, PCAOB, FASB, IASB, and other regulatory news, including reporting under Sarbanes-Oxley Sect 404. It is written by Edith Orenstein, Director of Technical Policy Analysis at FEI.


Sue Anderson has 30 years of experience in continuing education for accountants. Currently she is the program director for online CPE provider CPE Link.


Jim Fahey is COO of Apple Growth Partners, a regional CPA firm in Ohio. His focus is on the effective and efficient use of technology within the firm by all team members.

Caleb Newquist is the Editor-in-Chief of Sift Media US, overseeing content for both AccountingWEB and Going Concern.

Leita Hart-Fanta, CPA, CGFM, and CGAP is the author of "The Yellow Book Interpreted" and owner of a website devoted to training for governmental auditors.


AccountingWEB is more than just a U.S. team of journalists and financial and technology experts - we have an international side, too! Members of our British team who publish share their ideas, insights, and perspectives from across the pond.