If you're looking for an entry-level government job, the program support assistant position may interest you. Program support assistants perform clerical and administrative tasks for the federal agencies that employ them. The position falls under the U.S. Office of Personnel Management's series 0303 classification -- miscellaneous clerk and assistant. Like other job series in the general schedule, series 0303 has assigned grade levels that determine education, skills and experience requirements needed to perform the work plus corresponding salaries. Level GS-5 is the entry level for program support assistants.
What You Do
The specific tasks you perform as a program support assistant vary by agency. You may spend your time compiling and analyzing data using spreadsheets or other database software, while a colleague in the same position at another agency may have responsibility for purchasing and vendor contract invoice reviews and compliance. Other clerical or administrative assignments you get may involve overseeing your department's travel activity, including tracking authorizations, fielding phone calls and serving as the go-to person for questions on project status, policy and procedures.
Having What It Takes
A college degree is your entry ticket to qualifying as a GS-5 program support assistant. Without a degree, you still can qualify if you have worked one year in doing tasks assigned to program support assistants including processing forms and paperwork, using different computer programs related to database management, organizing travel arrangements or performing other general clerical support activities. The Office of Personnel Management also allows you to combine any post-high school study with employment. All candidates must be U.S. citizens, pass a background check and be able to type at least 40 words per minute.
Putting Your Name in the Hat
Your first stop on the road to becoming a program support assistant is the USAJobs.gov website to search for openings and submit your online application. You need to set up an account and prepare a federal resume that shows how your experience mirrors the position's specified duties. Be prepared to submit copies of your transcript to support qualifications based on education. You can sign up to get email notices of any changes in your application status.
The Bottom Line
The GS-5 level had a salary of $27,705 to $36,021 based on the 2014 general schedule salary table. Although program support assistants can be eligible for a benefits package that can include retirement, health insurance and work-life balance options such as flexible scheduling, they usually don't get any relocation assistance if they must move to accept the position.
- U.S. Office of Personnel Management: Occupational Series -- 0300 - 0399 - General Administrative, Clerical, and Office Services
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: Agricultural Research Service
- National Institutes of Health: Job-Program Support Assistant (OA) - NIA- DE
- U.S. Office of Personnel Management: Salary Table 2014-GS
Trudy Brunot began writing in 1992. Her work has appeared in "Quarterly," "Pennsylvania Health & You," "Constructor" and the "Tribune-Review" newspaper. Her domestic and international experience includes human resources, advertising, marketing, product and retail management positions. She holds a master's degree in international business administration from the University of South Carolina.