Qualifications for Holding a Federal Office in the Executive Branch

The federal government is looking for candidates with “talent, energy and creativity.”
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America is facing tough challenges today and the executive branch of the federal government wants candidates with “talent, energy and creativity,” according to its career website, USAJobs.gov. Staff in the executive arm of national government will affect the lives of over 300 million Americans. More focus has been placed on recruiting women and minorities in federal government offices in the last few years; this has been signalled by the presidential memorandum issued in 2010.

Academic Qualifications

Most office holders in the federal government, particularly at the senior level, have advanced degrees. Each department has its own staff of specialists and experts. For example, the Bureau of Economic Analysis website lists all of its directors and associate directors and all have at least an advanced degree in their area of expertise and most have a Ph.D. At secretary level, which is a more managerial generalist and leadership role, the demand for that level of specialization is not as great.

Professional Experience

At the level of department secretary, the experience required is extensive public service or work in government roles, both national and local government. For example, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had both an academic and legal career in her early years but also worked in a legal aid office and served as chair on the board of the Legal Services Corporation as well as other public service roles. In the specialist roles in this department, it’s quite common for those office holders to have spent their careers in the Foreign Service or in State Department agencies. At mid- to senior levels, employers are looking for proof of years of relative experience, which is best gained working in that department.

Professional Reputation

The value of great qualifications and extensive experience can't be maximized in the drive to gain government office unless you have a raised profile. A high profile along with a track record of achievement is crucial for progress in any organization. Volunteering for projects such as overseas coordination or for diplomatic missions involves a certain amount of risk.

Great Network

Many people who gain office in the executive branch of federal government have worked in its departments and agencies for years before they see substantial career progress. Over this time they have built up a network of patrons and contacts. A great way to begin building this network is to take advantage of the internship scheme in government agencies and departments. The USAjobs website has a section on available internships. It’s open to high school and recent college graduates and offers the possibility of full-time employment afterward.

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