A colleague who is
currently a GS-5 is thinking of applying for a job in the judicial branch of the
government, which is an Excepted service position. What would she have to
lose, and would she be able to transition back to the Competitive service later? What are the pros and
cons of making a switch? Thanks!
I've known many people who have moved from the Competitive service to the Excepted service and
back again, and it has done them no harm. Most were in the intel community (all Excepted service) and had long, rewarding careers, often accompanied by rapid career progression.
For those not in the know, the Excepted Service can be defined as
employment in a federal position or with an agency that is outside the federal
Competitive service. Competitive status employees can move freely from one
government job to another without going through OPM's competitive hiring
By contrast, the Excepted service is comprised of
positions and agencies that are not required to use OPM's competitive hiring
examination. These agencies have authority to establish their own hiring
programs to fill Excepted service vacancies.
There are two kinds of exceptions: positions and agencies.
Agencies that are considered to be primarily Competitive service have some Excepted service positions. In other cases, an entire agency
may be excepted by statute from the Competitive service; it would be referred to as
an "excepted agency."
An agency may be excepted because it requires extraordinary hiring
procedures for reasons of security. For example, the Central Intelligence
Agency (CIA) undertakes an extensive background investigation of job applicants
that may last up to one year. An agency may also be excepted due to its unique mission.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) specialized function restricts its
sources of available qualified candidates.
Positions excepted by OPM are categorized into Schedule A, B, C
and non-career executive assignments. These are positions for which it is
impractical to examine the qualifications of applicants. Certain occupations
may also be excepted when it is difficult to judge a candidate's
qualifications. Examples include attorneys, chaplains and special agents.
Positions that are of a policy-making or confidential nature are also under the
excepted service (i.e., a cabinet head's secretary and top advisers will be
More importantly, consider
that non-postal excepted positions comprise more than 20 percent of all federal
civilian employment. The Postal Service represents another 31 percent of
federal workers and only a few hundred federal positions are filled through
political patronage, also known as "Schedule C," leaving only 49% of federal jobs
in the Competitive Service.
In other words, half of federal jobs are in the Excepted service. So what are some of its pros and cons?
- A major
advantage of excepted employment could show up in your paycheck. Several
excepted agencies have authority to establish their own pay scales. This can
often result in higher salaries. The NRC is a good example, offering attractive
salaries for its highly specialized jobs.
- All Competitive service agencies have
the same benefits packages. In some excepted agencies, however, the benefits
packages may exceed the standard package. For example, the CIA has developed a
unique retirement plan and offers substantial benefits for overseas positions.- Some excepted
agencies have an interchange agreement with OPM amounting to nearly the same
thing. Under such an agreement, a person working in the excepted service can
convert, on a non-competitive basis, to the Competitive service.
- Excepted positions are usually open to all candidates.
- And lastly, experience
gained in an excepted position may be invaluable when applying for a
Competitive service position.
- Perhaps the
major difference between competitive and excepted positions is that employment
in the Excepted service does not require and does not confer Competitive service status. As stated earlier, status allows an employee to move freely
from one government job to another (and from one agency to another) without
going through the OPM hiring process again. An employee in the Excepted service
often doesn't have this mobility.
- The primary
drawback involves the interchange with the Competitive service. Although some
agencies have an agreement with OPM allowing movement from the excepted into
the Competitive service, this is not universal for all excepted positions.
Therefore, an employee in an excepted position may not be as fluid in the
federal job market as his or her Competitive service counterpart.
- Excepted service is just that, service which is excepted from the civil service
laws. This means that while it's easier to get the job
because the hiring authority can select whomever it wants, without
competition, it's also much easier to lose the job than competitive
procedures used by excepted agencies are sometimes more extensive and time
consuming. For example, the stringent security clearance requirements of the
CIA, NRC and DIA demand thorough background investigations that may take as
long as one year.
your friend is interested in the Excepted service, have her go for it and
pursue her career goals. But please note that when investigating the Excepted service you must remember that
each situation may differ and applicants must contact an individual agency's
personnel office for specific information.
Yours in Gov,
Read More Q&A from Bureaupat:
[+] Do I have to give notice when I take another federal job?
[+] What happens to my leave if I transfer to another agency?