You Don’t Need A College Degree To Qualify For An Administrative Job

THE CHALLENGE

Our client, a GS-7 for several years, was interested in applying for a federal government position as a GS-0301-09. Group 0300 is reserved for Administrative Management series positions. She contacted The Resume Place because the language in the Qualifications portion of the Announcement confused her. Her concern was that she didn’t have a degree.

The opening sentence of the Qualifications section stated:

“In order to qualify, you must meet the education and/or experience requirements described below. Your resume must clearly describe your relevant experience; if qualifying based on education, your transcripts will be required as part of your application” (emphasis added).

The section continued with the following statement regarding alternative experience and education:

Specialized Experience: (the following language appeared after a specific list of specialized experience) work performed at the next lower grade/level position in the federal service

OR

Education Substitution: Have a Master’s degree or 2 full years of progressively higher-level graduate education leading to such a degree or Completion of all requirements for an LL.B or J.D. degree from an accredited college or university.

OR

Combination of Education and Experience: Have some specialized experience as described in above, but less than 1 year; and have less than 2 years of graduate-level education as described above. The computed percentage of the requirements is at least 100%.

The same principles that we discuss below apply to positions in Group 0300 regardless of whether the education substitute refers to graduate or undergraduate education alternatives.

THERE IS NO EDUCATION REQUIREMENT FOR GROUP 0300 POSITIONS

The Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM) qualification standards for Group 0300 positions permit qualification on the basis of education/training, or experience, or a combination of the two. Many applicants for these positions are unaware that their experience may convert in whole or in part for education.

Although OPM has determined that certain positions can have prescribed minimum education requirements (“positive education requirement”), this does not apply to positions in Group 0300 but rather to positions in the scientific, technical or professional occupation fields. For all other positions, OPM is statutorily prohibited from prescribing a minimum education level. It must provide for the complete or partial substitution of specialized experience. See 5 U.S.C. §3308.

So, if you are applying for a position in the Administrative Management Group (0300 series positions), you don’t need to have a degree in order to meet the “minimum qualifications” and make the “best qualified list” of applicants referred to the selecting official.

You can meet the minimum qualifications based solely on having the requisite amount of specialized experience, or by combining experience and education.

In this case, our client qualified based on her 1 year (52 weeks or more) of specialized experience as a GS-7 (next lowest grade level). For candidates who are not in federal positions, you will need to establish that your private sector specialized experience is “equivalent” to the next lowest grade level in the federal sector.

The key is whether you have the required Specialized Experience: experience that has equips you with the particular knowledge, skills, and abilities to perform successfully the duties of the position and is typically in or related to the work of the position.

Be careful when reading the Qualifications section of the Job Announcement. In this case, there were alternative qualification statements: education and/or experience.

Occupational Group 0300

Group 0300 includes many general administrative, clerical, and office services positions. The series within the group include positions to perform, supervise or manage work of a general clerical and administrative nature. Examples include:

  • Messengers (GS-0302-01/02)
  • Information Receptionists (GS-0304-02/03/04)
  • Mail and File Clerks (GS-0305-02/03/04/05)
  • Correspondence Clerks (GS-0309-03/04/05)
  • Secretaries (GS-0318-03/04/05/06/07/08/09)
  • Computer Operators (GS-0332-03/04/05/06/07/08/09)
  • Equal Opportunity Compliance Specialists (GS-0360-05/07/09/11/12/13)

Some series in the 0300 Group classify grade based on specific Grade Evaluation Guides. Nonsupervisory positions in these series are generally posted at the GS-7, 9, 11 or 12 levels and include:

  • The OPM Position Classification standard for Series 0301states: “Although administrative work may not require education in specialized fields, it does involve skills (analytical, research, writing, and judgment) typically demonstrated by substantial, responsible experience the equivalent of a college level education.”
  • Government Information Specialists (GS-0306)
    • Records and Information Management Specialists (GS-0308) Administrative Officers (GS-0341)
    • Management and Program Analysts (GS-0343)
    • Logistics Managers (GS-0346)

LESSON LEARNED

If you are applying for a federal job and don’t have a college or graduate degree, you may still be a competitive candidate for many federal positions, including those in Group 0300. The determining factor will often be whether you have 1-year or more of specialized experience at the next lowest grade level. Give it your best shot and apply. It is essential that your federal resume focuses on your expertise and incorporates the keywords present throughout the Announcement.

Ellen-Lazarus-Circle
EllenLazarus is a Resume Place Certified Federal Job Search Trainer, Federal Resume Writer and Career Coach. She is a former Legislative Branch senior executive.

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