“WHERE THE FEDERAL JOBS ARE”
FEDERAL AGENCY SERIES PART 6: WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT The DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE (USDA)
Secretary: Tom Vilsack (2009 – present)
Headquarters: USDA Headquarters are located in Washington, D.C. The Department also has more than 4,500 locations across the country and abroad.
Mission: To facilitate the marketing of livestock, poultry, meat, cereals, oilseeds, and related agricultural products, and promote fair and competitive trading practices for the overall benefit of consumers and American agriculture. The USDA has also adopted “mission areas” relating to a number of its component agencies.
Strategic Goals: USDA adopted 5 Strategic Goals articulating its priorities for Fiscal Year 2014-2018:
- Assist rural communities to create prosperity so they are self-sustaining,
re-populating, and economically thriving
- Ensure our national forests and private working lands are conserved,
restored, and made more resilient to climate change, while enhancing our water resources
- Help America promote agricultural production and biotechnology exports as America works to increase food security
- Ensure that all of America’s children have access to safe, nutritious, and balanced meals
- Create a USDA for the 21st century that is high performing, efficient, and adaptable
Number of Civilian Employees: Close to 100,000 employees.
USDA Organization Structure: Comprised of 17 Agencies and a number of policy and administrative Offices.
- Agricultural Marketing Service. Administers programs marketing U.S. agricultural products, including food, fiber, and specialty crops. Identifies and promotes development of marketing opportunities; conducts and supports research and information on farmer direct marketing activities. Approximately 4,000 employees including agricultural commodity graders and marketing specialists.
TIP 1: The Agricultural Marketing Service recruits employees for AGRICULTURAL COMMODITY GRADER positions (GS05/09) across the country. These are often entry-level positions filled through either open, continuous Announcements or via the RECENT GRADUATES PROGRAM as 1-year appointments. Access these positions through the USAJOBS.GOV website.
- Agricultural Research Service. USDA’s principal in-house scientific research agency. Administers 17 National Programs conducting over 750 research projects in animal and crop production and protection, human nutrition, food safety, bioenergy, and the environment. Has 90+ research locations, including overseas laboratories. Approximately 8,000 employees (including 2,000 scientists and post docs) in D.C., across the country in area and state offices, and at 3 biological control laboratories. The Service has opportunities for scientists, postdoctoral research associates, budget specialists, IT specialists, program analysts, international affairs specialists, and other professional, trade, and support occupations.
TIP 2: Recent recipients of PhDs may find the Agricultural Research Service’s POSTDOCTORAL RESEARCH ASSOCIATE PROGRAM to be an interesting opportunity. The program provides for short-term, non-career appointments; for further information see http://www.ars.usda.gov/careers/postdoctoralresearch.html
- Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. Protects U.S. agricultural health, manages wildlife damage, regulates genetically engineered organisms, and administers the Animal Welfare Act. Develops and advances science-based standards with trading partners. Approximately 5,500 employees including biologists, veterinarians, plant health specialists, agriculturalists, and financial/contract/IT specialists.
- Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. Develops and promotes guidance linking scientific research to consumer nutritional needs. Sets priorities for nutrition research. Establishes federal nutrition policy through Dietary Guidelines. Located in Alexandria, Virginia, its staff includes nutritionists, nutrition scientists, dieticians, economists, and policy experts.
- Economic Research Service. Principal social science research agency. Serves as a primary source of economic information, research, and policy on agricultural issues. Conducts research; analyzes food and commodity markets; produces policy studies; and develops economic and statistical indicators. Approximately 300 employees, many specializing in agricultural economics, economics research, and social science analysis.
TIP 3: The Economic Research Service was ranked #40 among 320 Agency subcomponents (the highest ranking of any Department of Agriculture agencies).in the Partnership of Public Service’s Best Places to Work in the Federal Government, 2015.
TIP 4: The Service has a Postdoctoral Program in Washington, D.C. providing temporary, 2-year appointments for economists and social scientists. For more information, see http://www.ers.usda.gov/about-ers/careers-at-ers/employment-opportunities/ers-postdoctoral-program.aspx.
- Farm Service Agency. Administers farm commodity programs; farm ownership, operating, and emergency loans; conservation and environmental programs; emergency and disaster assistance; and domestic and international food assistance. Its programs are delivered through an extensive network of field offices in over 50 State Offices and 2,200 USDA County Service Centers. Approximately 4,000 employees in positions including loan specialists, and county operations technicians.
- Food and Nutrition Service. Administers the USDA nutrition assistance programs (Including Women, Infants, and Children [WIC], Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and school meals) that provide children and low-income people access to food, a healthful diet, and nutrition education. Approximately 1,400 employees including nutritionists and program specialists, program and management analysts, financial managers, and IT specialists.
- Food Safety and Inspection Service. Public health agency ensuring that the Nation’s commercial supply of meat, poultry, and egg products is safe, wholesome, and accurately labeled. More than 9,500 employees work in D.C., numerous field offices and laboratories. The Service coordinates inspection and enforcement activities in over 6,000 federally inspected establishments across the Nation. Staff include food inspectors, consumer safety inspectors, veterinary medical officers, scientists, data analysts, policy writers, contract specialists, financial analysts, IT specialists, investigators, food safety health educators, and risk managers.
TIP 5: The Food Safety and Inspection Service posts ‘continuous job announcements’ (typically open for 1 year) for intermittent Entry level (GS 05/07) Food Inspectors at hundreds of locations throughout the country. Intermittent positions are “excepted service” appointments and may be limited in hours and shifts. There are also full-time permanent openings across the country, under continuous job announcements, for GS 11/12 Public Health Veterinarians.
- Foreign Agricultural Service. Improves foreign market access for U.S. products and administers market development and export financing programs. Helps U.S. exporters develop and maintain markets overseas for U.S. food and agricultural products. Assists developing countries improve their agricultural systems and build their trade capacity. Its programs include trade policy, export assistance, data and analysis, and food security. Approximately 600 employees including economists, trade and data analysts, program managers, and engineers/architects. In addition to its D.C. office, the Service has a global network of 93 offices covering 171 countries staffed by agricultural attachés and locally hired agricultural experts.
TIP 6: The Foreign Agricultural Service has international development positions in Washington, D.C. at USDA headquarters as well as positions detailed to U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) headquarters. Occasionally, positions are available overseas. These are a mixture of career positions and “Schedule B” appointments (non-career, excepted service, for a limited term up to 5 years, often with the possibility of 1 or more renewals).
- Forest Service. The largest forestry research operation in the world – managing 193 million acres of public lands in 155 national forests and 20 grasslands. The Forest Service has more than 30,000 employees engaged in hundreds of occupational series including biological science, forestry, forestry research, and natural resources. Also employs a team of wildland firefighters.
TIP 7: The Forest Service (as well as the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) employs many wildland firefighters. See http://www.fs.fed.us/wildlandfire/.
- Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration. Facilitates the marketing of livestock, poultry, meat, cereals, oilseeds, and related agricultural products. Promotes fair and competitive trading practices for the overall benefit of consumers and American agriculture.
- National Agriculture Library. One of the world’s largest agricultural research libraries and 1 of 4 national libraries in the U.S. Located in Beltsville, Maryland, the Library employs approximately 200 staff in library services, information systems, and data engineering and management positions.
- National Agricultural Statistics Service. Federal agricultural statistical agency providing objective, accurate, and timely statistical information and services. Conducts hundreds of surveys every year and prepares reports on broad range of U.S. agricultural issues. Every 5 years, the Service conducts the Census of Agriculture, the only source of uniform, comprehensive agricultural data for every county in the U.S. In addition to D.C., the Service has 12 regional offices and 46 state field offices across the country. It also provides technical assistance and training to international agricultural projects and conducts surveys for other agencies and organizations. Careers include: mathematical statisticians, agricultural statisticians, survey statisticians, and IT specialists.
TIP 8: RESEARCH FELLOW AND ASSOCIATE PROGRAM. The American Statistical Association in cooperation with the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) conducts a Research Fellow and Associate Program providing research opportunities in statistical theory for Ph.D. applicants. Selected Fellows and Associates typically work for an academic year and receive stipends. They conduct research in residence in Fairfax, Virginia. For more information, go to: http://www.nass.usda.gov/Research_and_Science/asa-nass.php.
- National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Supports research, education, and extension programs in the Land-Grand University System by helping to fund the System at the state and local level and providing program leadership. Collaborates with over 100 partner organizations such as Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic-serving institutions, and Tribal colleges. Approximately 350 employees.
- Natural Resources Conservation Service. Provides leadership in partnership efforts to help people improve natural resources and environment on private lands through scientifically based, locally led voluntary conservation efforts. 90% of its approximately 11,500 employees work in the 2,900 offices outside of Washington, D.C. The Service includes State Offices, Service Centers, and National Centers. Positions include conservationists, agronomists, natural resources specialists, scientists and engineers, and program analysts.
TIP 9: The Natural Resources Conservation Service has an excellent career planning website to help prospective and established employees identify career paths and browse careers in soil conservation, soil science and engineering. See http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/national/careers/plan/
- Risk Management Agency. Improves economic stability of agriculture through a secure system of crop insurance and risk management tools. Administers the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation programs. Employs approximately 450 staff in regional and compliance offices around the country.
- Rural Development. Offers rural business and cooperatives loans, grants, loan guarantees, and technical assistance to support housing, economic development, health care, first responder services, and infrastructure needs. Has a $200+ billion loan portfolio to bring enhanced economic opportunity to rural communities. Employees operate from Washington, D.C, St. Louis, Missouri, and In 47 State Rural Development offices across the country. Staff include agricultural economists and rural sociologists.
USDA Offices (with brief mission descriptions if not otherwise evident)
- Departmental Management
- National Appeals Division (conducts administrative appeal
hearings of USDA adverse program decisions and reviews hearing officer
- Office of Advocacy and Outreach (improves access to USDA programs and
improves the viability and profitability of small farms and ranches)
- Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights
- Office of Budget and Program Analysis
- Office of the Chief Economist
- Office of the Chief Financial Officer
- Office of the Chief Information Officer
- Office of the Chief Scientist
- Office of Communications
- Office of Congressional Relation
- Office of Ethics
- Office of Environmental Markets (supports development of emerging
markets for carbon, water quality, wetlands, and biodiversity)
- Office of the Executive Secretariat
- Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships
- Office of the Inspector General
- Office of the General Counsel
- Office of Tribal Relations
TIP 10: VETERANS AND PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES (SCHEDULE A) RESUME DEPOSITORY. USDA established a portal to facilitate submitting Schedule A resumes for noncompetitive appointments. The website also has a robust “Veterans Employment Toolkit.” It may be accessed at http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?navtype=SU&navid=USDAEMP_SERVICES.
Civilian Career Fields:
- Scientists and Engineers: USDA employs a large number of employees with backgrounds in the sciences, including:
- Agriculturists (Job Series 0401)
- Agronomists/Soil Scientists (Job Series 0435)
- Biologists and Microbiologists (Job Series 0401; 0403; 0404)
- Chemists (Job Series 1320)
- Hydrologists and Soil Scientists (Job Series 1315; 0470)
- Nutritionists (Job Series 0630)
- Ecologists (Job Series 0408)
- Plant Geneticists (Job Series 0440)
- Plant Physiologists (Job Series 0435)
- Research Animal Scientists (Job Series 0487)
- Entomologists (Job Series 0414)
- Plant Protection and Quarantine Officers (Job Series 0401; 0421)
- Forestry and Range Technicians and Specialists (Job Series 0462;0454; 0455)
- Soil Conservation Technicians (Job Series 0458)
- Natural Resource Specialists (Job Series 0401)
- Loan Specialists and Assistants (Job Series 1165)
- County Operations and Program Technicians (Job Series 1101)
- Accounting, Budget and Finance positions (Job Series 0500)
- Economists and Social Scientists (Job Series 0100)
- Statisticians (Job Series 1529/1530)
- Program Specialists (Job Series 0301)
- Program and Management Analysts (Job Series 0343)
- IT Specialists (Job Series 2210)
- Nutritionists (Job Series 0630)
- Librarians (Job Series 1410)
Current Vacancies: There are currently 146 Department of Agriculture General Schedule (GS) vacancies for civilian positions posted in USAJOBS for “U.S. Citizens.” Many are between the GS-5 and GS-13 levels. Occupations with the most current vacancies are:
- Natural Resource Specialists (Job Series 0401)
- Forestry Technicians (Job Series 0462)
- Biologists/Microbiologists (Job Series 0401/0403)
- Entomologists (Job Series (Job Series 0414)
- Program Technicians (Job Series 1101)
- Economists (Job Series 0110)
- Chemists (Job Series 1320)
- Veterinary Medical Officers (Job Series 0701)
- Research Agricultural Engineer (Job Series 0890)
The NEXT BLOG IN THE FEDERAL AGENCY SERIES WILL FOCUS ON The Department of Interior.
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