Careers with Department of Defense Organizations

The Washington Headquarters Services (WHS) provides administrative and operational support regarding human resources to many Defense Agencies, DoD Field Activities, DoD headquarters, the White House, and Congress, to include recruiting and hiring a range of top talent.

Many vacancy announcements for WHS and the organizations it supports are posted on USAJOBS. You can search for the keyword WHS or the name of an organization (such as those listed below) and the location “Washington D.C.” Announcements can pertain to a single, specific vacancy, or serve as a means to elicit a pool of candidates from which to choose when a position with “direct hire” eligibility becomes vacant (the latter is described, below, under the heading “Open Continuous”).

Many more positions are filled through a variety of “direct hire” means and programs described immediately below.

Opportunities

Many vacancy announcements for WHS and the organizations it supports are posted on USAJOBS. Please send one application for each vacancy announcement to which you want to apply. Go to the USAJOBS website:

  • For WHS jobs: Enter ‘WHS’ for “Keywords” and ‘DC’ for “Location”
  • For OSD jobs: Enter ‘OSD’ for “Keywords” and ‘DC’ for “Location”

Many vacancies can be filled through the following programs and special hiring authorities. Click on the following to learn more:

Veterans

Veterans have access to a range of “direct hire” hiring authorities which more closely (but not completely) match the recruitment and selection processes seen in the private sector. Veterans and service members can visit the Information for Transitioning Service Members website and Special Hiring Authorities for Veterans website to find out more information on such authorities. If you believe that you are eligible for “direct hire” authorities described in these websites, contact the recruiting office to begin the conversation regarding available special hiring positions.

Selective Placement Programs

If you are interested in being considered under these special hiring authorities, you must contact either a state vocational or Department of Veterans Affairs rehabilitation counselor and request their assistance. They will review and prepare the necessary documents. You should ask them to provide you with a certification statement that describes your ability to perform the essential duties of the position which you are interested. Once you have obtained this certification statement, you should contact us or the Federal agency where you wish to work. Ask for the contact person that handles the Selective Placement Program. These agency representatives work closely with people with disabilities and the hiring officials. They help match applicant core skills – along with applicant/employee reasonable accommodation needs – to available jobs.

Any disabled veteran can contact the Department of Veterans Affairs Veteran Readiness and Employment (VR&E) for information on veterans benefits and related employment services. Certain veterans may also be considered under special hiring programs, such as the disabled veterans with 30% or more disability ratings.

DoD supervisors frequently make “a reasonable workplace accommodation,” if requested, in either the duties of the job, or where and how job tasks are performed. Examples of workplace “reasonable accommodation,” include:

  • Providing interpreters, readers, or personal assistants.
  • Modifying job duties.
  • Restructuring work sites.
  • Providing flexible work schedules or work sites.

For more information, please see the Computer/Electronic Accommodations Program page.

Individuals with Disabilities

Program Summary

The Department of Defense (DoD) recognizes that persons with disabilities have a right to full and fair consideration for any job for which they apply. It strives to offer an environment in which all can reach their highest potential and make a difference for our country. Having a disability will not be a disadvantage to you in being considered as an applicant for employment with the DoD or in pursing career opportunities, once you become an employee. Whether it is working on advanced communications systems, designing advanced avionics, or writing procurement contracts worth millions of dollars, the challenge is here for individuals with the right skills, motivation and attitude.

Some DoD employees obtain their jobs competitively by establishing eligibility on a U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) or agency-sponsored list of eligibles. This is done by either having your experience and education evaluated without a written test and/or by passing an appropriate written test. If passing a written test is required for consideration, special testing arrangements may be available, if requested. Agencies, including the DoD, fill vacancies by requesting a list of qualified applicants from OPM. For a very small number of positions, agencies may hire directly without using the OPM approved list of eligibles. The agency may then interview and select candidates referred to them. When you reach this stage of the process, special interview arrangements may be made, if accommodations are needed and requested.

DoD hiring officials are authorized to use special hiring authorities when considering certain people with disabilities (those who have a severe physical, cognitive or emotional disability, or a history of having such disabilities or are perceived as having such disabilities. The use of these authorities is not mandatory. Click here to find out more information about what is commonly referred to as “Schedule A” hiring.

For questions surrounding the use of special hiring authorities for individuals with disabilities, contact the recruiting office.

FY 2022 Policy Statement on Employment and Retention of People with Disabilities

Computer/Electronic Accommodations Program

Please visit the Computer/Electronic Accommodations Program for more information on the CAP.

Internships – Volunteer

Program Summary

The Office of the Secretary of Defense/Washington Headquarters Services (OSD/WHS) offers volunteer opportunities to students enrolled in an accredited high school, trade school, college and/or university. These opportunities allow students to explore career options in their field of study and develop personal and professional skills. Volunteer students are exposed to the work environment while learning about the Department of Defense missions and responsibilities. Student volunteer service is enriching and benefits include:

  • Career exploration early in your academic studies.
  • Exposure to new and emerging occupations and professions.
  • Academic credit for the work you perform.
  • Experience enhances your ability in future job endeavors.

Public law prohibits the Federal government from accepting volunteer service in most situations. No person may provide unpaid service to the Federal government or provide service with the understanding that he or she will waive pay. However, there are specific exceptions when this can be done, and the employment of students to further their educational goals is one example.

Eligibility Criteria

To qualify for consideration in this program, you must meet all five criteria:

  • Student must be at least 16 years of age at the time of appointment.
  • Student must be enrolled and attending, at least half-time, in one of the following: an accredited high school/trade school; a technical/vocational school; a junior/community college; a four-year college/university; or any other accredited educational institution.
  • Students must obtain and maintain a GPA of at least 2.0 on a 4.0 scale.
  • Students MUST be available to work a minimum of six (6) weeks in the program (work schedules vary).
  • Students must be a U.S. Citizen or national and must be able to successfully complete a security investigation.

Once placed in the program, students may continue to volunteer as long as they meet program eligibility requirements. Participants in the Volunteer Student Internship Program must end their internship at the time of graduation or withdrawal from enrollment.

How to Apply

The Volunteer Student Internship Program is year round. Applications for summer internships are due by January 31. There are no specific deadlines for fall or spring internships; however, we recommend you apply at least three (3) months prior to your desired internship dates. In all instances, we will keep your résumé on file for six (6) months. If you have not been contacted within that timeframe, we recommend you reapply with your updated Volunteer Student Internship (VSI) application and résumé.

To apply for a Volunteer Student Intern appointment within the OSD/WHS or a Defense Agency, all applicants are required to submit:

E-mail the above documents to the recruiting office. If possible, please merge all three documents into ONE (1) file when applying. You should name your file with your last and first name (i.e., Smith, John.pdf).

While e-mail applications are preferred, you may mail all required application documents to:

Washington Headquarters Services
Attn: Volunteer Student Intern Program Manager
4800 Mark Center Drive
Suite 03D08
Alexandria, VA 22350-3200

It should be noted that, under 5 U.S.C 3111, a student volunteer is not a Federal employee for any purposes other than injury compensation and law related to the Tort Claims Act. Student participation in the program is on a voluntary basis, and there is no remuneration or other employee benefits provided by OSD/WHS. OSD/WHS does not provide housing assistance or support. Volunteer service is not credible for leave or any other employee benefits or monetary compensation.

Internships – Paid

Pathways Internship Program

The Pathways Programs offer clear paths to Federal internships for students from high school through post-graduate school and to careers for recent graduates, and provide meaningful training and career development opportunities for individuals who are at the beginning of their Federal service.

The Pathways Internship Program provides paid federal employment opportunities to students who are enrolled or accepted for enrollment in a wide variety of educational institutions, from high school to graduate level. Additional information about the Internship Program.

For vacancies please visit USAJOBS.

Workforce Recruitment Program

The Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP) is a resource connecting public and private sector employers nationwide with highly motivated post-secondary students and recent college graduates with disabilities. The program is co-sponsored by the Department of Labor and the Department of Defense.

WRP aims to provide summer work experience, and in some cases full-time employment, for college students with disabilities. The program develops partnerships with other federal agencies, each of whom makes a commitment to provide summer jobs and a staff recruiter. Each year, recruiters interview more than 1,500 students with disabilities at college and university campuses across the nation, and develop a data base listing the qualifications of each student. Interviews are arranged from November to January. College career counselors or disability student services providers who would like to schedule a recruitment trip to their campuses should contact the recruiting office. Students interested in the program must work through their colleges. Due to limited staff resources, the Office of Disability Employment Policy cannot respond to direct student inquiries.

For consideration specifically for the Office of the Secretary of Defense and associated agencies, contact the recruiting office.

Recent Graduates

There are two potential direct hire authorities available for individuals who are within two years of having graduated from an approved post-secondary institution by the date employment starts. The first is the Pathways program which is described more in the detail in the “Paid Intern” section above. The second authority is known as the “Direct Hire Authority for the Department of Defense Post-Secondary Students and Recent Graduates.” As the name infers, this authority also applies to students undertaking a full-time course load.

For consideration specifically for the Office of the Secretary of Defense and associated agencies, contact the recruiting office.

The John S. McCain Strategic Defense Fellows Program

The John S. McCain Strategic Defense Fellows Program is a one year civilian fellowship program designed to provide leadership development for the commencement of a career track toward senior leadership in the Department of Defense.

Program Overview

The John S. McCain Strategic Defense Fellows Program is designed to acquire high performing and talented individuals with advanced degrees located throughout the United States (U.S.) who will gain experience and develop their leadership capabilities through challenging opportunities to flourish into problem solvers, strategic thinkers and future leaders.

Assignments during the fellows program are to an excepted service position in either the Office of the Secretary of Defense or an office of the Secretary of a Military Department. Upon successful completion of the fellows program, the Fellows may be placed in any reserved position in the excepted service within the DoD based on exceptional performance, funding and billet availability.

Applicants are evaluated on their technical and professional excellence, character, commitment to public service, academic achievement, and successful completion of required background checks and security clearance.

For questions and inquiries, contact the McCain Fellows Program Management Office.

Presidential Management Fellows

The Presidential Management Fellows (PMF) Program was established by Presidential Executive Order in 1977. It is designed to attract to the Federal service outstanding individuals from a wide variety of academic disciplines who have an interest in, and a commitment to, a career in the analysis and management of public policies and programs. The program draws graduate students from a variety of academic, social, and cultural backgrounds to help meet the future challenges of public service.

PMFs are hired for two-year fellowships, with an initial appointment at the GS-09, 11, or 12 level, and may be promoted to the GS-13 level, or equivalent. Grade setting is determined based on experience and education. PMFs are eligible for benefits and hiring incentives. After successfully completing the two-year program, PMFs may be eligible for conversion to a permanent Government position and further promotional opportunities.

The PMF application/selection process is multi-tiered. Graduate students complete the OPM PMF application in the Fall (September/October timeframe) of the academic year in which they intend to graduate. OPM selects PMF Finalists based on a review of written applications and performance in group and individual interviews. PMF Finalists must then apply directly to agency PMF programs.

Application for the PMF Program opens via job opportunity announcement on USAJOBS by searching “Presidential Management Fellows”. Interested candidates should visit www.pmf.gov for complete information, including qualifications, eligibility and application deadline information. For hints and tips on navigating the PMF application process, visit www.pathtopmf.com.

Questions about the OSD PMF Program may be directed to the Program Coordinator.

Direct Hiring through USAJOBS

In addition to the hiring authorities discussed immediately above, additional methods exist such as:

  • Direct hire by billet: Congress authorized many types of occupations to be filled via direct hire methods. Occupations include budgeting-, business-, operations research-, acquisition-, engineering-, medical-, police- and other fields. Read more detailed information HERE.
  • BOREN scholarships, Peace Corps, etc.: A variety of programs – such as receiving a BOREN scholarship which requires Federal service or a tour in the Peace Corps – provide individuals with an ability to be directly hired into a wide variety of programs.
  • Military spouses: The spouses of members in the military enjoy a direct hiring authority given the mobility inherent to life surrounding the military.
  • Open Announcements: The WHS maintains ongoing announcements – contained at the links, below – for certain positions. The intent behind these announcements is to advertise for types of positions rather than specific positions. Upon applying, applicants are reviewed and held ready for when positions become open. This speeds the hiring process from the Federal Agency’s perspective. From the applicants’ perspective, it also opens up more employment opportunities and options that they may not have even known about.
    • 0501 Financial Administration and Program
    • 0510 Accounting
    • 0560 Budget Analysis
    • 0801 General Engineering
    • 0905 General Attorney
    • 0950 Paralegal Specialist
    • 1102 Contracting
    • 1301 General Physical Science
    • 1515 Operations Research

For questions and inquiries regarding any of the options described in this section, contact the recruiting office.

 

Applying for a position in the public sector can be difficult as it can vary widely from private sector processes that career centers and other advising resources can provide. The following information and resources are provided to help with basic questions you may have. Be advised that the following information and resources are not required for use, nor are they a guarantee of success in seeking employment with the Department of Defense. The simply stem from conversations had with applicants and hiring managers over time.

What needs to be in a “Federal” résumé?

The first thing to note is there is no legally-defined “Federal” résumé format. The USAJOBS website maintains a tool by which applicants can enter information and create a standardized (per the formatting of the online resource) résumé. Any number of actual templates and approaches can be used similar to the private sector, though readability and having key information stand out applies to public- and private-sector résumés, alike.

There are two items more unique and often required to maintain within résumés submitted to Federal agencies, however. The first is the month and year for which each academic or work “experience” started and ended along with the average hours worked each week. This information is used to calculate the length of service at a certain level to be attributed to an experience (e.g. one month at 40 hrs/wk is the same as two month’s experience at 20 hrs/wk). Federal HR Specialists can’t assume a 40-hour work week. So failing to include the dates and hours information can lead to a résumé not even being read. The second more unique piece of information is the pay grade or salary associated with a prior “experience.” A candidate often has to be “certified” as having one year’s experience at pay grade “X” in order to qualify for a Federal position. So, as with the dates/hours information, if an HR Specialist does not have a paygrade, or at least salary, information, a candidate can’t be “certified” and a résumé may not need to be read.

How long is a “Federal” résumé?

The private-sector norm for résumé length is one page. The average length of résumés for Federal Agencies is closer to five to seven pages. One need not feel obligated to fill up many pages. Some organizations are inserting announcement language to note that only the first “X” pages of a résumé will be read. However, oftentimes limiting significant experience to one page leaves a lot of detail “on the table.” A one-page résumé has room to show two to three skills. A three-page résumé might have room to show closer to ten skills with repetitive skill application in multiple experiences.

What do recruiters look for in a résumé?

Typically two foundational things are considered: 1) does someone have a basic propensity to perform work associated with a position; and 2) will this person work hard for my organization? As the Department of Defense is known for getting things done, the WHS recruiting team looks for one additional factor: Can this person accomplish things? There is a difference between doing things and getting things DONE (accomplished) during past experiences.

What skills should I demonstrate in a résumé?

Searching for the terms “position classification guides” and “OPM” should bring you to or near the following site. Nearly any type of occupation in Federal government has a PDF document linked from this site (one big exception is 0130 Foreign Affairs, but 0132 can provide a rough approximation). These documents list a range of skills of varying levels often expected and/or performed by individuals in respective career fields. Leveraging material from this source – as well as a job announcement and/or target organization’s website – can provide content for a résumé.

 

Current Openings

 

Our Workplace

The Department of Defense is committed to a work environment where:

  • team member contributions are appreciated and recognized;
  • management is interested in helping employees advance their careers;
  • employee commitment to quality is supported and recognized; and
  • everyone is encouraged to act with integrity, enjoy coming to work, take responsibility, and be accountable.

If you share this commitment, consider joining the Department of Defense team!

 

What We Offer

Salary

Salaries at the Department of Defense conform to government-wide ranges approved each year by Congress. All positions have an assigned grade(s) level which sets the pay parameters for the position within the U.S. Government salary scale. Please refer to specific vacancy announcements for the range of available salaries.

Benefits

The Department of Defense offers standard Federal employment benefits, such as competitive salaries, 13 vacation days (extended to 19.5 days after just three years of service), 13 days of sick leave, a wide choice of life and health insurance options, retirement benefits, and a tax-deferred savings plan similar to a 401(k) savings plan.

  • Health Insurance - Employees may enroll in one of the many health plans offered to Federal employees. These include both fee-for-service, point of service, and health maintenance organizations. The cost is shared by the Government and no physical examination is required.
  • Federal Flexible Spending Accounts Program (FSAFEDS)
  • Long-Term Health Care Insurance Program
  • Life Insurance - Low-cost life insurance is available. Like health insurance, the cost is shared by the Government and no physical examination is required.
  • Retirement - New employees are automatically enrolled in a three-tier system that includes Social Security, a basic pension plan (Federal Employees Retirement System), and a Thrift Savings Plan. Under the Thrift Savings Plan, employees may contribute up to 10 percent of their basic pay into a tax-deferred interest account. The Government will match the employee’s contribution, up to 5 percent of basic pay.
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