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How many years of experience do I need to qualify for a job?

The amount of experience you need varies for each job. Some jobs require no experience, while other jobs require years of specialized experience.

If you have questions about how much experience you need for a particular job, review the Job Requirements > Qualifications section of the job announcement or contact the hiring agency listed in the job announcement.

Meeting the basic qualifications of the job

Like any employer, the Federal Government needs individuals to be well qualified for the jobs they hold. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) publishes qualification standards to make sure federal employees can successfully and safely perform the work of the job. Whatever your background, it's likely you're basically qualified for many different jobs, and highly qualified for some.

The hiring agency evaluates and ranks how closely your background matches with the job qualifications and requirements, including your work experience, accomplishments, education, training, and overall qualifications. If you receive one of the highest scores, or rank in the top category, they'll refer you to the hiring official.

How do I qualify for jobs at a higher grade level?

To qualify for jobs at the GS-7 grade (or equivalent) level and higher, you must have specialized experience. At least 1 year of your specialized experience must be equivalent to the next lower grade level. For example, to qualify for a GS-12 grade (or equivalent) level, you must have a minimum of 1 year of specialized experience equivalent to a GS-11 grade (or equivalent) level.

To qualify for jobs at the GS-9 grade (or equivalent) level you need a master's degree, and for the GS-11 grade (or equivalent) level you need a doctoral degree. At these levels, the advanced degree must be directly related to the work of the job you're applying to.

Many times you can substitute specialized experience, or experience related to the work to be performed in the job, for education or to qualify for a higher grade.

Learn more about education requirements.

How do I qualify for Trade, Craft, and Labor jobs?

Trade, Craft, and Labor jobs, sometimes known as “blue collar” jobs, have a separate qualification system from professional jobs. If you apply for an apprenticeship program for the various trades, you must demonstrate the potential to succeed in the job and be able to complete classroom and on-the-job training. For journeyman or senior level jobs, (for example, electronic equipment maintenance, electricians, plumbers, and carpenters) you're rated against the competencies, knowledge, skills, and abilities (known as job elements) required for successful performance. Each trade has one or more critical job elements that you must meet to be rated basically qualified for the job. You must demonstrate mastery of the specified job elements through work experience, training, or tests.

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