Career vs. Career Conditional


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Permanent employees are generally hired into the Federal government under a career-conditional appointment. A career-conditional employee completes three years of substantially continuous service before becoming a full career employee. Career-conditional employees are more vulnerable during layoffs than career employees. A career-conditional employee who separates from Government service has reinstatement eligibility for 3 years from the separation date.

Career Tenure

An employee with 3 years of substantially continuous creditable service obtains career tenure. The 3-year period generally begins and ends with non-temporary employment in the competitive service. With certain exceptions this continuous creditable service may not include any break in service of more than 30 calendar days. If an employee does not complete the 3-year career-conditional period, a single break in service of more than 30 calendar days will require the employee to serve a new 3-year period. (Periods of time in a non-pay status are not breaks in service and do not require the employee to begin a new 3-year period. However, they may extend the service time needed for career tenure.) Career-conditional employees automatically become career employees upon completion of this service requirement. Career employees, and veterans’ preference eligibles who serve 1 day as a career-conditional employee, have lifetime reinstatement eligibility to the competitive service.


The first year of service of a career-conditional employee is considered a probationary period. The probationary period is really the final and most important step in the examining process. It affords the supervisor an opportunity to evaluate the employee's performance and conduct on the job, and to remove the person without undue formality, if necessary. A person who is transferred, promoted, demoted, or reassigned before completing probation is required to complete the probationary period in the new position. Prior Federal civilian service counts toward completion of probation, if it is in the same agency, same line of work, and without a break in service.


Competitive status is a person's basic eligibility for placement (e.g., by transfer, promotion, reassignment, demotion, or reinstatement) to a position in the competitive service without having to compete with the general public in an open competitive examination. When a job opportunity announcement indicates that status candidates are eligible to apply, current and former career and career-conditional employees may apply. Once acquired, status belongs to the individual, not to a position.

For more information on career and career-conditional appointments, reinstatement, probationary period, tenure, and competitive status consult Title 5 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), 5 CFR Part 315

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This page was last modified on 14 November 2013, at 17:12.

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