Jump to main content or area navigation.

Contact Us

Careers and Internships

How to Apply: Frequent Questions

How Federal Hiring Reform
Will Affect the Application Process

President Obama signed a memorandum in May 2010 directing the Office of Personnel Management and other federal agencies to take measures to reform federal hiring procedures. Specifically, federal hiring reform will:

  • eliminate the requirement to complete short written essays about your knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs);
  • allow you to apply with a résumé and cover letter;
  • improve the quality and speed of hiring; and
  • notify you about your status after submitting your application.

See the latest information about federal hiring reform.

Want USAJobs.gov to send you an email whenever a job vacancy is posted?

Here's how:

  1. Sign in to USAJobs.gov or create an account. Once you have done that...
  2. Go to USAJobs's Create a New Saved Search page.
  3. Scroll down to "Agency Search"
  4. Select "Other Agencies and Independent Organizations" at the very bottom of the list of agencies.
  5. Under "Then sub agency" select "Environmental Protection Agency" then click on "Add >>"
  6. If you want to narrow your search at this point, select location, salary range, occupational series, etc.
  7. Be sure to give your search a name (bottom of the page).
  8. Under "How often do you want to Receive E-mail Notifications?", consider checking "Daily" since many positions may only be open for two weeks.
  9. Then click on "Save Search" at the bottom of the page.

You can also view the "Saved searches tutorial'' (PDF) on USAJobs.gov.

Hiring Process Qualifications Vacancy Announcement Jargon Duties, Responsibilities and Expectations Salaries/Pay

Hiring Process

How long does the hiring process take and what does it involve? When can I expect to hear whether or not I've been hired?

There is no single answer, and it will depend on:

  • the security level of the position to be filled,
  • the number of vacancies currently open, and
  • the availability of the selecting official to schedule interviews, check references, and make a hiring decision.
While some positions may be filled within 45 days after the advertisement closes, other times it may take two months or more.

Is EPA continually hiring, or are career opportunities only available at certain times throughout the year?

EPA is continually hiring. However, there are times when specific parts of EPA might hire a large number of people at once to address a new regulation or requirement.

Do I need to take any government tests or get on any Office of Personnel Management (OPM) registers in order to qualify for a career with EPA?

No. EPA can hire its own employees without OPM review for most positions. Most of the time, we review your qualifications, but you won't take a test. That's why you have to give us your resume and answer certain questions when you apply. You may also be required to submit your college transcripts.

Do I need to include my social security number in my application?

Yes, we need your social security number. Learn why we need it and how we use it on our "How to Apply: Sharing Information from Your Application" page.

Top of Page


Can non-citizens work for EPA?

Generally, no. Only United States citizens and nationals may be appointed in the competitive civil service; however, federal agencies may employ certain non-citizens who meet specific employability requirements in the excepted service or the Senior Executive Service. You can learn more at the USAJobs Employment of Non-Citizens page.

Can I apply for jobs that require a security clearance?

Yes. EPA conducts a background investigation of every new employee and some jobs require a more extensive background investigation.

Do graduate degrees play an important role in advancement opportunities at EPA? If so, which specific degrees are you seeking?

For many scientific positions, we actively seek people with advanced degrees. Advanced degrees can be used in lieu of experience. For example, having a master's degree could qualify you at the GS-9 level and having a Ph.D. degree could qualify you at the GS-11 level. Many of the scientific positions, such as biologist or chemist, have a specific education requirement like a degree in that discipline. Once on board, there is no general, agency-wide requirement for an advanced degree to enhance promotional opportunity, but it can be a factor depending on the needs of the particular part of EPA.

Top of Page

Vacancy Announcement Jargon

What do vacancy announcements mean when the say they are open to "Status" or "Non-Status" applicants?

Applicants with "Status" are permanent federal employees on career or career-conditional appointments or former federal employees who were career or career-conditional. "Non-Status" applicants have not worked for the federal government on a career or career-conditional appointment.

What does it mean to be on a "Career" or "Career-Conditional" appointment?

Permanent appointments in the federal government are either career-conditional or career. Career-conditional appointments are generally used for initial appointments. Once an employee completes three years of continuous service under a career-conditional appointment, his or her appointment becomes career.

Top of Page

Duties, Responsibilities and Expectations

Does EPA expect employees to relocate?

You may apply for any job regardless of where you currently live, but we might not pay for you to move. Vacancy announcements include the job's location and whether we will pay travel and relocation expenses.

Do any positions require travel?

Some positions require a little travel and some a lot. It is important to establish how much when you accept a particular position.

Must I remain within a specific career track, once I'm working at EPA?

There is no requirement that you must remain in a particular career track such as a biologist or an attorney. Many people change fields or from program to management positions with similar grade tracks but different duties.

Does EPA offer ongoing training opportunities?

Yes. Training opportunities are available through private vendors and accredited colleges and universities. If the training is job-related and funds are available, EPA can pay the total cost of the training.

Top of Page


What is the standard starting pay for positions at EPA?

In the federal government, most people are part of the "General Schedule" or GS, pay system, under which you will be assigned to a grade, from GS-1 to GS-15, and a step within that grade, from 1 to 10. Salaries vary by grade, step, and location. Generally speaking, higher grades earn more than lower grades, and higher steps earn more than lower steps within a single grade. The Office of Personnel Management determines the pay for each grade and each step.

Starting pay varies by the position and the level of responsibility. It is also adjusted by geographic location. Certain hard-to-fill jobs, usually in the scientific, technical, and medical fields, may have higher starting salaries. Exact pay information for each job can be found on the vacancy announcement.

Professional and administrative positions generally start at GS-5 for an entry level college graduate and GS-12/13 for a senior analyst or scientist.

Clerical positions may start at a GS -2 grade level for an office automation clerk and GS-5 for a secretarial position.

Visit the Office of Personnel Management's Pay and Leave page to find policies and the most current pay tables.

How can I find out which grade I qualify for?

That depends upon the position you are applying for. Some jobs are listed at a specific grade. For others, EPA could hire you at one of several grades. In that case, you should compare your experience with the qualification requirements set forth on the specific job announcement. Visit the Office of Personnel Management's pages on standards for qualifying for various occupations. These pages explain how much education, or specialized experience equivalent to education, you need to qualify for specific levels of pay.

Can I work for free for EPA, just to get some experience? If so, under what conditions?

Working for free for EPA is called a "volunteer" assignment. The only volunteers that can work for EPA are bona fide students who are fulfilling an internship or practicum requirement which must be certified by the school they attend.

Top of Page

Jump to main content.