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Frequent Questions

Hiring Process


Vacancy Announcement Jargon

Duties, Responsibilities and Expectations


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 General Schedule (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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. Office of Personnel Management: Career-Conditional Appointments.

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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.

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Do I need to take any government tests or get on any 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. Many people change fields or from program to management positions with similar grade tracks but different duties.

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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.

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