Whether you are newly separated from the military, in between jobs or looking for a career change, a federal job is a great opportunity for U.S. military veterans.

Federal employment creates a way for veterans to continue to serve their country while offering stability and structure. Navigating the pool of potential positions in the federal job market, as well as the difficult application processes, can be overwhelming. However, it is well worth the difficulty. In this article, we will discuss the benefits of a federal job, how to select a federal job, and how to apply.

What are the benefits?

There are many benefits to federal employment. First, it is a great opportunity for a career rather than a job. Instead of simply offering a paycheck, federal employment will offer you a career path which will enable growth within the agency.

Federal employment also offers competitive benefits. These benefits may not be comparable to military benefits, but they do exceed most civilian employers. They include healthcare, vacation time, relocation allowance, uniform allowance (when applicable), life insurance and more. If you opened up a Thrift Savings Plan (government version of a 401K) while in the military, then you can reopen your account. If not, then you can open a new TSP account.

Government jobs tend to be more stable than private sector jobs. While stability can never be guaranteed, federal employment is generally much more reliable.

Another great aspect of being federally employed is the service. Just because you are out of the military does not mean you can no longer serve your country. Whether you work for Homeland Security, the VA healthcare system, or any other of the many agencies, you can continue to directly serve your nation.

There are so many different types of jobs with the government you can choose from depending on your skills and goals. The federal government employs everything from security analysts to truck drivers, from law enforcement professionals to mechanics. It is easier to translate a military skill set to a federal job than to a private sector job, and the individuals making hiring decisions will be better informed on military skills and what they can bring to an organization.

Federal jobs offer a five-point veteran’s preference and a 10-point disabled veteran’s preference. This means that if you apply for a job that has some sort of numerical assessment involved, this point differential will be added to your score. If there is no numerically scored assessment, then generally these preferences are still taken into account.

How do I choose a federal position to apply for?

There are a few ways to do this, but I recommend working from large to small. Select a career field, then an agency, then a position. Selecting a career field may not be as simple as it seems. Remember that just because you had a career in the military does not mean you have to do the same type of job on the outside. The military did not train us simply how to do our job, but instilled us with core skills and qualities that are hard to come by. Although my training in the military taught me how to be a mechanic, my first job on the outside was in private security. This is because the military trained me how to be a leader, how to make quick but informed decisions, and how to be respectful. These attributes are priceless. Remember that job training in a new field will come during orientation, but these interpersonal skills that we have learned make a great employee. This is why you should do something that interests you. You have a great opportunity to make a serious career change. Maybe you were an MP in the Army but you have found your new passion is in the medical field. This is your time to make that change.

Once you have narrowed down your selection to a career field, chose an agency. The federal government has so many agencies, sometimes referred to as alphabet soup (due to the high number of agencies with alphabetic abbreviations). You should choose a few agencies which fit into your career field, and apply to as many as possible. Remember, if you are offered more than one job you can always turn them down.

Finally, once you have a few agencies you will be applying to, start looking for open jobs within that agency. You can search current openings by creating an account and logging into USAjobs. You should find jobs that match your skill set and experience level. Once you have located those jobs, start looking outside that zone a bit. Apply to a few jobs below your skill set in order to have a safety in case you are not selected to the more prestigious jobs. Then apply to some reach positions. Remember, when looking at required experience or education background, these fields may be satisfied by other experience.

How do I apply?

When you log onto USAjobs, there are many search techniques. After entering your initial keywords, you will be brought to a screen with results. From there you can change the keywords or refine your search by entering desired salary, location, agency, posting date and several other criteria. This part is different for different people. If you have a family and are very set on staying in the region, then location may be something you want to start with. On the contrary, if you live alone and don’t care where you live but know that you want to work for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, then you can disregard the location tab.

Once you have selected a position, you will be brought to a screen with all the requirements, duties, salary, work schedule and other necessary information. While applying you may encounter one of two ways to post your resume. Some job postings allow you to upload your resume from your computer and submit it. Others do not allow this and require that you build your resume on the site. To do this you should pull up your resume on a separate document and as the website goes through the prompts draw the answers from your resume. This will create a resume for you in the desired format of USAjobs but keep all the important information on your resume.

What if I need help?

The first step you should use if you need help is by clicking the link on the top of the page that says “Resource Center.” This page has a lot of information on it, including frequently asked questions and contact information for the website. If the staff of USAjobs and that page are unable to help you, you can visit fedshirevets.gov. This site offers help in applying to federal jobs.

If you are a disabled vet and use vocational rehabilitation, then your vocational rehab counselor can assist you with the application process as well. VA employee Terry Jemison explains how vocational rehabilitation can help disabled veterans. “Veterans are shown how to use the resource tab on USAJOBS, which provides detailed support on resume building, military skills translation, career assessments, career coaching, the federal hiring process, how federal jobs are filled and a direct path to federal positions. In addition, veterans are shown how to read and interpret federal job postings and the different hiring categories are explained so that the veteran understands which ones he/she is eligible to apply under.”

Federal employment is a great opportunity for veterans. The government tries to be as flexible as possible in hiring veterans with disabilities and offers very competitive benefits. These careers offer an opportunity for you to continue to serve your country, and there are many resources available to help you throughout the application process. USAjobs.gov is your one-stop shop for starting your search.