With 2.1 million workers, the federal government is the nation's largest employer, and its numerous agencies offer a vast and diverse array of services to the public. Job seekers hoping to take advantage of the stability and excellent benefits that many federal positions offer may be at a loss to know how to focus their search -- especially if they're looking beyond basic occupational requirements. They may want to know which agencies benefit from effective leadership, which ones have family-friendly policies or which encourage teamwork, for example.
Some guidance is available from the Partnership for Public Service, a nonprofit, non-partisan group that advises the government on worker recruitment. Since 2003, the organization has conducted six surveys of federal workers to assess their level of job satisfaction. The most recent survey, "Best Places to Work in the Federal Government 2011," released late last year, was based on responses from more than 276,000 employees. They worked in 308 federal agencies and subcomponents, which employ 97 percent of the federal workforce.
Overall, federal workers gave their jobs a score of 64 out of 100, down 1.5 percent from a year earlier. Max Stier, president and CEO of the Partnership for Public Service, said the drop was "not as steep as might be expected given the difficult economic and political climate that has led to a federal pay freeze, threats of government shutdowns and the certainty of significant agency budget cuts."
The rankings were divided into three categories: large agency, small agency and federal subcomponent. Some of the high-scoring agencies are well known and do work popular with the American public. NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (ranked fifth among large agencies), is a dream job of many Americans, and since its founding in 1961 many young people have gravitated toward the social mission of the Peace Corps (ranked fourth among small agencies).
Still, some agencies with less adventurous missions got the highest rankings of all. The Surface Transportation Board, an agency that regulates railroads, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, which works to ensure the stability of the nation's financial system, were ranked first among small and large agencies respectively. The Department of Justice's Environmental and Natural Resources Division earned the top spot among agency subcomponents.
The leaders in each category were as follows:
The top 10 large agencies:
1. Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
2. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
3. Government Accountability Office
4. Smithsonian Institution
5. National Aeronautics and Space Administration
6. Social Security Administration
7. Department of State
8. Intelligence Community
9. Office of Personnel Management
10. General Services Administration
The top 10 small agencies:
1. Surface Transportation Board
2. Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board
3. Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service
4. Peace Corps
5. Farm Credit Administration
6. Overseas Private Investment Corporation
7. Federal Labor Relations Authority
8. Commodity Futures Trading Commission
9. National Endowment for the Humanities
10. Federal Trade Commission
The top 10 agency subcomponents:
1. Environment and Natural Resources Division (Department of Justice)
2. Army Audit Agency (Army)
3. Civil Division (DOJ)
4. John C. Stennis Space Center (NASA)
5. Tax Division (DOJ)
6. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (Treasury)
7. Office of the Inspector General (Office of Personnel Management)
8. Region 3 -- Philadelphia (Environmental Protection Agency)
9. Region 1 -- Boston (EPA)
10. Bureau of Public Debt (Treasury)
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