Federal employee job satisfaction is down for the third year in a row, according to the results of the Partnership for Public Service’s study, “The Best Places to Work in the Federal Government.” In contrast, private sector employment satisfaction is steadily rising. The results are hardly a surprise considering the 2013 government shutdown, furloughs, hiring freezes, and ever-increasing budget constraints.

The bulk of the data for the study is derived from the 2013 Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Employee Viewpoint survey.

Despite dissatisfaction among federal workers, there were some bright spots in the study. The only two large agencies that were up from last year were NASA, which improved by 1.2 percent, and the Department of Veterans Affairs, which had an improvement of 0.6 percent.

Top Overall Agencies for 2013

  1. NASA (Number one large agency.)
  2. Department of Commerce
  3. The Intelligence Community
  4. FDIC
  5. Smithsonian Institution
  6. Surface Transportation Board (Highest ranked small agency.)*
  7. National Endowment for the Humanities

*Agencies with more than 15,000 employees are classified as large, those with 1,000 to 14,999 employees are classified as mid-size, and any agency of 100 to 999 employees is considered small.

A few categories in the study include:

  • Agencies at the Top
  • Agencies on the Rise
  • Agencies Falling Behind
  • Employee Skills and Mission Match
  • Work-Life Balance
  • Pay
  • Diversity
  • Leadership
  • Training and Development
  • Teamwork


Federal worker’s top three priorities for improvement for 2013 were leadership, pay, and employee skills-mission match. Areas of concern – those ranked lowest for federal workers – were agency leadership; management; and employee opportunities.

Some of the lowest ranked agencies included, EPA, The Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, and Housing and Urban Development.

By closely reading the study, federal workers, or those considering employment within the federal workforce, can get detailed measure of overall satisfaction, or dissatisfaction, within individual government agencies. Additionally, each agency can use the study to better analyze and find solutions to deficiencies within their organizations.

For job seekers, the study is well worth a thorough read. The analysis, data, and conclusions give insight into the concerns and problems in the current federal workforce. Whether pursuing a career as a civil servant or contractor, knowing the agency culture and attitudes you’re up against will be valuable intel as you pursue opportunities.

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Diana M. Rodriguez is a native Washingtonian who works as a professional freelance writer, commentator, and blogger; as well as a public affairs, website content and social media manager for the Department of Defense.