Mission-Critical Occupations in Government – Where There’s High Satisfaction in Hot Jobs

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There are innumerable valuable ways to skin the Best Places to Work cat. If you’re making short- or mid-term career plans, you may just want to know where government employees want to work. If you’re a leader in federal service, or the private sector, you can find excellent clues to what makes a really great workplace. If you’re an auditor, a contract or acquisition specialists, an economists, a human resources specialists, or an information technology or cybersecurity specialists, then you represent one of the five mission-critical occupations to which the Partnership for Public Service pays special attention. So there’s a lot you can learn.


In the Partnership’s view, these five areas of expertise are well-worth the attention. “The Office of Personnel Management and the Chief Human Capital Officer Council have focused on these occupations,” reports the Partnership, “because shortages or a loss of staff in these job categories could interfere with the ability of agencies to effectively accomplish their missions.” So for employers, those five disciplines are critical vulnerabilities, and it’s important to keep them happy. For employees, it’s called leverage, and a stern look at management might just spark some positive action. Perhaps those are two of more reasons the big-five occupations saw employee engagement improvements over the last year.


If you’re an economist, you’re in luck. Economists top the big-five occupations. Depending on your allegiance, you might be glad to know the biggest improvement in employee engagement for economists wasn’t at NASA. The Department of the Interior (DoI) leads large federal agencies, and saw a 2.6 point leap over the last year. With the DoI, the Department of Transportation (DoT), Health and Human Services (HHS), Department of Labor (DoL), and the Department of Agriculture all saw improvements.

Among mid-size agencies, economists are happiest, perhaps understandably, at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), though the FTC found employee engagement slip some since last year. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is on the way up, with a nearly 3.5 point jump. And both the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Environmental Protection Agency have been holding steady in the top four.


On the other hand, if you work in the Information Technology world, things aren’t great. They’re good, they’re just not relatively great—relative to the other big-five. Government-wide, IT Specialists saw a small (0.6 point) increase in employee engagement, but among the big-five mission-criticals, IT Specialists are on the bottom. But with IT, the bottom isn’t a terrible place to be.

Yes, it’s NASA. NASA, NASA, NASA! While their Auditor and Economist colleagues are holding steady in satisfaction (I guess you can only be so satisfied), and while NASA Human Resource specialists are apparently just running around giggling with delight (a nearly 8 point improvement over the last year), IT Specialists were seeing things get better for them, even at the best agency in government.

Things aren’t so rosy for IT’ers everywhere. For instance, while the Social Security Administration (SSA) is only second behind NASA for IT Specialists government-wide, employee engagement is slipping. In fact, IT professionals’ engagement experiences at the SSA dropped by 3.4 points, and HR Specialists dropped by nearly 3.0 points, while their Auditor colleagues at SSA improved by nearly 4.0 points. So, somethings awry at the SSA.

Among mid-size agencies, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the Equal Opportunity Commission (EEO), the National Science Foundation, and General Services Administration are on the very top. I should note that the government-wide #16 EEO saw a remarkable leap for IT Specialists of nearly 24 points over last year, with no change among the other four big-five occupations. Amazing.

Whatever your area of expertise, the Partnership for Public Service Best Places to Work survey has something for you. And the more you dig through the data, the more you’ll find. Let us know what you found surprising.

Good luck!

Ed Ledford enjoys the most challenging, complex, and high stakes communications requirements. His portfolio includes everything from policy and strategy to poetry. A native of Asheville, N.C., and retired Army Aviator, Ed’s currently writing speeches in D.C. and working other writing projects from his office in Rockville, MD. He loves baseball and enjoys hiking, camping, and exploring anything. Follow Ed on Twitter @ECLedford.

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