Are you contemplating leaving federal service to seek work in the private sector? Opportunities abound for highly skilled and motivated workers desiring a change and the opportunity to showcase their valuable skills. Often times, government regulations, multiple levels of command and control, and administrations hamper federal worker’s ability to get the job done: too much red tape, too many directives, conflicting orders, and restrictive covenants. It can be frustrating – I know this from first-hand experience.

My last position, before I retired from federal service at age 55, was technical operations manager at the Greater Pittsburgh International Airport’s air traffic control tower. My career spanned 36 years and included active duty with the US Air Force, three years with the DoD, and 29 years with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Working for the federal government was rewarding. However, dealing with multiple layers of management, working with conflicting directives, and often times out-of-touch senior management and administrators was frustrating to say the least.

If you are thinking about a move to the private sector, explore the opportunities and evaluate your federal retirement options. You may be able to take advantage of an immediate or deferred retirement.

Early Retirement Eligibility

Many feds retire early, including those working in law enforcement, fire fighters, and air traffic control. Because of the physical demands, this early retirement system allows employees to retire with just 20 years of service. It also includes a mandatory retirement when the employee reaches a designated age or years of service.

FERS Retirement Options

Federal employees working under the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) are eligible to retire when they reach their Minimum Retirement Age (MRA) of between 55 to 57, depending on the year they were born, and have 30 years of service. Other options include retiring at age 60 with at least 20 years or at 62 with as little as 5 years of service. A reduced retirement is available for those who reached their MRA and have 10 years of service. Lots of options if you are seeking a change and want to move to the private sector.

CSRS Retirement Options

Those in the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) can take an immediate retirement if they have at least 30 years of service and are 55 years of age, 60 with 20 years of service, and at age 62 with as little as 5 years of service.

Explore Your Options

If you’re not eligible for immediate retirement, you have the option of taking a deferred retirement with as little as five years of creditable federal service if they choose to leave for any reason.

Early retirement, in general, allows sufficient time to enter lucrative private sector positions, including jobs requiring security clearances that are in high demand. Contractors often seek out former federal employees in many occupations for their extensive work experience and highly desirable skill sets acquired in government.

I expanded my publishing business after retiring; it grew exponentially in five short years. There are always opportunities for those who excel in their jobs, are motivated with a positive attitude, and have a good work ethic. The pillars of a successful career. Often times, changing careers can provide exceptional opportunities and upward mobility that was not possible with a former employer.

If you are contemplating a move to the private sector, it doesn’t necessarily end your federal career. Explore the opportunities and determine if a change makes sense for you and yours. Many return to government at a later date with enhanced experience that often leads to higher pay and/or positions with greater responsibility. The move could be an integral part of your career development plan.


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Dennis V. Damp, the creator of and, is a retired federal manager, business owner, career counselor and veteran. Damp is the author of 28 books, his books were featured in the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, New York Times and U.S. News & World Report.