It is often said that if you love what you do, you never work a day in your life. Sadly that is easier said than done, but where you work can help bring a bit of happiness. Yet, for those in the government sector, the “ideal” place to work will require some compromises – and even those in the diplomatic corps aren’t likely to spend their days on the beach or taking in the sights.

Likewise, no one wants to be in a thankless job, which explains why certain government agencies have happier employees than others.

On Monday, the nonprofit, nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service, and the global management consulting firm Boston Consulting Group, released the “2023 Best Places to Work in the Federal Government.” The rankings included 531 federal agencies and agency subcomponents – the most in the history of the study. It noted the first increase in federal employee engagement and satisfaction since 2020 with a score of 65.7 out of 100, representing a 2.3 point increase from 2022 in how the country’s civil servants view their agencies and jobs.

“The gains in federal employee engagement are promising and indicate that an intentional focus on the management of the workforce can make a difference,” said Max Stier, president and CEO of the Partnership for Public Service. “A highly motivated, engaged and expert career federal workforce, a cornerstone of American democracy, is critical to a well-functioning government and the success of our country.”

Of the 73 agencies included in this year’s rankings, 49 registered increases or held steady in their Best Places to Work scores compared with 2022. Among the 459 subcomponents, 303 improved or held steady. Both findings are substantial improvements from the past two years.

“Organizations that invest in their workforce reap the benefits of both engagement and productivity,” added Brooke Bollyky, leader of BCG’s Public Sector Practice in North America. “Our research shows that the future of work revolves around talent, particularly developing generative leaders and building a continuous learning culture.”

The rankings also found that employees who teleworked full-time registered the highest Best Places to Work score among federal employees (74.6 out of 100) followed by those who worked at headquarters (69.2) and those who worked in field offices (61.7).

Space the Final Frontier – And the Highest Job Satisfaction

There was once a time when nearly half of pre-teen children in America expressed a desire to be an astronaut, and while today that number said they would want to be an influencer or social media star, NASA maintained its top spot among large agencies for the 12th consecutive year, with a score of 82.5 out of 100. It takes a lot of hard work to find employment at NASA and it pays off by its employee satisfaction.

The agency was quick to highlight that fact.

“Once again, NASA has shown that with the world’s finest workforce, we can reach the stars,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “Through space exploration, advances in aviation, groundbreaking science, new technologies, and more, the team of wizards at NASA do what is hard to achieve what is great. That’s the pioneer spirit that makes NASA the best place to work in the federal government. With this ingenuity and passion, we will continue to innovate for the benefit of all and inspire the world.”

Health Agency Scored High As did Other Watchdogs

The runner-up on the Best Places to Work score for the top five large agencies was the Department of Health and Human Services, which scored 75.2, followed by the Intelligence Community (IC) had a score of 72.6, the Department of Commerce (72.1), and Department of Veterans Affairs (71.8).

For mid-sized agencies, the Government Accountability Office remained at the top for the fourth year in a row with a score of 87.2.

“GAO’s designation as the Best Place to Work for the fourth year in a row is a true testament to the unwavering commitment to public service from our people,” said Gene L. Dodaro, comptroller general of the United States and head of the GAO. “The contributions from each member of our diverse, multi-disciplinary, and dedicated workforce allow GAO to continue improving government and fulfilling our critical mission of government oversight for Congress and the American people.”

There is clearly some satisfaction in a watchdog for the federal government, as noted not only by the GAO’s ranking, but it was followed by the General Services Administration (84.5), Securities and Exchange Commission (82.9), Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (82.6), and the Environmental Protection Agency (77.9).

Smaller Agencies and Subcomponents That Make A Difference

Among the small agencies, the National Indian Gaming Commission, a first-time participant in the rankings, topped the list with a score of 93.6.

“We are so proud and excited to be recognized in this way,” said NIGC Acting Chair Sharon M. Avery. “Across the board, our agency consists of people who are deeply committed to upholding the agency’s mission and goals. We plan to continue to foster a collaborative environment where everyone feels valued and motivated to continue to support the tribal gaming operations that benefit our Native communities.”

The list of small agencies also included the National Endowment for the Humanities (90.5), Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (88.1), U.S. Office of the Special Counsel (86.2), and the Farm Credit Administration (83.5).

For the top five subcomponents, the top five included the Office of Negotiations and Restructuring within the PBGC (96.7), the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency within the Department of Defense (92.0), the Office of the Chief Financial Officer within the PBGC (91.7), the Office of Government-wide Policy within GSA (90.3), and Office of the Chief Financial Officer of the National Credit Union Administration (90.0).

The Bottom of the List Social Security Administration

Though federal employee engagement and satisfaction saw an increase in 2023, a few agencies saw their scores drop. That notably included the Social Security Administration, which remained in last place among 17 large agencies, falling 1.8 points for a score of 52.1.

In addition, both the Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development also saw declines in their respective scores for the second year in a row, landing near the bottom of the rankings among large and midsize agencies.

Room For Improvement

There is also room for improvement and the most improved agencies included the Department of Homeland Security (60.8 – up 5.9 points), Federal Trade Commission (75.4 – up 8.1 points), Consumer Product Safety Commission (73.0 – up 9.8 points), and Defense Technical Information Center within the Department of Defense (66.1 – up 22.9 points).

The top five agencies in each of the four groupings, and the most improved agencies, will be honored at an event on May 20, 2024, at the National Press Club.

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Peter Suciu is a freelance writer who covers business technology and cyber security. He currently lives in Michigan and can be reached at You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.