Frequently Asked Questions

1 . Will I have to come to Washington, D.C. to accept a federal job?
Not necessarily. Federal jobs are available all over the world - wherever the United States government has offices or activities. Surprisingly, only about one quarter of all federal jobs are in the greater Washington D.C. metropolitan area.

That said, the majority of NSEP award recipients do fulfill their service in the D.C. area. The variety of federal jobs in the D.C. area tends to be much wider than elsewhere. Consequently, if you're willing to accept a job in DC, it'll probably make your job search much easier.

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2 . What is the General Schedule (GS) pay scale?
This is the pay scale for most federal workers. There are grades 1-15, with a GS-1 receiving the lowest range of pay and a GS-15 receiving the highest, and there are also 10 salary "steps" within each grade. Further, the amount you will be paid depends on where you live. People working in high cost of living areas are paid more for the same grade and step than people working in low cost of living areas. Go to to find more details on salaries and wages. Most positions you will compete for will likely be GS-5 through GS-12. Entry-level employees with a Bachelor's degree and less than a year of relevant work experience generally enter at the GS-5 or GS-7 level; new employees with a Master's degree generally enter at the GS-9 level. GS-13 positions are management positions for which you are unlikely to be eligible unless you already have years of experience working in the federal government.

The GS system is the responsibility of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM). A few federal agencies, including the Department of Defense, are implementing new pay scales which emphasize performance over tenure. For more information on the new system being implemented by DoD, please see

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3 . What is Status? Am I eligible for federal jobs requiring 'Status'?
NSEP award recipients DO NOT have Status. In general, unless you have held a career position in the federal government in the past, you should not bother to apply for a position if the job announcement says that it open only to status candidates. There are, however, several steps you can take to determine whether you are eligible for the position under a different announcement or whether it may be worth trying to fight the system:

First, if you find a status position in which you're interested, you should check to see if it's also advertised under another non-status announcement; frequently, you'll see in the position description that there are multiple job announcements for people with different hiring privileges. If there is an announcement for non-status candidates (an "open" or "public" announcement), then apply through that one.

Second, you should check to see if the position is open to individuals eligible under special hiring authorities. NSEP award recipients may be eligible to apply for positions under restricted job announcements using the Schedule A excepted hiring authority. Look in the "Who May Be Considered" section of the job announcement to learn whether you may apply using this authority. If the job announcement says something about "non-competitive" or "temporary" or "term" appointments, then you may be eligible to apply through that announcement. If the job announcement says something about individuals "eligible under special hiring authorities including Schedule A", then you can be confident that you are eligible.

If the only option is to apply as a status candidate, then you might consider trying to use Schedule A to be considered for the position even if the job announcement doesn't explicitly say that this is a possibility. However, note that this method of applying for a status position is extremely difficult and will only result in success if your qualifications overshadow those of all other eligible applicants and you practice extreme perseverance and patience and you experience some luck. If you believe that all three of those apply and will make the experience worthwhile, you should submit an application and take following steps: First, contact the hiring official and explain to them (1) that you're submitting an application but your application will be deemed ineligible because you do not have Status, (2) why you are in fact the best candidate for the position, (3) that, if they're interested in hiring you, they can do so using Schedule A, and (4) that under Schedule A, they can bring you on as an excepted service hire, meaning (in most cases) that you will not count toward their federal hiring ceiling. If, after that conversation, the hiring official is interested in receiving proof of your special hiring authority, request a letter of certification from the NSEP Office to submit as documentation of Schedule A Eligibility.

Because of the complications involved in applying for a status position, we must emphasize our recommendation that you be more selective when applying to these positions. There are several reasons for this. One is that, because hiring you is more of an effort for the hiring official, you must be able to convince them that your skills are not only a strong match for their needs but also in fact so strong that it is worth the extra effort they'll have to put into hiring you. In the past NSEP award recipients have succeeded this way in securing positions supposedly reserved for status candidates, but it has always taken a lot of persistence, patience, and even some luck. The other reason to be selective about these positions is that sometimes status positions are advertised with a particular individual in mind; they're often used for promoting from within an agency. So read the job description carefully and make sure the things they're looking for don't seem so obscure as to be limited to people who have already been working in a specific and related job.

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4 . Do hiring officials actually look at the NSEPnet resume database?
Yes. Note that the most common reason that hiring officials look at NSEPnet resumes is to learn more about individuals who have responded to postings on NSEPnet. Hiring officials who do search NSEPnet generally have a very specific language or skill that they are searching for, yet another reason why it's important that you take the initiative to be active in your own job search.

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5 . Why haven't I received any feedback about my application for a job that was posted on NSEPnet?
The federal hiring process may not have the same sense of urgency as you do. The job you are interested in is just one of many tasks a hiring official has. As a general rule, you should hear from the federal organization within one to two months. Try at least two follow-ups to find out what is happening. If you can't find out to your satisfaction, you may contact us at .

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6 . What is a KSA?
KSA stands for knowledge, skills, and abilities. These are requirements stated by many federal job announcements as part of the application process, because they reflect crucial components of the job. KSA questions require you to elaborate on your abilities or experience in performing certain tasks. In other words, certain types of knowledge, skills or abilities are identified, and you are asked in the application to describe your experience in the identified areas. KSAs are written statements of your capacity to perform the duties required in the advertised job.

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7 . I have no security clearance. How do I get one?
Only the government may issue you a security clearance, and generally, you may only get one if you have a federal job or are offered one. If you are offered a job which requires a security clearance, you will submit paperwork that lists your past residences and, in some cases, contains information about your personal history. While you are waiting for the clearance, you may be able to work on material and issues related to your job that do not require a clearance.

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8 . How long will it take to get my security clearance?
Securing a clearance depends on the workload of the investigators, how critical your employment is to the hiring organization, and your background. In general, they perform a national check to see if you are a convicted felon throughout the 50 states. If the answer is no, then you can get an interim Secret clearance. This process may take several weeks. If you are applying for a Top Secret clearance, you must undergo a more thorough background check. This process may take up to a year, and occasionally longer. Unfortunately, significant time overseas or strong overseas ties (generally family) - common among NSEP award recipients - may increase your wait time.

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9 . Is there anything that I can do to speed up my security clearance?
If you keep records of your foreign travel, where you lived while abroad, and the name and contact information of your landlord, that will expedite the security clearance process. Also, if you meet American citizens who are returning to the United States, take their contact information. The security investigators will contact them to ascertain that you actually were where you said you were, doing what you said you were doing. Whichever country you visit, if your visit is longer than a week or so, register with the American Embassy or consulate. Tell them where you are living and that you are an NSEP-funded Boren Scholar, Boren Fellow, Flagship Fellow or EHLS Scholar. They will make a record, and you can tell the security people that you made such a report. Be able to document what you are doing during breaks in your program. Keep records of the people you visit throughout the host country. These records will be valuable when you apply for a security clearance.

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10 . Who are the NSEP staff members who work on service issues? How can they help you with your job search?
Ms. Aleia Maculam, an NSEP Research Specialist, is your primary point of contact at the NSEP Office. She helps NSEP award recipients identify appropriate jobs to fulfill their service requirements and negotiate with federal hiring officials, and can also offer advice on finding a job. Ms. Maculam coordinates with hiring officials, sends out frequent job announcements, and posts exclusive job opportunities on NSEPnet. Ms. Maculam and the NSEP Service Team are happy to provide advice to all students. Ms. Maculam can be reached at or 571-256-0777. Email is the most efficient way to communicate with Ms. Maculam and the Service Team.

Other members of the service team include Mr. Roy Savoy, who is responsible for strengthening relations between the NSEP Office and federal agencies, and Ms. Alison Patz, NSEP's Associate Director of Outreach and Service for the Boren Awards, responsible for chairing the Service Approval Committee that makes decisions on requests for service credit and other service-related issues.

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I have no security clearance. How do I get one?

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