How many years of experience do I need to qualify for a job?

The amount of experience you need varies for each job. Some jobs require no experience, while other jobs require years of specialized experience.

If you have questions about how much experience you need for a particular job, review the Qualifications section of the job announcement or contact the hiring agency listed in the job announcement.

Meeting the basic qualifications of the job

Like any employer, the federal government needs well-qualified employees for the jobs they hold. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) publishes qualification standards to make sure federal employees can successfully and safely perform the work of the job. Whatever your background, it’s likely you’re basically qualified for many different jobs and highly qualified for some.

The hiring agency evaluates and ranks how closely your background matches the job qualifications and requirements, including your work experience, accomplishments, education, training and overall qualifications. If you receive one of the highest scores or rank in the top category, they’ll refer you to the hiring official.

How do I qualify for jobs at a higher grade level?

To qualify for jobs at the GS-7 grade (or equivalent) level and higher, you must have specialized experience. At least one year of your specialized experience must be equivalent to the next lower grade level. For example, to qualify for a GS-12 grade (or equivalent) level, you must have a minimum of one year of specialized experience equivalent to a GS-11 grade (or equivalent) level.

To qualify for jobs at the GS-9 grade (or equivalent) level you need a master’s degree and for the GS-11 grade (or equivalent) level, you need a doctoral degree. At these levels, the advanced degree must relate to the work of the job you’re applying to.

Many times you can substitute specialized experience, or experience related to the work to be performed in the job, for education or to qualify for a higher grade.

Learn more about education requirements.

How do I qualify for trade, craft and labor jobs?

Trade, craft, and abor jobs have a separate qualification system from professional jobs. If you apply for an apprenticeship program for the various trades, you must demonstrate the potential to succeed in the job and complete classroom and on-the-job training. For journeyman or senior-level jobs, (for example, electronic equipment maintenance, electricians, plumbers and carpenters) you’re rated against the competencies, knowledge, skills and abilities required for successful performance. Each trade has one or more critical job elements that you must meet to be rated qualified for the job. You must demonstrate mastery of the specified job elements through work experience, training or tests.

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