How to Move From Uniformed Service to Civil Service

How to Move From Uniformed Service to Civil Service
Rubberball/Getty Images

(This article originally appeared in the October 2020 issue of Military Officer, a magazine available to all MOAA Premium and Life members. Learn more about the magazine here; learn more about joining MOAA here.)

If you’re retiring or separating from the military, consider continuing your career of public service by joining the federal civil service. Here are some helpful tips as you begin.


1. Start early. While some agencies are experimenting with reduced hiring times, most federal jobs will take three to five months from application to start date. Positions in the Senior Executive Service (flag officer equivalent) may take longer. Prepare your résumé no later than six months before your separation date.


[RELATED: More Federal Job Resources (for Veterans and Spouses) From MOAA]


2. Know where to find jobs. The majority of jobs are posted on, but not all agencies use this website. Also, four intelligence agencies share a portal — — that routes you to individual agency sites.


3. Focus on the job, not the agency. There are hundreds of federal occupations, and each one is identified by a four-digit code called an occupation series. These codes are like a military occupational specialty or Air Force specialty code. To find out which occupations are for you, visit the search page, scroll to the bottom, and click on the box that says “Series.” At right, below the last row of job series numbers, select “Show options with 0 jobs.” Now you can explore different areas and determine which specialties fit with your experience.


Use this filter on to narrow your search. Other helpful job filters include ones that are open to the public or are labeled “Competitive” or “Excepted” service.


Unless you have a strong desire to work for a specific agency, look for jobs across the government; your ideal job may be at an agency that was not on your target list.


[RELATED: MOAA's New Job Board, in Partnership With]

4. Read the job announcement thoroughly. The job, the starting salary, and the dates you can apply for the job are in the summary. Look for the section on “How You Will Be Evaluated” and make minor adjustments to your résumé to reflect the items listed. In the announcement, look for “How to Apply” and follow the directions to the letter. Unless the announcement says otherwise, upload your résumé and other documents. 


Jump-Start Your Career

Gain access to all of MOAA’s career tools available for you and your spouse.

Become a Premium Member Now

About the Author

Ralph Charlip, LFACHE
Ralph Charlip, LFACHE

Lt. Col. Ralph Charlip, USAF (Ret), DPA, LFACHE, is a retired member of the federal Senior Executive Service and the president/CEO of his own company, Inspiration Creek Management Consulting LLC, a Small Business Administration-certified, Service-Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business.