How to Qualify and Apply for SES Positions

The author provides an overview of SES positions and what you need to do to apply for them.

If you are looking for a position that provides a challenge, excellent pay, and solid benefits, you may want to consider a government position. Specifically, you should be looking to those classified as Senior Executive Service (SES) positions. There are plenty of these positions available, and with the government not having the easiest time recruiting qualified candidates, you may have an even better shot at getting hired into one of them.

SES Positions

SES positions are government jobs that are at the executive level. They are positions that are responsible for running particular agencies and managing a team of people in order to meet objectives. They are the people who are mainly responsible for leading government agencies across the country.

Currently around 69 percent of these positions are filled by males, 31 percent are filled by females, and around 75 percent of the people work in the Washington D.C. area. This should come as no surprise, as there are many government agencies located in the nation’s capital. However, there are SES positions scattered at various places throughout the country.

The pay within SES positions is considerably higher than the nation’s average, with most jobs paying around $164,000 per year on average. The positions have a minimum starting pay of just over $119,000 annually. Some positions have a scale that reaches around $180,000 per year. Positions that are difficult to fill may come with an approved higher pay scale of up to $199,000 per year.

Growing Need

In April of 2010, The Washington Post reported that it was predicted that there would be thousands of SES positions come available. In fact, it was estimated that there would soon be a massive turnover in such positions, because of the 8,000 employees, around 90 percent of them would soon become eligible to retire. SES positions, which some people shy away from because of the increase in responsibility, are also thought to be an honor to fill.

Today, there are plenty of SES positions available, and the government is looking to fill those positions with people who meet the necessary qualifications. To apply for SES positions, all candidates must meet the Executive Core Qualifications, and meet the specific requirements for the agency they are applying to. Some of the skills that are required in SES positions include:

  • Having excellent technical skills and abilities within their field.
  • Being a great team leader and recruiter.
  • Being able to manage large budgets.
  • Having a results-driven attitude.

The specific Core Qualifications that are required in all SES positions have been identified as being someone who is leading change, leading people, results driven, business acumen, and building coalitions. If you have been working in an executive leadership role up to this point, there is a good chance that you already meet or exceed these qualifications. If you don’t feel that you currently meet the qualifications, determine which areas you need to strengthen. Then you can work on gaining experience in those areas, so you can set a goal of applying for an SES position within a couple of years.

How to Apply

Applying for these SES positions is not as difficult as you may think. Prior to applying, it is a good idea to get all your information gathered and mapped out, so when applying online, you have everything you need. You can apply right from your computer, so all you need to do is set aside some time to get the information all filled out. Always have an SES resume on hand. If you don’t have one, invest in hiring a professional resume writer to prepare one for you. It’s a small investment that can pay off big, as they know what it includes and how to include it. Be sure to hire a resume writer that has experience with, or specializes in, preparing resumes for executive government positions.

There are several ways you can find the SES positions that are available, including visiting, or visiting the agency sites directly. For example, if you are interested in working for the Food and Drug Administration, log onto their site directly and view their careers page. The same goes for if you want to work for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Institutes of Health, or for Veterans Affairs.

While they are not usually labeled as “SES positions” in the listings, you should be able to identify them by their title or the responsibilities they include. Some SES positions will have titles such as Chief Executive Officer, Chief Operating Officer, General Council, Senior Vice President, etc. Look for senior level executive positions in order to identify the ones that qualify as SES positions.

Once you find the positions you are interested in, be sure to read the position requirements and qualifications carefully. Providing you have the necessary experience, qualifications, and requirements, then you are ready to move forward in applying for the position.

Qualifying and Applying

As you can see, SES positions are ones that can be quite enticing. Not only do they pay well and come with a great benefits package, but they also come with prestige, and many find it an honor to serve in such as a high civilian position for our government. Just be sure that you have the qualifications the position you would like to apply for. If you have most of what they need, try applying and see what happens. You have nothing to lose and may find that what you are missing is something that can be easily remedied.

SES positions are available and are solid career choices for the person who has the skills and is ready to take on the challenge. If you are ready and qualified now, start researching the positions and applying for those that interest you. If you feel you need to strengthen some areas of your experience, set a goal to work on those and apply later. Whether you apply for an SES position now, or two years from now, leading the government agencies can be challenging, interesting, and incredibly rewarding.

About the Author

Jason Kay is a professional resume writer and regular contributor to, a professional federal resume service and repository of sample KSA statements.