Can You Work Longer in a Position with Mandatory Retirement?

Some federal positions have mandatory retirement ages, but what if an individual wishes to work longer?

Certain federal positions have mandatory retirement ages associated with them. Those that most of us are aware of are Law Enforcement Officers, Firefighters and Air Traffic Controllers, though there are a few other “special category” employees.

Law Enforcement Officers and Firefighters are expected to be “young and vigorous” (yes, that’s what the law says), and Congress has determined that youth and vigor depart at the age of 57. Air Traffic Controllers have a mandatory retirement age of 56.

So, unless there is an exception granted by the agency head, individuals in these positions must be off the rolls at the end of the month in which they reach their mandatory age. Exceptions are limited to just a few years.

But, what if an individual in a position that has mandatory retirement wishes to work even longer? Can they do so? 

Yes, but just not in a special category position. Once an individual has completed 20 years in a special category position, they will be entitled to special category retirement even if they transfer to a non-covered position and subsequently retire from that non-covered position.

FERS Special category retirement has a computation factor of 1.7% for the first 20 years of special category time and 1% per year thereafter. This is true whether or not the individual retires from a special category position as long as they “have their 20”.

Regular FERS retirement has a computation factor of either 1% or 1.1% per year, regardless of how many years of service the individual has. 

A special category retiree who worked 30 years would have a FERS annuity of 44% of their high-three. A regular employee with 30 years under their belt would receive either 30% or 33% of their high-three.

Let’s say that a Postal Inspector (a special category employee) wants to work past the age of 57 for USPS. They could get the job of Postmaster of Bar Harbor, ME, 04609 and continue to work there until they got tired of lobster rolls and tourist’s postcards. They would still be entitled to the 1.7% for their first 20 years of Law Enforcement Officer service and would receive 1% for each additional year. After 40 years of federal service, they would receive 54% of their high-three.

Agencies can request to have John Grobe, or another of Federal Career Experts' qualified instructors, deliver a retirement or transition seminar to their employees. FCE instructors are not financial advisers and will not sell or recommend financial products to class participants. Agency Benefits Officers can contact John Grobe at to discuss schedules and costs.

About the Author

John Grobe is President of Federal Career Experts, a firm that provides pre-retirement training and seminars to a wide variety of federal agencies. FCE’s instructors are all retired federal retirement specialists who educate class participants on the ins and outs of federal retirement and benefits; there is never an attempt to influence participants to invest a certain way, or to purchase any financial products. John and FCE specialize in retirement for special category employees, such as law enforcement officers.