Many people think of federal government work as a tedious, inflexible, desk-bound prospect. Well, try telling that to the federal workers who are off chasing hurricanes, fighting wildfires, or helping advance our space program. There are federal employees around the world doing work that would put the most fascinating private sector jobs to shame.
Omitting some obviously amazing, but ultimately too-selective posts (US Ambassador to Barbados, POTUS), I’ve collected some awesome, engaging fed roles that will keep you interested — and allow you to max out that TSP account. So if any of these interesting federal jobs appeals to you, get your resume and KSA statements in order, and apply.
Park Ranger (National Park Service)
When your office happens to be Yosemite National Park, the Appalachian Trail, or even Independence Hall, you’re automatically in the running for coolest fed job.
Park rangers are charged with the protection and care of the 419 areas that comprise the National Park System, which include, not only parks, but rivers, national monuments, historic and world heritage sites, and a number of other areas of national importance.
Park rangers can work in several arenas: firefighting, law enforcement, education, search and rescue, etc. Depending on which area you’d like to work in, undergrad degrees in biology, resource management, or even business can help you land a Ranger job. If you like the idea of working in Aspen or other mountainous locations, a Park Ranger job could be for you.
Aerospace Engineer (NASA)
Even if you’re not lucky enough to make the extremely selective cut of prospective astronauts, you can still spend your days helping to further our space program.
Aerospace engineers at NASA do a wide variety of tasks, but are generally responsible for researching, designing, and testing the systems and machines that go into spacecraft.
To get in the door, you’ll need a degree in aerospace engineering, or a similar STEM background, and prior experience (internships are highly valuable). There is a notoriously long application process, but it’ll be well worth it when “helping to explore space” is the essence of your job description.
Foreign Service Officer (Department of State)
Living and working in, say, Nassau, in the Bahamas, or Wellington, New Zealand, sounds like the best possible way of doing your civic duty.
Although it’s not at all a vacation, working for the Foreign Service arm of the Department of State can bring you to unique, far-flung locales. Foreign Service Officers are tasked with representing the US — and protecting the interests of Americans who are living or traveling — abroad. And they can come from a number of different backgrounds: there are five career tracks that cover everything from administrative duties to investigative work.
Archivist (Smithsonian Institute)
In both digital and physical forms, there is an astronomically high number of important materials that need to be collected, cared for, and organized for the Smithsonian Institute. The Smithsonian’s museums and research centers encompass wide swaths of the arts, sciences, and humanities.
The primary duty of an archivist is to ensure that artifacts, photographs, documents, etc. are properly cataloged and preserved. A degree in history, or a related subject, is a requirement, and prior archival experience is a big plus — as is a highly meticulous nature.
FBI Agent (Federal Bureau of Investigation)
The mission of the FBI is to “protect the American people and uphold the Constitution of the United States.” Agents fulfill that mission by investigating, preventing, and putting an end to illegal activity.
Agents can work in a number of capacities, but are generally placed in one specific area of investigation (white collar crime, terrorism, kidnappings/missing persons, etc.). Due to the dangerous nature of the job, the FBI is highly selective, and the process of becoming an agent is arduous. Once you make the cut, though, you’ll have one of the coolest jobs, not just in the federal government, but anywhere.
Meteorologist (National Weather Service)
For those interested in natural disasters, climate change, and/or saving lives while studying the complex inner workings of Earth’s atmosphere, the National Weather Service is always looking for capable meteorologists.
The duties of meteorologists can vary, but generally involve helping to forecast weather events, collect data, and develop systems that help the NWS better predict and understand weather patterns. Atmospheric science, meteorology, or similar natural science degrees are the primary qualifications for these roles, for which you might get to travel to some pretty spectacular, remote parts of the United States.
Pararescue Airman (U.S. Air Force)
The United States Armed Forces operate in wildly varied regions of the world, which means they need emergency personnel who can recover, and care for, injured or distressed service members in a highly specialized manner. This is where Pararescuemen come in.
As a part of the Air Force Special Operations Command, these highly selective units make dramatic rescues in all manner of unique scenarios — think evacuating sinking planes, parachuting into a warzone to administer medical treatment. When you’re one of the people tasked with retrieving astronauts after water landings, you know you have a cool job.
Fish And Wildlife Biologist (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service)
The US is home to over 3,000 species of native animals, many of which are endangered or threatened. Operating within the Department of the Interior, the US Fish and Wildlife Service oversees National Wildlife Refuges, Fisheries, and other special management areas, with the goal of protecting and managing these animals. Biologists working for the USFWS can often be found in the field, gathering data, creating management plans, and doing a variety of other activities that assist in the conservation of fish and wildlife.
Securities Compliance Examiner (Securities and Exchange Commission)
As long as there are Bernie Madoffs and Enrons in the world, we’ll need an SEC, and its veritable financial detectives, to keep them from undermining our financial system.
As an SEC examiner, you’ll be charged with ensuring the integrity of financial markets by investigating companies’ financials, conducting interviews, and doing everything necessary to prevent fraudulent activities. SEC examiners normally have a finance or accounting background, as they need to be able to parse complex financial statements in order to research and identify fraud.
Another reason this job makes the list? Examiners can make close to $200k a year. Sounds pretty cool to me.