Glossary of Federal Terms

FEDSPEAK PLAIN ENGLISH (for the Glossary of Federal Terms)
Agency Employee The term Agency Employee is used when Federal agencies announce position openings to indicate that only current employees of that agency may apply. This is sometimes confusing to applicants because many Federal organizations have titles such as Administration, Agency, or Bureau. This term is usually applied to an Agency (such as the Forest Service) that is part of a larger Department (the Department of Agriculture). Another example would be the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which is an “Agency” that is part of the Department of Justice. When you see this term it is very important to read the vacancy announcement carefully to see if you are eligible to apply.
Announcement, vacancy announcement A posting, usually on a jobs Website or an agency internal website that notifies potential applicants that a job opening is now in recruitment and open for the receipt of applications.
Certificate, of eligibles A list of candidates who are referred to hiring managers for consideration. The list may be ordered in a variety of ways, and many have rules concerning the order in which the manager must consider the applicants. This is usually the last stop for an applicant before being selected (or not) for a position. See Referral List
Closed (when referring to a job posting) When the employer is no longer accepting applications for a job announcement, the posting is closed and applications are no longer being accepted. .
Closing date (when referring to a job posting) The application due date or the latest date applications can be accepted. Generally, but not always, applications are accepted in online systems up until midnight (Eastern time) of the closing date. In mail-in applications, the deadline may be indicated by a postmark, or require receipt by “close of business” on the closing date. Always check to verify the closing date requirements in the vacancy announcement.
Competitive service The term “Competitive Service” defines a category of employment that covers most civilian jobs in the Federal Government. Generally speaking, it means that these jobs are initially filled by members of the general public who go through an application process and compete for the position to enter the Federal service. See also, Competitive Status.
Competitive status Competitive status refers to an applicant’s basic eligibility to apply for positions in the Competitive Service (see above definition). Competitive status may apply to current employees who can be transferred, promoted, or reassigned without having to compete with members of the general public in an open announcement. It also applies to former Federal employees who worked for a prescribed amount of time (usually 3 years) or who have certain types of Veterans’ Preference. This status allows individuals to be hired to fill vacancies without competing with the general public in an open vacancy announcement.
CTAP Career Transition Assistance Program. This term represents a program, required by law, to help assist Federal employees who are displaced through no fault of their own. If they are well-qualified for positions and reside in the commuting area where a position in their former agency is located, they may get priority over other candidates.
Current Federal employee When this term is used on a vacancy announcement in the “Area of Consideration” or “Who May Apply” section, you need to read the announcement very carefully to see if it includes all current Federal employees i.e. those who are temporary (also called time-limited) as well as those who are working in permanent positions. Most often, announcements that say an applicant must be a current Federal employee do not include people who are working as students, or people who are working in temporary positions. Though they are certainly Federal employees, the nature of their type of employment does not usually include them in this group.
Cutoff Date This date is sometimes used when a vacancy announcement has no specific closing date (see Open Continuous) and agencies want to give hiring managers lists of eligibles (See Certificate, Referral List). If a cut-off date is indicated in the vacancy announcement, it means that your application can be accepted after the date, but your name may not be forwarded to a selecting official until the next list is prepared. It is always best to apply as soon as you are aware of a vacancy in which you are interested.
Department Employees When this term is used on a vacancy announcement in the “Area of Consideration” or “Who May Apply” section, it means that the job is only open to people who are employed by the Federal Department announcing the position. Usually, this means the widest definition of the Department such as the Department of Agriculture, or Department of Homeland Security. (See Agency Employee). Therefore, if you are an employee working for the Forest Service, and you see an announcement open to Department Employees in the Department of Agriculture, you would be eligible to apply.
Eligible Applicants Applicants who meet the qualification requirements and “Who May Apply” (Area of Consideration) requirements for a position which is in recruitment.
Excepted Service The term “Excepted Service” refers to one type of Federal government service (another being the Competitive Service). Generally speaking, the Excepted Service covers civilian jobs in the Federal government that are not in the Competitive Service. Most often, employees of an entire agency (FBI, for example), are in the Excepted Service or all members of a particular occupational group (Attorneys) are designated for the Excepted Service.
Grade A number, usually 1 through 15, representing the level of work performed in a position in relation to all other levels of work within the occupation. Pay is tied to the grade level to which a position is assigned. One represents the lowest level of pay for an occupation, and 15 represents the highest level of technical work in the occupation.
ICTAP Interagency Career Transition Assistance Program.  This term represents a program, required by law, to help assist Federal employees who are displaced through no fault of their own. If they are well-qualified for positions and reside in the commuting area where a position in any Federal agency is located, they may get priority over other candidates.
KSAs The Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities required to perform the duties in a position. Sometimes called Competencies, these are the factors on which applicants are rated to determine their qualifications relative to other applicants.
MOS Military Occupational Specialty (MOS). An alphanumeric job classification system used to categorize career fields and identify general and specific jobs of military personnel. Different branches of the military use different alphanumeric systems: The United States Army and Marine Corps use MOS; the Air Force uses Air Force Specialty Codes (AFSC); and the Navy uses a system of naval ratings and designations along with the Navy Enlisted Classification (NEC) system.
MPP; Merit Protection Program Sometimes referred to as “Internal Placement” a Merit Promotion Program is a set of rules that applies to placement of current and former Federal employees within their employing agency, and in other Federal agencies.
NTE Not To Exceed. This usually refers to a time limit for a position being filled such as a temporary appointment NTE 120 days, or a Term appointment NTE 4 Years (See Temporary Appointment and Term Appointment).
Open Usually refers to the status of a job posting. The Open Period is when the agency is actively recruiting and accepting applications for a position. The term may also be used to indicate who may apply as in: “The position is open to all U. S. Citizens.”
Open Continuous This term is used on vacancy announcements that do not have a specific closing date. It is most often used when a Federal agency anticipates hiring frequently from the pool of applicants. It is always advisable to apply as soon as you learn about this type of vacancy (See Cutoff Date) and to keep your application and contact information up-to-date. Agencies may send referral lists (See Certificate, Referral List) to selecting officials at any time while this type of position is open.
Opening Date The start of the “Open Period.” This is the first date applicants may submit their applications.
Pay Plan The pay system under which a Federal employee’s rate of basic pay is determined, by law. Generally, pay plans are identified by a two-letter acronym with the government’s most common being GS, for General Schedule. Some agencies have several pay plans to include plans for special positions such as those in law enforcement. There are separate pay plans for blue collar positions (called WG for Wage Grade). Senior Executives have their own pay plan (ES, for Executive Service), as do some agencies with specialized occupations.
Permanent Appointment An appointment to a Federal position that has no time limit established with it (see NTE).
Promotion Potential Promotion potential is a term used to describe the highest grade level within a pay plan to which an employee can be promoted without having to formally compete with others for the promotion when the employee’s performance has been at an acceptable level. Promotion potential is not an entitlement to a higher grade, but rather an eligibility for the higher grade, without additional competition.
Reemployment Priority List (RPL) A list of employees, maintained by individual Federal agencies, through which former Federal employees who have lost their jobs because of lack of work or lack of funds, or who have fully recovered from an on-the-job injury for which they received compensation, get priority over other candidates when Federal positions are filled.
Referral List; Certificate of Eligibles A list of eligible applicants provided to hiring managers from which they may make a selection. The list may be ordered in a variety of ways, and many have rules concerning the order in which the manager must consider the applicants. This is usually the last stop for an applicant before being selected (or not) for a position.
Reinstatement Reinstatement is a term used to describe the reemployment of a person who previously held a Federal position. There are a set of rules around which former employees can be reinstated and for how long after leaving. Employees who leave their Federal jobs are told whether or not they are eligible for reinstatement when they leave. It is generally spelled out on the documents received when an employee separates from the Federal service.
Series A 4 digit number representing an occupation found in the Federal government. For example, the 0500 series includes positions related to budget and accounting. Series numbers between 0500 and 0600 will represent specialized work within the budget and accounting occupational family, such as Budget Analyst and Accountant. The same series may be used in different pay plans. Typically, when referring to jobs, you will see the pay plan acronym (GS), followed by the series (560) indicating the occupation, then the grade level (12, for example)
SES Career SES represents the Senior Executive Service which was established with the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978. The idea behind the SES was to develop a cadre of senior Federal executives who would occupy leadership positions in all the Federal agencies, and would be used as a resource by all. When designated “Career” it means that the position will be filled competitively.
SES General The term “SES” represents the Senior Executive Service which was established with the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978. The idea behind the SES was to develop a cadre of senior Federal executives who would occupy leadership positions in all the Federal agencies, and would be used as a resource by all. When designated “General” it means that the SES position can be filled by a person who is already a Federal employee, or by a person who is a qualified member of the general public. With OPM approval, agencies may also make a non-competitive, non-career appointment to these positions.
Status Eligible This term refers to people who are currently Federal Employees in positions that have not been limited to a specific time period (30 days, one year, etc.) and to people who may not currently be Federal employees, but whose previous Federal service makes them eligible to be hired again without formally competing with others (See Reinstatement). This term is generally found on Vacancy Announcements in the section called “Area of Consideration”, or “Who May Apply.” If an announcement specifies that it is open only to Status Eligibles, members of the general public who have not previously been Federal employees, are not eligible to apply.
Temporary Assignment An temporary appointment is given when a person is hired to be a Federal employee for a limited period of time. These appointments are often used to hire students who work during summers, or to hire individuals willing to work short term assignments. Temporary employees receive the same pay as others working at the same grade level, but not all of the same benefits. The pay and benefits are spelled out in documents employees receive when they are hired on a temporary basis.
Term Appointment A Term Appointment is given to a person who is hired for at least one year, but, typically, not more than four years. This appointment is more closely related to a permanent appointment and has more benefits than other time-limited appointments such as “Temporary.” The pay and benefits offered to a person accepting a Term appointment will be specified in the vacancy announcement and on any documents the person receives when accepting the position.
Time Limit The length of time the position will be filled, i.e., temporary or term appointments have time limits such as Not To Exceed 90 days, or Not To Exceed two years.
Time-In-Grade This term refers to the amount of time an employee has been employed at a particular grade level within his or her designated pay plan, or in a position equivalent to that grade. Depending on the grade of the position and the type of appointment being offered, candidates who are current Federal employees may have to show that they have worked a year at that grade level before they may be promoted to a higher grade level.
Tour of Duty The hours of a day and the days of the week that an employee is required to work on a regular basis.
Vacancy Job Opening. Sometimes positions are announced to fill positions that are actually vacant and sometimes there are openings for candidates to apply for openings that may occur in the future. Most people involved with Federal hiring refer to the public notice of both types of hiring efforts as “Vacancy Announcements.”
Veterans’ Preference A designation, based in law, that describes the extra consideration Federal agencies are required to give to those who have served in the military, and, in some cases, their spouses or parents. Usually, the preference involves adding a specified number of points to an examination score, but can also be reflected in the order in which employees are separated when there is a lack of work or lack of funds in an agency. Different kinds of service entitle an individual to preference (a Purple Heart, for example, gives the recipient preference in hiring and retention). Some military service does not carry eligibility for preference with it. Each vacancy announcement will specify when veterans’ preference is to be applied. Applicants can find out if they are entitled to veterans’ preference by referring to their DD-214, or other, similar document and reading the requirements for preference described in each announcement.
VRA Veterans’ Recruitment Appointment. This is a special authority which allows veterans that meet the following criteria to obtain a Federal job: Disabled veterans; veterans who served on active duty in the Armed Forces during a war declared by Congress, or in a campaign or expedition for which a campaign badge has been authorized; Veterans who, while serving on active duty in the Armed Forces, participated in a military operation for which the Armed Forces Service Medal was awarded; and Veterans separated from active duty within the past 3 years. There is no minimum service requirement, but the individual must have served on active duty, not just for training purposes. Veterans must have an honorable discharge, and they can be appointed to positions in grades up to GS-11. After two years of satisfactory work and training, the person may receive a permanent appointment.
Work Schedule The time basis on which an employee is paid; i.e., full-time or part-time, or intermittent. Work schedules are usually based on a work week, but may have another basis if that is common for the occupation.
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