Top 15 Highest Paying Federal Government Jobs In America
Top 15 Highest Paying Federal Government Jobs In America

An estimated 2.1 million people work for the U.S. federal government. About a third of them are involved in the daily administrative grind of running the world’s largest economy in the third-most populous country. Other federal job categories include clerical, technical, professional, and blue-collar work.

Pay varies within these categories. To be among the highest paid federal employees requires advanced technical specialties in fields such as computer engineering, health care, pharmacology, financial analysis, and space science. And some of these jobs are rare. For example, only 360 employees at the Fish and Wildlife Service are among the federal government’s highest paid employees, with an average annual salary of $144,620.

The largest group of highest-paid federal employees are lawyers who work in the U.S. Justice Department. Nearly 38,000 of them earn an average annual salary of $146,902. Medical officers working at the Veterans Health Administration make up the second-largest group, at nearly 34,000, with an average annual salary of $251,055.

Here is the top 15 highest paying federal Government jobs in America.

What are federal jobs?

Federal jobs exist within the branches of government, which are executive, legislative and judicial. Some federal jobs involve working as politicians or for politicians or working with the military. Many careers in federal positions also work in the interest of civilians, such as jobs in food safety, emergency care, criminal justice and science. Federal jobs typically offer competitive salaries and stable employment over long periods of time, so pursuing a federal job can lead to a fulfilling and steady career.

What do federal employees do?

Federal employees help the government function by maintaining its operations and providing its services to civilians. There are several categories of jobs for federal employees that are responsible for unique actions and projects. Here are the categories of government jobs and what titles some employees in these positions might hold:

Administrative federal employees

Administrative federal employees help with operations like payroll, training new employees and overseeing daily operations. They might work in offices or government buildings where policy-making and communications take place. Some examples of administrative federal jobs include HR specialists, accountants and program specialists.

Professional federal employees

Professional federal employees specialize in complex areas of work like analyzing policy, assessing budgets and providing healthcare. They can work in government offices or facilities that house specialized practices, like law firms. A few federal jobs in professional fields are lawyers, financial analysts and physicians in government healthcare facilities.

Technical federal employees

Technical federal employees work on projects involving complex technology or concepts, like testing products, scientific research and public health issues including disease prevention. They might work in government laboratories or research facilities that provide the equipment they need to complete their jobs. Some federal jobs in technical areas include general engineers, computer network administrators and research scientists.

Blue-collar federal employees

Blue-collar federal employees complete projects that require physical labor and specialized skills like construction projects, HVAC maintenance and housekeeping. These employees can work in multiple locations in one day, including different government buildings or construction sites. Examples of federal jobs in blue-collar fields include carpenters, custodial staff and welders.

Clerical federal employees

Clerical federal employees support other government employees by performing office tasks like data entry, preparing documents and facilitating communication between departments or individuals. They typically work in offices or government buildings that contain offices for politicians. Some federal jobs in clerical fields include administrative assistants, office clerks and program support assistants.

Unspecified federal employees

Some federal employees work in positions that include qualifications outside of the previously mentioned categories. These positions might operate outside of government buildings and have to travel to different locations over the course of the workday. A few federal jobs in an unspecified category include police officers, firefighters and FBI special agents.

What are the requirements to be a federal employee?

There are a few requirements for being eligible to apply for federal jobs. One of the primary requirements for federal employees is being a U.S. citizen. Federal employees also need to be at least 18 years old. However, there are exceptions to the age requirement for candidates who are at least 16 years old and earn their high school diploma or GED early, complete a vocational training program or have a written statement of permission from their school.

Another requirement for federal employees is meeting qualification standards for the job they want to apply to. Qualification standards refer to the requirements for working a specific job, including previous professional experience, educational background, professional training and licensure or certification. Most federal jobs have unique qualification standards, so it might help to research the specific government position you're interested in before applying to ensure you meet any qualification standards.

Apply for Federal Government Jobs

To get started, make a list of government agencies that you're interested in. Head over to USA Jobs, create a profile and browse the available positions to get an idea of what to expect. If you have a particular job in mind, enter a related keyword in the search bar and then select the desired location.

You may also filter the results by agency or department and other criteria. Another option is to scroll down to the bottom of the homepage and check the jobs available to veterans, federal employees or students. Some roles, especially those in healthcare, finance, IT and engineering, are open to the general public.

Fine-tune your resume before applying for federal jobs. Boise State University recommends using the Challenge, Context, Action and Result (CCAR) storytelling model to add depth to your resume. Simply put, you should provide concrete examples of your professional accomplishments and the impact you made on the organizations you worked for. Note that federal resumes should be about four pages long and include the specifics of the job (e.g. title, series, grade) you want.

What are the highest paying federal Government jobs in America?

1. Medical officer

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

> Avg. yearly salary: $251,055

> Number of employees: 33,865

> Leading department for occupation: Veterans Health Administration

Medical officers are senior physicians who manage all aspects related to patient care within their departments. They oversee daily operations, serve as clinical advisors, and investigate any problems that may arise. They also contribute to medical research programs and supervise clinical trials.

Medical Officer Responsibilities:

  • Contributing clinical expertise to patient care and providing guidance to junior physicians.
  • Performing administrative duties and risk management.
  • Ensuring the highest standards in patient care are maintained.
  • Verifying complex diagnoses and facilitating treatment plans.
  • Hiring, supervising, and mentoring healthcare professionals and collaborating with consultants.
  • Managing allocated budgets and identifying areas of improvement in inpatient care.
  • Keeping informed on advancements in the field and contributing to medical research programs.
  • Ensuring compliance with healthcare regulations and safety standards.
  • Reporting to senior management, as well as liaising between administrative and medical staff.
  • Ensuring consistent and accurate medical recordkeeping practices.

Medical Officer Requirements:

  • Bachelor's degree in medicine.
  • A master's degree in health administration (MHA) or business administration (MBA) would be advantageous.
  • 10+ years' clinical experience.
  • At least four years' experience in health administration.
  • Clinical risk management experience.
  • Advanced knowledge of medical research methodology and ethics.
  • Extensive knowledge of medical recordkeeping practices.
  • Advanced ability to ensure the highest standards in patient care and compliance with healthcare regulations.
  • Ability to keep abreast of advancements in the field of specialization.
  • Excellent interpersonal, communication, and leadership skills.

2. Securities compliance examining

Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock

> Avg. yearly salary: $199,912

> Number of employees: 349

> Leading department for occupation: Security and Exchange Commission

A compliance examiner conducts scheduled and unannounced inspections of facilities or branch offices. Compliance examiner jobs are often in banks, at company branches, and in the Federal Reserve. The main job duty of a compliance examiner is to ensure facilities are in compliance with securities regulations, follow the appropriate procedures, and adhere to all enforceable company policies. A good compliance examiner needs skills and experience in audit documentation and works to continuously improve the inspection process. They are responsible for creating the audit schedule and training the staff on compliance issues.

How to Become a Compliance Examiner

To get a job as a compliance examiner, you need a bachelor’s degree in a business-focused area of study and experience through a previous career, internship, or on-the-job training with financial and inspection duties. Other qualifications include excellent attention to detail, verbal and written communication skills, time management skills, and problem-solving skills. Compliance examiners must have expert knowledge of laws and regulations for their industry and can clearly relay problems and suggestions to management. Traveling is a requirement for these positions, so you need a valid driver’s license, a clean driving record, and reliable transportation.

3. Dental officer

Photo: Dentistry.com
Photo: Dentistry.com

> Avg. yearly salary: $192,586

> Number of employees: 1,759

> Leading department for occupation: Veterans Health Administration

A dental officer is a licensed, practicing dentist or dental specialist who works for a municipality in a public health clinic or correctional facility. As a dental officer, you examine and treat dental patients on a variety of dental problems, oversee other dental workers to ensure high quality of care, develop preventative care programs to inform patients on good oral care habits, and with administrators to determine more efficient ways to provide better dental care to patients. The armed forces also have dental officers on staff, but candidates must join the military to be eligible for those positions.

How to Become a Dental Officer

The qualifications needed to pursue a career as a dental officer with the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps or a branch of the U.S. military include a degree from a dental school and a state license to practice dentistry. Your appointment as a dental officer depends on the completion of your medical training. As a dental officer, your responsibilities are to provide dental care to community members or to perform forensic dental examinations after a national emergency or disaster. Your skills as a dentist and leader enable you to make a difference through your duties.

4. Administrative law judge

Photo: FLRA
Photo: FLRA

> Avg. yearly salary: $178,224

> Number of employees: 1,697

> Leading department for occupation: Social Security Administration

The Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) function was created by the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) in 1946 to ensure fairness in administrative proceedings before Federal Government agencies.

ALJs serve as independent impartial triers of fact in formal proceedings requiring a decision on the record after the opportunity for a hearing. In general, ALJs prepare for and preside at formal proceedings required by statute to be held under or in accordance with provisions of the APA, codified, in relevant part, in sections 553 through 559 of title 5, United States Code (U.S.C.). ALJs rule on preliminary motions, conduct pre-hearing conferences, issue subpoenas, conduct hearings (which may include written and/or oral testimony and cross-examination), review briefs, and prepare and issue decisions, along with written findings of fact and conclusions of law.

Primary Responsibilities

  • Adjudicate claims for benefits offered by government.
  • Work on cases assigned by the government to determine: (1) a person's eligibility for various Social Security or workers' compensation benefits, (2) protection of the environment, (3) the enforcement of health and safety regulations, (4) employment discrimination, and (5) compliance with economic regulatory requirements.
  • Review applicant’s case and examine background.
  • Check all reports and facts thoroughly, including criminal history, immigration and citizen status, and intelligence reports.
  • Prepare analysis for government recommending specific courses of action.
  • Show justification for recommended course of action.
  • Maintain security clearance.
  • Supervise support personnel.
  • Research and analyze laws, regulations, policies, and precedent decisions to prepare for hearings and to determine conclusions
  • Issue subpoenas.
  • Determine existence and amount of liability according to current laws.
  • Authorize payment of valid claims.
  • Compromise on settlements.
  • Monitor activities of trials and hearings.
  • Explain rulings to claimants and how they may appeal.
  • Prepare written decisions.
  • Evaluate claim applications, birth and death certificates, and employer records.

5. Patent attorney

Photo: Manufacturing Works
Photo: Manufacturing Works

> Avg. yearly salary: $174,665

> Number of employees: 387

> Leading department for occupation: Patent and Trademark Office

Patent lawyers are specialists in intellectual property, trademarks, design rights, copyright laws and patents. They represent creators or companies in the patent application process, assist with patent infringement and act as litigators to protect their client’s rights to an invention.

Patent Lawyer Responsibilities:

  • Provide legal advice on valuable intellectual property rights such as patents, technical data, trade secrets, licenses, copyrights and trademarks.
  • Interpret laws, rulings and regulations for the intellectual property of clients.
  • Conduct legal, technical and scientific research and gather evidence.
  • Explain, clarify and simplify complex technical information.
  • Offer legal representation to clients in court proceedings on intellectual property matters.
  • Provide protection of the client’s intellectual property by enforcing statutory, regulatory and contractual obligations.
  • Provide protection of the client’s intellectual property by securing intellectual property rights and patent protection.
  • Provide advice and assistance on all matters relating to invention management and preparing patent applications on inventions.
  • Monitor research and development activities for the identification of inventions and potential external claims for compensation.
  • Review proposals and proposed statements of work to ascertain appropriate intellectual property provisions for inclusion in any resulting contract.

6. Patent administration

Photo: IPI Academy
Photo: IPI Academy

> Avg. yearly salary: $170,328

> Number of employees: 389

> Leading department for occupation: Patent and Trademark Office

Primary Responsibilities

  • Draft all types of patent-related documents and forms, as well as varied correspondence, memos, and presentations.
  • Design, implement, and manage an electronic filing system for patent-related documents with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
  • Oversee process to obtain contracts, including providing supporting documentation, discovery, witness interviews, and pleading efforts.
  • Draft and file sequence listings, information disclosure statements, declarations, powers of attorney and assignment documents, as well as documents required for patent prosecution outside the United States.
  • Review determinations from outside counsel.
  • Manage patent attorney prosecution dockets.
  • Assist with docketing duties.
  • Manage prosecution files and attorney schedules.
  • Coordinate meetings, conferences, and group events.
  • Process invoices and expense reports, prepare purchase orders, maintain informational spreadsheets, generate reports, make travel arrangements, and prepare travel itineraries.
  • Manage direct reports comprising patent attorneys, scientific advisors, paralegals and/or administrative staff.
  • Examine patents, file histories, ongoing litigations and citizen's petitions.
  • Provide legal advice to stakeholders.
  • Draft and prosecute patent applications and secure patent rights.

7. Technical systems program manager

Photo: AIM Consulting
Photo: AIM Consulting

> Avg. yearly salary: $162,583

> Number of employees: 610

> Leading department for occupation: Federal Aviation Administration

The job of a technical program manager (TPM) is one of the expanding roles in companies today as businesses become more digital. Generally speaking, TPMs help drive company strategy, align teams, collaborate with cross-functional stakeholders, and deliver on multiple complex projects.

It all requires a tricky balance of credentials. The most successful TPM candidates will have the technical expertise to give them street cred with their staff, the soft skills to make them good at managing others, and the business savvy to help them communicate with upper management.

Technical tasks:

  • Lead technical design and architecture discussions across cross-functional teams
  • Oversee requirements of software (design, architecture, and testing) and hardware (system design, hardware selection, etc.) assets
  • Manage through Agile methodologies
  • Decipher technical needs of other departments within the organization

Soft-skills work:

  • Act as a communications liaison between technical and non-technical colleagues
  • Develop and maintain productive internal relationships
  • Facilitate cross-collaboration and understanding between IT and other departments
  • Generate targeted reports for different internal and/or external audiences
  • Stay current on the latest news, information, and trends about program management and the organization’s industry

Business responsibilities:

  • Organize and track jobs, clarify project scopes, proactively manage risks, manage project escalations, ruthlessly prioritize tasks, and problem-solve
  • Meet specific business objectives
  • Support roadmap-planning process
  • Develop strategies and implement tactics to follow through on those strategies
  • Solve complex business problems within allocated time and budget
  • Represent company management to technical teams, and vice-versa
  • Influence others across the company to remain focused on desired outcomes without direct authority

8. Program management

> Avg. yearly salary: $153,310

> Number of employees: 9,950

> Leading department for occupation: Internal Revenue Service

Program managers oversee the fulfillment of larger organizational goals. They coordinate activities between multiple projects without directly managing them. Instead, they manage the main program, giving detailed attention to program strategy, project delegation, and program implementation. This manager has a large responsibility to ensure that all the team members understand how to work together and coordinate their efforts on the way to a larger goal.

Program managers help organizations stay on schedule, on budget, and ultimately on an upward trajectory of growth and success.

In many organizations, completing one large, overarching goal requires the execution of multiple individual projects. And when these projects are all interconnected, it can be challenging to keep them organized. This is where a program manager steps in.

What Does a Program Manager Do?

A program manager focuses on implementing strategic tasks that align new programs with an organization’s business strategy and goals. Their job description centers around high levels of coordination, delegation, and more.

Just what exactly is a program? A program typically refers to a group of related projects, or projects and programs, that together support an overarching business initiative, such as a:

  • Sales process
  • Product launch
  • Facility or store opening
  • Marketing plan
  • Customer or employee training

9. Podiatrist

> Avg. yearly salary: $152,591

> Number of employees: 808

> Leading department for occupation: Veterans Health Administration

Podiatrists are medical specialists who diagnose and treat injuries and illnesses relating to the feet, ankles, and lower legs. After consulting with a patient, a podiatrist will apply therapeutic treatment, prescribe orthotics, or conduct surgeries on the ankle or feet.

Podiatrist Responsibilities:

  • Consulting with patients in a clinic or in hospital.
  • Reviewing a patient’s medical history.
  • Examining a patient’s leg, ankles, and feet to diagnose diseases, illnesses, or injuries.
  • Performing X-rays and physical scans of a patient’s lower extremities.
  • Treating sport-related leg or foot injuries.
  • Treating deformities and ailments with techniques such as casting or laser therapy.
  • Prescribing orthotics and pain relief medication.
  • Ordering ultrasounds and bone density tests.
  • Performing ankle and foot surgeries.
  • Advising patients on proper foot care and therapeutic techniques.

10. Astronomy and space science

> Avg. yearly salary: $150,579

> Number of employees: 387

> Leading department for occupation: Goddard Space Flight Center

Astronomers use ground-based equipment, software, and other tools to analyze and better understand celestial bodies and events. They develop and test theories, use tools to observe outer space, write about their findings, and help further our knowledge of the universe.

Astronomer Responsibilities:

  • Performing tests, collecting and analyzing data, and using existing mathematical and scientific principles to learn more about space, planets, stars, and moons.
  • Developing theories and new software and technologies to aid in the testing process.
  • Writing scholarly articles based on discoveries and drafting proposals for funding.
  • Working with a diverse team consisting of experts, technicians, and engineers from varying fields.
  • Traveling to laboratories and observatories across the world to study celestial events and collect information using specialized equipment. Lecturing others and making presentations about current scientific knowledge and new discoveries.

11. Physicist

> Avg. yearly salary: $147,212

> Number of employees: 711

> Leading department for occupation: National Institute of Standards of Technology

A physicist works to explain how forces, structures and phenomena affect the natural world. This position requires extensive amounts of research to produce reports and technical papers that contribute to the industry at large as well as lecturing and teaching students about the laws of physics. The typical career progression of a physicist is into the position of a Chief Medical Physicist within the organization.

A bachelor's degree in physics is the minimum educational requirement to be a physicist with a master's degree or doctorate degree required to teach at a collegiate level. As part of the job, extensive research is required and therefore a good candidate for the position will possess excellent research and reporting skills with an expectation for exceptional verbal and written communications. Other skills include possessing great analytical and problem-solving skills that will assist in the writing of research papers and reports.

Responsibilities for Physicist

  • Conduct research on forces, structures and phenomena that affect the natural world
  • Focus research efforts in an appointed specialized field within the realms of physics
  • Plan and take control over the path of research and experiments to collate and gather relevant data
  • Create a hypothesis for each research based on methodology and expectations
  • Evaluate experiment results and perform quality control tests
  • Report findings into reports and presentations
  • Contribute to and assist with technical research papers
  • Lecture and teach students about the laws of physics according to curriculum

12. General attorney

> Avg. yearly salary: $146,902

> Number of employees: 37,964

> Leading department for occupation: Executive Office of U.S. Attorneys

The Attorney General is the chief law enforcement officer of a state or territory. They are responsible for upholding and enforcing all federal and state laws within their jurisdiction, including investigating and prosecuting crimes such as fraud, theft, murder, etc.

The Attorney General may also be involved in civil matters that affect the public interest. This could include consumer protection issues, antitrust cases, or other types of lawsuits where the government has an interest.

Attorney General Job Duties

The Attorney General typically has a wide range of responsibilities, which can include:

  • Representing the state in all litigation, including appeals, in which the state is a party
  • Serving as the chief law enforcement officer of the state and overseeing state police agencies responsible for investigating crimes
  • Providing legal counsel to state government agencies on a wide range of issues including environmental protection, criminal law, family law, estate planning, and corporate law
  • Drafting legislation related to their area of responsibility, or sponsoring bills introduced by other lawmakers
  • Drafting regulations for businesses regarding ethical practices and consumer protection
  • Representing the state in court when it is sued, including appearing in front of appellate panels
  • Enforcing state laws and filing suits to ensure that government agencies comply with laws and regulations
  • Investigating possible violations of statutes by businesses, state agencies, and individuals
  • Monitoring the activities of other state departments to ensure that they are acting within the scope of their statutory authority

13. Financial management

Photo: MTP plc
Photo: MTP plc

> Avg. yearly salary: $145,322

> Number of employees: 679

> Leading department for occupation: Veterans Health Administration

Financial managers create financial reports, direct investments, and create plans and strategies for the long-term financial benefit of a business or organization. They may work at hotels, banks, and insurance companies, and work closely with the management team.

Financial Manager Responsibilities:

  • Preparing business activity reports, financial statements, and forecasts. -Ensuring financial legal requirements are met.
  • Developing financial reporting systems.
  • Finding ways to reduce or maintain costs by studying financial reports and business processes.
  • Analyzing market trends to discover business opportunities and maximize profits.
  • Aiding management in financial decisions.
  • Maintaining up-to-date financial system knowledge.

14. Fish and wildlife Administration

Photo: My DOI Career
Photo: My DOI Career

> Avg. yearly salary: $144,620

> Number of employees: 360

> Leading department for occupation: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Fish and wildlife administrators lead and direct scientific programs, regulatory activities, projects, and operations of fishery resources, fish and wildlife resources, and their habitats.

Work is performed in an office setting with occasional field work outdoors. Field work may take place in adverse weather conditions, requires an alertness for stinging insects or venomous snakes, and involves the use of protective gear.

15. Pharmacology

> Avg. yearly salary: $143,745

> Number of employees: 647

> Leading department for occupation: Food and Drug Administration

A pharmacologist develops, identifies, and tests drugs to cure, treat, and prevent diseases, and will test gases, dust, food colorings, and chemicals to determine if they are harmful. The pharmacologist will conduct drug research and testing on biological specimens such as animals, plants, and humans.

Pharmacologist Responsibilities:

  • Studying the effects of drugs, chemicals, and other substances on humans, animals, and plants.
  • Studying the effects of new or modified medicines and recording the reactions that take place.
  • Identifying potentially harmful and beneficial side effects, recommending proper dosages, and describing the circumstances in which the drug should be administered.
  • Identifying hazardous substances in the environment by analyzing chemicals used in workplaces, pesticides, food preservatives, and households.
  • Performing experiments using cultured cells, laboratory animals, plants, human tissue, precision electronic instruments, and computers.
  • Analyzing complex scientific data.
  • Writing detailed reports and presenting findings to senior colleagues and scientific peers.
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