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Outside the Firehouse: Temporary Government Work

Outside the Firehouse: Temporary Government Work

Paul Greenberg, Contributing Writer

Want to temp for Uncle Sam? According to Michele Hartwick, branch manager for Manpower in Arlington, Virginia, temporary government opportunities abound.

“The government has a mandate to reduce the size of federal government that began in the Clinton administration and continues today,” Hartwick says. “So a lot of work has gone to contractors.”

“What we look for are skilled and educated people who are looking to go in at an administrative capacity,” says Hartwick. “There are also jobs for clerical workers and those who can learn such skills as meeting and conference planning.”

Additionally, the war in Iraq has added temporary opportunities. “There have been additional administrative opportunities with companies that provide defense services for the US government,” says Hartwick. “Temporary positions have become available in research and development, human resources, security and public relations.”

These contract government jobs may involve reporting directly to a government agency or working for publicly or privately held companies that are contracted by the government for specific projects. If this type of temporary work appeals to you, consider these factors.


If you live in the Washington, DC, area, government agency jobs are more common than in other parts of the country. It is not unusual for the Department of Energy or the Department of Justice, for example, to have ongoing relationships with area temp agencies.

But you don’t have to live in the nation’s capital to gain access to these opportunities. For instance, if you live in a location that’s active in oil production or shipbuilding, local temp agencies may work to match you with private-sector companies that have been awarded government contracts.

Pay and Benefits

Income from temp government jobs is generally comparable to corresponding permanent positions. Furthermore, many temps in this type of work enjoy the same benefits as permanent employees, including health insurance, vacations, etc. Frequently, government contractors find themselves in temp-to-perm hiring situations, which could bode well for long-term career prospects.

A Way In

With the job market as tight as it has been lately, many college graduates are opting for government contract work as their way into their chosen fields. Naveen Parmar, a law school graduate, works as a subcontractor for the Department of Energy doing litigation support and document review work.

“Not only is the experience valuable for me, but it’s a great way for me to make good contacts for my future career,” Parmar says. “When the government downsizes itself, the work doesn’t downsize at all, so there are plenty of opportunities for people like me.”

Be Prepared

Use your own systematic approach as you seek out temporary government work:

  • * If you’re specifically trained or educated, seek out temporary agencies that focus on placement in your discipline. Researching the temp agencies in your area is your first step in determining your best fit in the government contract arena.

  • * Depending upon the type of work you do, be prepared for the temp agency to conduct certain aptitude screenings. Also, be aware that some government agencies require specific clearances for anyone who works in their environment. Temp agencies that work directly with these agencies will assist you in securing your clearance. Achieving these clearances is often a slow-moving process; students who foresee government contract work as an option after graduation should begin their application process early.

  • * If you set your sights on a specific government agency, learn all you can about that agency in advance of your placement. Working for the government can be very regimented and is often the subject of certain protocols, many of which are strictly procedure-based and will require your conformity to the specific agency’s standards.

Do your research, explore your options and meet with an appropriate temp agency. Then use your best judgment to determine if the work fits into your career plan.