Government Agencies

In the United States, a large number of government agencies devoted to cultural, sociological, educational, medical, and policy-based matters require staff members with advanced, specialized training. Large government-funded and operated museums, for example, including the Smithsonian Institution, regularly hire candidates with degrees in humanities subject areas to assist with exhibition creation and museum direction. Unlike private sector jobs which are responsive to market trends, many government institutions hire staff to handle cultural issues in a nonprofit context.

Positions in the federal government include roles such as program managers, researchers, educators, program directors, curators, museum specialists and technicians, and administrators. Openings routinely become available in a host of government industries, including the Departments of JusticeLaborDefense and State, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Endowment for the Humanities, among others.

According to Alexandra Lord, a federal historian who is also Chair and Curator of the Division of Medicine and Science at the National Museum of American History, employers in the federal government desire – and may explicitly request – that candidates articulate how the sum total of their knowledge, skills, and abilities render them into an ideal fit for a given job opportunity.

While federal jobs may uniquely value expertise as much as specialized skills and experience, some roles may require particular experience to strengthen a job candidate’s profile. Individuals interested in roles in the federal government may wish to acquire additional professional experience to supplement their academic training to help them secure a role of interest.

Please bear in mind that many job opportunities in the U.S. federal government may be limited to U.S. citizens.

Roles in the federal government may require skills and experience pertaining to:

  • Developing recommendations to optimize operations in government agencies and museums
  • Researching a wide range of subject matter and preparing memos, documents, exhibitions, and reports synthesizing information (e.g. a federal historian may produce usable oral history documents for his or her agency of employment)
  • Integrating professional knowledge into handling cultural and historical resources and artifacts
  • Relying on innovation, creativity, and recent trends in one’s professional and scholarly field to lead programs in new directions

Professional Associations and Resources for Federal Employees:

One of the most useful and reliable venues for launching a job search in the U.S. federal government is USAJobs. The platform lists hundreds of job opportunities across multiple fields. Employment listings are explicit about pay information and grade level, which structures opportunities for advancement in government settings (grades range from G-1, or beginner positions, to G-15, or top supervisory positions).

Individuals seeking a bridge opportunity into federal employment positions may also wish to apply for the Presidential Management Fellows Program operated by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. Candidates with undergraduate and graduate degrees (both Master’s and Ph.D.’s) are eligible to apply. Candidates may also search for job opportunities on the web pages of government institutions of interest.