Thinking of working for the federal government as an audiologist or speech-language pathologist? You can usually find an appealing option depending on the age group you want to treat, your desire to move around and your ability to wait for long periods of time—or not—to find out if you got the job. Nearly all openings for audiologists and SLPs support our military members and their families.
Author’s note: The military has active audiologists but not SLPs, so while civilian audiologists can get jobs with the federal government, openings might get filled by veteran audiologists.
I’ve worked for the government—both as a contractor and as a government service employee—for nearly 15 years. I find all of the work rewarding. Changing jobs and moving every few years made me more patient and flexible with my clients and their families. In addition, I’ve enjoyed living in five different countries during my career!
If these experiences sound appealing, you might want to consider looking for a government job. These three main departments offer the most jobs relevant to our professions.
- Educational and Developmental Intervention Services (EDIS): The military version of early intervention.
- Department of Defense Dependent schools (DoDDs): The military school system.
- Veterans Administration (VA): The military’s medical system for retired personnel.
In addition, jobs occasionally open in large military hospitals here and overseas. These positions mostly involve acute care, evaluation and medically based treatment, but openings are extremely rare. EDIS and DoDDs positions—also hard to find—offer positions stateside or overseas. VA jobs all consist of stateside locations, but they usually have plenty of openings
Finding work in federal openings involves using two main avenues of employment: private contracting companies and government service (GS).
I’ve worked for the government using both routes and found positives as well as negatives for each one.
Private contracting offers a quicker process to get the job in the first place, for example, but positions are not stable: Contractors may lose their government contracts because they must submit new bids every five years. Here are other private contracting pros and cons:
- Simpler system overall in terms of pay, leave, moving and other employment logistics.
- Many contracts are tax free, so you don’t pay federal income tax on your earnings.
- You can work part time as a contractor, although not in overseas positions.
- Private contractors handle only EDIS jobs and the occasional hospital-based positions. You can’t get school or VA jobs this way.
The companies contracting for government work change frequently, because they must resubmit bids every five years. I recommend using your favorite search engine to look up key words—”overseas military EDIS,” for example. The processes for applying and interviewing varies from company to company.
A direct GS gig might be more difficult to land, but you probably won’t worry about job security. Here are other things to consider in working directly for the government:
- Rules about how to do your job stay fairly consistent across departments and locations. If you move from one job to another, you can sometimes get return rights—the ability to move back to your original job—within five years.Working for the government offers excellent benefits, including health insurance, tax-free retirement savings with matching funds, pension and generous paid time off. Your benefits continue to accrue even if you change jobs.
- Once you get into the government system, it is easier to change jobs. This makes living in a variety of places easier. The government also pays to move you from place to place, including overseas postings.
- The process of getting into the federal governmental system is long—think up to a year—and complex with lots of paperwork, background checks, health checks and more.
- Applying for a government job is also tricky. USAJobs.com lists all government jobs, but navigating the site and setting up your profile can be quirky at best. Then, just getting called for an interview often poses a challenge if you don’t already work for the government.
To search and apply for nearly all federal job, set up a profile at USAJobs.com. Type in “speech-language pathologist” or “audiologist” into the key words search bar at the top of the home page and the options will pop up. Available openings change frequently, so check at least weekly to search for new postings.
Lisa Lunsford, MA, CCC-SLP, has worked for the government for nearly 15 years and in early intervention for 20 years. She’s provided treatment in four different states and five different countries. firstname.lastname@example.org