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Recruitment Policy Studio

Federal Section
Hiring Toolkit

Fundamentals of Federal Hiring


The Three Services — Competitive, Excepted, and Senior Executive


The Federal civil service consists of the executive, judicial, and legislative branches of the Federal Government. Civil service positions are placed in the competitive service, the excepted service, and the Senior Executive Service. In this…… we will focus on the competitive and excepted services. For information on the Senior Executive Service, please visit http://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/senior-executive-service/.

Competitive Service

The competitive service includes all positions in which appointments are subject to the provisions of chapter 33 of title 5, United States Code governing competitive service appointments. Positions in the executive branch of the government are in the competitive service unless they are specifically excluded or excepted from it.

Excepted Service

Excepted service positions include civil service positions which are not in the competitive service or the Senior Executive Service. The positions have been excepted via statute, executive order, or by OPM action. Excepted service positions in the executive branch may or may not be subject to the provisions of title 5 (the positions excepted by OPM action are placed under schedules A, B, C or D and are subject to the provisions of title 5).

Positions in the legislative and judicial branches are in the excepted service unless they are specifically included in the competitive service (e.g., the Government Printing Office, an agency within the legislative branch, has positions in the competitive service).

The major differences between the competitive and excepted services are in the areas of hiring procedures and job protections. In the competitive service, hiring procedures (including veterans’ preference), promotion requirements, and qualification requirements are prescribed by law or by OPM and apply to all agencies. In the excepted service, only basic requirements are prescribed by law or regulation (e.g., veterans’ preference), and each agency develops specific requirements and procedures for its own jobs. [Note: in general, schedules B and D of the excepted service are subject to OPM’s qualification requirements.] The provisions of title 5 governing classification, pay, leave, retirement, insurance, and health benefits apply to both competitive and excepted positions unless the positions are excluded from any of those provisions by statute.