Worst Place to Work in the Federal Government?

The Forest Service isn’t quite the worst place to work in the federal government, but it’s steadily moving in that direction. According to the latest “Best Places to Work in the Federal Government” employee survey, the Forest Service’s ranking has dropped in every category; from leadership to pay to work/life balance, the Forest Service is in the bottom quartile.

Out of 420 federal agencies, the Forest Service 380th place is its lowest ranking ever. Remarkably, but perhaps not coincidentally, the U.S. Department of Agriculture counts four of the Bottom 10 agencies, including the National Institute of Food and Agriculture and Economic Research Service, which USDA leadership pissed off by moving their offices to another state.

The gap between the Forest Service and other land management agencies has grown. The BLM, which ranks #311, while still no bed of roses is at least only middling bad in half of the criteria measured. As is the National Park Service, which ranks about the same as BLM. Fish and Wildlife Service continues to rank in the top half of agencies.

Meanwhile, NASA remains the cat’s meow for federal employees.

9 thoughts on “Worst Place to Work in the Federal Government?”

  1. Andy, looking at your link, it looks like usual for the FS, and perhaps 2016 and 2017 were anomalies in the positive direction.

    Another thing about that information is how much the workforce has gone down. Doing the same with less, let alone being asked to possibly do more, would make me less positive about work.

    Another surprise was EPA getting better. but when I looked at the numbers inside that the differences were so small and there didn’t seem to be any big dip associated with the current administration.

    • Yep, same old, same old for the Forest Service.

      What I don’t understand is the dramatic workforce decline even as the FS’s total budget has rocketed to a record high $7.5 billion (FY 2020, announced on 12/16). Yes, a lot (>50%) of that is fire money, but fighting fires is mostly people power. Is the firefighting workforce increasingly contractors?

  2. Wages frequently 2-3 times the per capita income of the rural communities where they’re stationed, health care and retirement benefits exceeding private sector and other government employees, protected employment, highly desired work environments, opportunities rarely available to other employees, typically the best equipment and offices, and pay and upward mobility irrespective of performance and production—sounds just horrible.

    The only thing more tragic than the whining of the federal employee is the realization that there truly are 420 federal agencies.

  3. Shaun, you aren’t comparing apples to apples. SOME federal employees are among the lowest paid per education/experience in the community! The federal government including the Forest Service has a multitude of hiring schemes that private industry could never get away with– for instance, I worked for four years as an NTE — a “Not To Exceed” 12 months or less appointment. Under that scheme, I had no benefits whatsoever. My job required a college degree and barely paid over minimum wage–and they just got to “renew” the appointment status each year, keeping our status as NON-permanent full-time year-’round employees. At least we now have law mandating at least a little bit of contribution toward health insurance.

  4. Any permanent F.S. position usually requires either a B.S. Degree or other credential such as a fire science certificate. Also there is a requirement that you be under age 35 for a permanent fire fighting job. Usually it takes at least several years as a temporary employee to secure a permanent position. Therefore plan on spending a decade going to school and working temporary before you finally get that coveted permanent job. It’s almost easier to be a doctor.

    • So not true. There are several positions to work for the forest service that do not require a degree. Bogus info.

      • That may be the case for temporary or seasonal employees including technicians and seasonal Firefighters but the vast majority of permanent management positions with retirement and health benefits generally require a diploma. I keep thinking of the Granite Mountain Hotshots whose families were lucky to get help burying their loved ones.


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