How to find government contract jobs
When my grandpa graduated from college with a degree in forestry, he landed a job right away with the U.S. Forest Service, put in his required 30 years as a federal employee and then retired with a cushy pension and other benefits. However, federal government careerists are becoming a thing of the past, as there continues to be a rise in the contract workforce and a stagnation in the number of permanent federal jobs created.
Overall, it is estimated that 40% of government workers are contractors. So, if you’re interested in work that supports the mission of a government agency, you may need to expand your search to look for contract jobs. But that may not be as straightforward as you think and will require some due diligence to identify potential employers that hire technical staff to work at these agencies. This week, we bring you resources on how to find government contract jobs, using the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as an example.
In some cases, a government agency or research center’s website may provide contractor information. For example, the NASA’s Johnson Space Center website includes a contractor list, and the NASA Ames Research Center has an Ames Contractor Council with a membership directory.
As far as resources on the CDC website, we found only information for contractors in the global health program. There is some general information on the CDC website about funding opportunities, which may be useful to read to understand more about contract types and award mechanisms. In general, information about current contractors that provide scientific support services will likely not be on the agency website, and you’ll need to do more research.
Government contract and award databases
The General Services Administration is in the process of migrating all of its systems related to government contracts and awards to beta.SAM.gov.* On this site, you will be able to do a search of contract or award data by government agency and further filter by fields (e.g., geographic location, service code) to find companies that provide scientific support services.
For example, an advanced search of contract data for federal organization of “Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” NAICS service classification of “54 – Professional, Scientific and Technical Services” and place of performance of “30329” (ZIP code for the CDC headquarters in Atlanta) yielded tens of thousands of results. One recent contract is to Chenega Corp. for professional support, and a check of its career site shows recent job openings for scientist positions at the CDC in Atlanta.
Another cool website called USAspending.gov tracks government spending. The site pulls from multiple data sources to provide a snapshot of federal government expenditures via data visualizations and other resources. There is an option on this website to do an advanced search and display all contracts by awarding agency. You can even click on the contract recipient to find out more about the organization, total transactions and agencies it has worked with. This website seems much easier to navigate than others we looked at, and it’d be worth the time to explore it further.
*Note: The beta.SAM.gov website is still a work in progress. Check out the learning center to see which systems are being migrated and types of data available. This website also will be renamed from beta.SAM.gov to just SAM.gov once completed, so be sure to update your bookmarks. You also may consider contacting the Federal Service Desk for assistance in determining which related GSA databases are best for locating contractor information.
Press releases and news sites
Companies often put out announcements about recent government contracts they are awarded, which are picked up by news release sites (e.g., PR Newswire) and industry/trade publications (e.g., BioSpace). For example, a press release said that Leidos, a global company that provides scientific, engineering and information technology services, had received a multiyear prime contract to oversee management of the Strategic National Stockpile inventory (e.g., antibiotics, vaccines) for the CDC.
Leidos also lists the CDC on its contract vehicles webpage, as the company has a contract to provide general IT services for the entire organization. All of this information indicates the company has ongoing personnel needs to fulfill CDC contracts. As such, a search of the Leidos career site for CDC shows there are multiple positions open right now for scientists to work on influenza surveillance efforts at the CDC in Atlanta.
We reached out by email to the human resources office at the CDC to ask advice on how to find contractors that hire scientists to work at CDC labs. The HR representative referred us to a Wikipedia page with information about the top-100 contractor list published annually by the GSA. They also mentioned both Bloomberg Government and Federal Compass, which are business-intelligence platforms with information on government contractors. (Note: These sites may require a paid subscription to access advanced features.) Additionally, we discovered the GSA eLibrary website contains a master directory of all government contractors.
Local business directories
If you have a specific agency or lab in mind of where you’d like to work, you can focus efforts more geographically to find potential government contractors who hire staff for that location. Some local resources include business and membership directories for the chamber of commerce and state bioscience associations, technology councils or other trade groups in the area.
For example, the Metro Atlanta Chamber website has an economic development section focused on bioscience and biotech with a downloadable list of bioscience industry companies, and Georgia Bio provides a membership directory. Also, we noticed that the CDC Federal Credit Union website contains a list of CDC contractors.
Searches and networking
You can do some additional searches to find out what companies hire for government contract positions. These can include searches of job boards or a people search on LinkedIn for the name of the agency plus “contractor,” in case that information is included in a job posting or a LinkedIn profile. A quick people search on LinkedIn for “CDC contractor” resulted in more than 8,500 profiles, with relevant employers directly listed on the results page. Plus, don’t forget about reaching out to your own networks either. You may know people who have worked at the CDC (or know others who have) and may have insider information.
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