The best government jobs

By Katya Banks

Some of these civil servant positions may sound glamorous (hello, secret agents!), but the pay is still, well, civil. Don’t expect to make six figures ... maybe ever. But, on the bright side, you will be serving your country and doing something for the good of mankind. Not to mention how impressive you’ll sound telling a potential date that you’re teaching underprivileged children, shaping foreign policy, flying to the moon, or are in the CIA.

Teach For America

Teach for America is one of the best student entrepreneur stories we’ve ever heard. When Wendy Kopp was a college senior at Princeton, she proposed Teach For America for her undergraduate thesis. Convinced that many of her fellow top students were searching for a way to make a difference, and that they would choose teaching over more lucrative opportunities if good teaching opportunities existed, Kopp raised $2.5 million in start-up funding, hired a few people, and started grass-roots recruiting. During the first year, 500 men and women began teaching in six low-income communities across the country. Now 20,000 teachers aim to “eliminate educational inequity.”

What you should know: 20,000 top graduates apply every year for the 2,500 spots available. You must have a bachelor’s degree, a minimum 2.5 GPA, and be a U.S. citizen. Average salary $35,000-$40,000. For more information see

U.S. State Department

Want to shape foreign policy? And travel? The State Department hires foreign service, civil service, and student employees to work both in the U.S. and in 265 posts abroad. The U.S. State Department uses “diplomacy to promote and protect America’s interests.” On the State Department website you can find which career path is right for you, check job vacancies, and register to take the Foreign Service Officer Test.

What you should know: Students can check out the various student programs, internships, and fellowships. You must be nominated for some positions, but others you can apply for. U.S. State Department jobs require different backgrounds, so check out the site and see what you need to do to start an exciting life in foreign service. Average salary $50,000-$55,000. Check out


What little boy or girl didn’t dream of being an astronaut? And what better way to impress members of the preferred sex than actually having been to the moon? But NASA isn’t just made up of astronauts. Scientists, engineers, computer programmers, personnel specialists, accountants, writers, maintenance workers, and many more specialists make up NASA. That may be good news for that space-obsessed accountant, but I know what most of you are wondering: How can you become an astronaut? Former astronaut Dr. Sally K. Ride offers these tips to students on the NASA website: “The most important steps that I followed were studying math and science in school. I think the advice that I would give to any kids who want to be astronauts is to make sure that they realize that NASA is looking for people with a whole variety of backgrounds: they are looking for medical doctors, microbiologists, geologists, physicists, electrical engineers. So find something that you really like and then pursue it as far as you can and NASA is apt to be interested in that profession.”

What you should know: NASA offers internships, cooperative programs, and summer employment for students. If you are a college graduate or in the military, go to to apply. Average salary: $40,000-$45,000.


Want to be the next James Bond? Sorry to tell you this, but the majority of jobs at the CIA are non-spyish. They include economists, foreign policy experts, researchers, and psychologists. To prepare for a career in the CIA, try these fields of study:

  • computer science
  • engineering
  • computer programming
  • economy
  • language
  • psychology

According to the CIA website, “The CIA is the premier agency responsible for providing global intelligence on the ever-changing political, social, economic, technological and military environment. Here, your paramount goal and mission will be to protect the national security of the United States. Virtually any job you can imagine is available at the CIA — plus, some you can’t even imagine.” Sounds promising, right? There is even a special section for clandestine services.

What you should know: Because of the classified nature of work at the Central Intelligence Agency, the application process is a lengthy one. Depending on your specific circumstances, the process may take as little as two months or more than a year. But don’t give up, the CIA has been on a recruiting binge as of late and is actively looking for a few good men and women. They offer internships and graduate study opportunities for students. Average salary: not available. Like everything else about the CIA, the salaries are kept secret. Check out