Hiring, Retaining Staff Poses Challenges to US Interior Dept.

Additionally, the report found that the average time required to hire petroleum engineers and inspectors generally exceeded 120 calendar days – much longer than OPM’s target of 80 calendar days.

 “The Interior has faced challenges hiring and retaining sufficient staff to carry out the responsibilities needed to oversee oil and gas operations on leased federal lands and waters. Two years ago, the organization added Interior’s management of federal oil and gas resources to its list of programs at high risk of fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement in part because of Interior’s long-standing and continued human capital challenges,” Rusco commented.

Hiring, Retaining & Salaries

Officials from the three offices had vacancies in key oversight positions and noted that filling these open slots was either somewhat or very difficult, with officials stating that they are concerned that key staff will leave for the industry.

The report also found that attrition raises concerns because it is not unusual for some field offices to have only one or two employees in any given position, meaning that a single retirement or resignation can significantly affect office operations. Resignations rather than retirements accounted for nearly half of BLM’s petroleum engineer attrition rate, suggesting that petroleum engineers sought employment opportunities outside the bureau, GAO said.

Hiring and retention problems are more acute at offices where industry activity is greatest. At a BLM field office in North Dakota, APDs have increased from 84 in 2007 to 287 in 2012, and office managers in this field office stated that they have been understaffed for the past few years and have struggled to hire sufficient numbers of staff to meet the workload. 

Another issue causing concern, Rusco pointed out, is that a high proportion of staff in key oil and gas positions will be eligible to retire within a few years. More than half of BLM petroleum engineers and BOEM geologists will be eligible to retire by 2017 compared with a government-wide average of about 27.5 percent for all federal employees during the same period, according to an analysis of OPM data on federal civilian personnel.

As for salaries, the Bureau of Labor statistics data on industry salaries confirm that there is a wide and growing gap between industry and federal government salaries for petroleum engineers and geologists.


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Micah  |  April 30, 2014
If you want to grow professionally in the field of petroleum engineering, and to get compensated in line with your peers, then avoid government jobs. Petroleum engineers in the government sector arent looked upon as equivalents by their industry peers, technically speaking. If government work is in your career path, then I recommend getting experience in the private industry first, and for a minimum of 10 years. 10 years of industry experience is far more valuable to the government than 10 years of government experience.
Matt  |  April 10, 2014
Plus, these jobs pay horribly. I got a job offer from BSEE out of school and it was less than half of what an entry level engineer makes at an oil company.
Keith Patton  |  April 03, 2014
Having been in the petroleum industry for over 34 years as a geologist, I can say that only one time did I consider working for the Federal Government. The red tape associated with merely applying for a federal job was such that I abandoned my one an only attempt as not worth the effort. Federal employment is the refuge of last resort, and I feel that a lot of people took sanctuary in goverment employment to insulate themselves from cyclic the ups and downs of employment in the petrolum industry and not by any desire to do public service.

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