Hiring, Retaining Staff Poses Challenges to US Interior Dept.

“We looked into the differential between what the private sector and what the national average was, and we tracked that … over the past decade, the differential has risen from about $20,000 a year to over $60,000 per year, so industry is paying on average, but $60k more per year is more than what the government is and what the Interior is.”

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Source: GAO analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

In regions where both Interior and industry are hiring, the study noted, the pool of eligible applicants is smaller, industry salaries are higher, and the difference in salaries is wider. Recent increases in oil and gas exploration and development in the Gulf of Mexico have increased industry salaries and signing bonuses for new hires, noted BSEE officials.

Starting salaries for engineers in industry are at least twice that of BLM midlevel engineers, and that applicants for inspector positions at BLM can earn 60 to 70 percent more if they work for the industry.

“Interior is constrained in its ability to pay petroleum engineers by both Office and Personnel Management guidelines on pay and also by legislative caps on how much federal employees are allowed to earn,” remarked Rusco. “These constraints are binding for all agencies.”

As for a solution, “one of the things that we’ve recommended that the Interior do is that they seek special authority from OPM … and they intend to do this, to seek special authority … to have some additional flexibility on the high end as far as paying these key skilled positions, and paying them more so they’ll be closer to competitive with the industry.”

“They’re authorized to issue things like hiring bonuses and retention bonuses, and they can do things like pay off student loans. These are all things that have been authorized for agencies to do to help them in recruiting and retention. One thing worth noting is that the Interior has strayed away from this in recent years, so we’ve recommended that they increase their use of these incentives and try to use that to, again, make a dent in the differential between what the industry pays and what the government can pay.”


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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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