Skip Navigation

Key Terms

Administrative Careers With America (ACWA)

A program which offers competitive, entry-level (GS-5 and GS-7 levels) employment, through written examination and multiple choice questionnaire, in several general occupational areas: health, safety and environmental; writing and public information; business, finance, and management; personnel, administration, and computers; benefits review, tax, and legal; law enforcement and investigation.


The employing organization. Agencies are summarized into four categories:

1. Cabinet Level Departments
2. Large Independent Agencies (1000 or more employees)
3. Medium Independent Agencies (100 to 999 employees)
4. Small Independent Agencies (less than 100 employees)

Break In Service

The amount of time someone is not on an agency payroll (i.e., the time between separation and reemployment). For career-conditional employees, a break in service means not being on an agency payroll for more than thirty calendar days.


Federal Employees who have worked for a Federal Agency for 3 years or more.

Career Appointment/Employee

The employment status of a permanent employee who has completed three years of substantially continuous, creditable service.


An employee with status who has been employed with 3 years or less of service.

Career-Conditional Appointment/Employee

The employment status of a permanent employee who has not completed three years of substantially continuous, creditable service.

Career Tenure

After serving three years of substantially continuous creditable service, a career conditional employee becomes a career employee and gains career tenure. Employees with career tenure have permanent reinstatement eligibility and may be considered for positions without having to take another competitive civil service examination. Substantially continuous service means service without a break for more than 30 calendar days (i.e., the break must be for less than or equal to 30 calender days).

Competitive Examination

A means of measuring the relative qualifications of applicants in competition for given positions.

Competitive Service

All civilian positions in the Federal Government that are not specifically excepted from civil service laws by or pursuant to statute, by the President, or by th U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) under Rule VI. OPM is authorized to determine finally whether a position is in the competitive service.

Creditable Service

Qualifying service necessary to achieve full career status. For career tenure, creditable service is three years of qualifying experience.

de facto employment (or service)

the actual appointment of an employee, regardless of legal or regulatory considerations; synonomous with an erroneous appointment.

Excepted Service

All civilian positions which are specifically excepted from the requirements of the Civil Service Act or from the competitive service by statute or by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management by regulation 5 CFR 6.1.

GS (General Schedule): A graded pay system established under the Classification Act of 1949.

Interagency Career Transition Assistance Program (ICTAP)

refers to regulations established in 1996 which provide selection priority to displaced Federal employees when applying for jobs in other Federal agencies.

Knowledge, Skills and Abilities (KSAs)

Knowledge statements refer to an organized body of information usually of a factual or procedural nature which, if applied, makes adequate performance on the job possible. A body of information applied directly to the performance of a function.

Skill statements refer to the proficient manual, verbal or mental manipulation of data or things. Skills can be readily measured by a performance test where quantity and quality of performance are tested, usually within an established time limit. Examples of proficient manipulation of things are skill in typing or skill in operating a vehicle. Examples of proficient manipulation of data are skill in computation using decimals; skill in editing for transposed numbers, etc.

Ability statements refer to the power to perform an observable activity at the present time. This means that abilities have been proven through activities or behaviors that are similar to those required on the job, e.g., ability to plan and organize work. Abilities are different from aptitudes. Aptitudes are only the potential for performing the activity.


The official duty station of an employee. Locations in the United States are defined in terms of states and counties (or county equivalents). Locations outside the United States are defined in terms of countries and U.S. territories.

New Hires

Appointment of an employee from outside of the Federal government; a transfer-in from an Excepted Service position or a transfer-in from one type of Federal service to another (e.g. left a Competitive Service position in one agency to take an Excepted or Senior Executive Service position at another agency).

  1. Competitive Service Appointment
    Appointment to a position that is governed by civil service law, but not a part of the Senior Executive Service.

  2. Excepted Service Appointment
    Appointment to a position that is not part of the Competitive Service or Senior Executive Service. These positions are exempt by law, Executive order, and OPM regulation.

  3. Senior Executive Service
    Appointment to a managerial or supervisory position above the GS-15 level in which the employee performs executive functions. These positions do not require Presidential or congressional approval.

Open examination

A competitive examination is an examination which has been announced and for which the closing date for receipt of applications has not passed.

Reachable/Within Reach

One of the top three qualified candidates on a register.


A list of eligible applicants compiled in order of their relative standing for referral to Federal jobs, after competitive civil service examinations.


An attempt to determine, through reconstruction of a register, whether an employee on an erroneous appointment could have been properly appointed.

Reinstatement Eligibility

If you previously worked for the federal government in a career or career-conditional appointment you may have reinstatement eligibility.

Reinstatement allows you to reenter the Federal competitive service workforce without competing with the public in a civil service examination. You may apply for any open civil service examination, but reinstatement eligibility also enables you to apply for Federal jobs open only to status candidates

Rule of Three

A requirement that selection must be made from the highest three eligible candidates on the certificate who are available for the job to which they applied.

Status Candidate

An employee who has competed for a permanent Federal position and was hired to the appointment.

Superior Qualifications Appointments

Appointment of a candidate to a position in grade 11 or above of the General Schedule at a pay rate above the minimum because of the candidate's superior qualifications. A rate above the minimum for the grade must be justified by the applicant's unusually high or unique qualifications, a special need of the Government for the candidate's services, or because the candidate's current pay is higher than the minimum for the grade which he or she is offered.

Term Appointment

Nonpermanent appointment expected to last longer than one year, but less than four years.


The length of time served at a certain grade level. It usually is used in reference to the length of time needed to satisfy the promotion requirements of the next highest level.

Time-In-Grade Restrictions

Requirements intended to prevent excessively rapid promotions in the General Schedule. Generally, an employee may not be promoted more than two grades within one year to positions up to GS-5. Above GS-5, an employee must servre a minimum of one year in grade, and cannot be promoted more than one grade, or two grades if that is the normal progression.

Time-limited Job

A non-permanent position with a specific starting and ending date.


Movement of a single employee, or group of employees, from another agency with a break in service of 3 days or less.

  1. Individual Transfer
    Transfer-in of an individual employee.

  2. Mass Transfer

Type of Appointment

An employee's appointment in terms of permanence and competitiveness.

Unassembled Examination

An examination which does not require a written test.

WG (Wage Grade)

A pay system for employees in trades, crafts, or labor occupations covered by the Federal Wage System, whose pay is fixed and adjusted periodically in accordance with prevailing rates.

WS (Wage Supervisor)

A pay system for supervisors of employees in trades, crafts, or labor occupations covered by the Federal Wage System, whose pay is fixed and adjusted periodically in accordance with prevailing rates.

Back to Top