Doctors ($47,643 average), dentists ($44,790), engineers ($32,000 to $38,000) and lawyers ($37,140) are the top-paid career professionals in government.

But air traffic controllers ($32,248) and computer whizzes ($30,000) are moving up fast, according to the latest survey of pay rates for white collar federal civil servants.

Uncle Sam has 17,000 general lawyers, 47,000 doctors, 44,000 dentists and about 60,000 engineers.

He also has more than 500 chaplains (who average over $31,000) and 66,000 clerk-typists, who get just a little over $11,000 a year.

Social Security claims examiners get just over $20,000, writers and editors get between $25,000 and $26,000, which is less than librarians ($27,000 average) but more than the 2,600 federal photographers ($20,200).

The government now has almost as many hospital administrators, 596 (salary average $39,200), as it does messengers, 654 at $10,182.

Secretaries are still the largest white-collar occupation--there are 79,000 of them making an average $15,285 -- but engineers are coming up fast.

The government's 8,700 guards get an average of $14,000 to keep an eye on things, and Internal Revenue Service agents get $28,700 for what they do.

Chemists and criminal investigators average just over $31,000 while economists earn $33,500, about the same as psychologists.

What all this means is that the federal government no longer is an army of low-paid clerks. New skills, new technologies have changed and are changing the mix of personnel, and of their salary levels.

The average white-collar federal salary in metro Washington is now over $26,000 a year (think of how many government lawyers we all know), partly because this is the headquarters town, but also because the government--like the rest of society--is becoming more technical and professional and less clerical all the time.

The ongoing RIFs sponsored by Congress and the Reagan administration will actually serve to increase the average salary in government, although the number of employes is down. While many jobs abolished by RIFs were held by middle- and upper-level administrators, the people who actually went out the door--they were bumped by long-service people with veterans' preference--were among the lowest paid.

And because of job changes caused by the RIFs, there are a number of clerk-typists (onetime managers and administrators) who are now making $30,000 to $40,000, several high-priced chauffeurs who once were program directors and some doctors and scientific types who are filing things.

When the averages come out next year, secretaries and other clerical workers will appear to be doing better. But that is because some of their onetime bosses have joined them in the typing pool.