Psychologist Raymond Kirk took a job with the federal government right out of graduate school eight years ago, eager for the chance to get experience and test his doctorate degree in a large organization.

He started as a research psychologist for the Army Research Institute, moving four years later to the Office of Personnel Management to help begin and evaluate flexitime and other experimental alternative work schedules that allow government employes to stagger their office hours.

Kirk, 37, was in charge of that program until alternative work scheduling options were incorporated into permanent legislation, which he helped prepare for Congress. The program affected more than 300,000 federal employes. He's now a research analyst in OPM's Office of Pay and Benefits Policy, with a salary of $44,000 a year.

But these days, frustrated because "federal employes have become the whipping boy for politicians," he says he is planning to leave government service. He says he believes both presidents Carter and Reagan "ran against federal employes," and says it makes him angry to see him and his government colleagues used as "convenient targets."

"I find it very unfortunate to be in a place where you're trying to do the job the organization wants you to do and you pick up the paper and read where the president is criticizing the federal bureaucracy," Kirk says.

A New Jersey native who lives in Alexandria, Kirk says his new job means he's more of a general administrator, developing regulations and guidance material for the agencies that operate various pay and benefit programs. His psychology background is less relevant and the results less visible. And unlike the days in his old job, "I can't point to a change in the way people work."

But even though the new job is less creative and more nuts-and-bolts bureaucracy, Kirk says, "It is important work that must get done."