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(Xiaolong Zhu/Xiaolong Zhu, New York University)

Best places to work in the federal government

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(Space Telescope Science Institute Office of Public Outreach/AP)
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One consistent theme in the upper echelon of the rankings each year is mission: that the employees have an especially strong feeling the work they do is important and makes a difference in people’s lives.

All federal agencies have a mission — that’s why they exist — but not all of them are the model employer that President Biden wants his government to become. Compared with private industry, the hiring process in the government is slower and more difficult for a job applicant to navigate. Salaries are not as competitive in occupations such as health care and cybersecurity. The internship program has dwindled.

Federal agencies face challenges outside their control, with budgets set through a complex process involving annual negotiations, often politically charged, between Congress and the White House. That annual process often bogs down with threats — which sometimes turn into reality — of agency shutdowns and unpaid furloughs. At times, the government hits the federal debt ceiling, threatening not only shutdowns but much wider economic damage if that limit isn’t raised; one of those threats lies just months ahead.

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This project is being published in collaboration with the Partnership for Public Service and Boston Consulting Group, which together produce the annual Best Places to Work in the Federal Government rankings. The rankings are based on the annual Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey conducted by the Office of Personnel Management and 14 other agencies’ independent surveys.

Regardless, agencies have been working to become more attractive as employers. The job application process is a bit simpler now. Administrators are fighting for better pay for in-demand jobs. Recruitment and retention incentive payments are being introduced along with student loan reimbursements to attract more talent. There is renewed attention to training and other career development programs.

Most importantly, the government continues to offer the kind of insurance and retirement benefits that have been eroding among many other employers.

By definition, only some federal agencies can be the best places to work. But in their own ways, all of them can be good places to work.

The annual rankings of the federal agencies are divided into three categories based on size, and one category of offices within the each agency called “subcomponent”: Large agencies have 15,000 or more employees; Midsize agencies have between 1,000 and 14,999 employees; and Small agencies have at least 100 employees but fewer than 1,000.

— Eric Yoder


1. National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Founded: 1958
Employees: 18,000 full- and part-time; 30,000 contractors
Head of agency: Bill Nelson

This is the 11th year NASA placed No. 1 in this category. Last year was particularly successful: hitting an asteroid directly in space as part of the DART mission; collecting stellar imagery from the James Webb Space Telescope; and the successful launch of Artemis I, the beginning of the effort to create a lunar community. Even with private companies joining the ranks of space travel, NASA remains a key international player. “We operate as a crew,” says Administrator Bill Nelson, who flew himself in 1986 as a payload specialist, about his immediate team, Col. Pam Melroy and Bob Cabana, and the rest of NASA employees. “We have to depend on each other. I’m the fella responsible, but I give credit to them.”

2. Department of Health and Human Services
3. Intelligence Community
4. Commerce Department
5. Department of Veterans Affairs
6. Transportation Department
7. Treasury Department
8. Office of the Secretary of Defense, Joint Staff, Defense Agencies, and Department of Defense Field Activities
9 (Tie). Interior Department
9 (Tie). Department of the Air Force


1. Government Accountability Office
Founded: 1921
Employees: 3,323 full-time; 87 part-time
Head of agency: Gene Dodaro

With a 97 percent retention rate (not including the rare retirement), and a frequent spot in the top five of the annual survey, GAO seems to take the managerial advice it gives. GAO staffers create a healthy diet of written reports, videos and podcasts about how money is being spent in the federal government. A new acting chief scientist, Karen Howard, helps to explain issues around science and technology. One of the most popular analyses, however, is the High-Risk List published every two years in April, complete with worrisome spending trends and helpful solutions to fix the problems.

2. National Science Foundation
3. Securities and Exchange Commission
4. General Services Administration
5. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
6. Small Business Administration
7. Environmental Protection Agency
8. Energy Department
9. Smithsonian Institution
10. Federal Communications Commission


1. Congressional Budget Office
Founded: 1974
Employees: 275
Head of agency: Phillip L. Swagel

A frequent member of the top 10, the CBO has been busy providing preliminary analyses and technical assistance during the drafting phase of legislation along with regular responsibilities such as producing the annual Budget and Economic Outlook. Many of the analysts are focused on health policy, while others handle energy and climate, labor, macroeconomics, microeconomics, national security and taxes. Director Phillip L. Swagel is asking for more employees in the next fiscal year to not only help with the workload but also to create the analytical tools that are required to meet the demand for information.

2. Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation
3. Office of Special Counsel
4. National Endowment for the Humanities
5. Federal Labor Relations Authority
6. Farm Credit Administration
7. U.S. International Trade Commission
8. Surface Transportation Board
9. U.S. International Development Finance Corp.
10. Selective Service System


1. Office of Negotiations and Restructuring, Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp.

When the American Rescue Plan Act passed in March 2021, John Hanley’s team reviewed the incoming applications for special financial assistance while General Counsel Karen Morris and her team handled the legal matters of the bill’s payments. The PBGC was still operating remotely during these days. “We felt very motivated because this program is beneficial to many Americans,” Morris said.

2. Office of Support Operations, Securities and Exchange Commission
3. Office of the Executive Director, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
4. Directorate for Computer and Information Sciences and Engineering, National Science Foundation
5. Business Support Services Overall, National Archives and Records Administration
6. Directorate for Biological Sciences, National Science Foundation
7. Office of Benefits Administration, Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp.
8. Office of Information Technology, Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp.
9. Office of Budget, Finance and Award Management, National Science Foundation
10. Office of the General Counsel, Education Department
About this story
About this story

This project is being published in collaboration with the Partnership for Public Service and Boston Consulting Group, which together produce the annual Best Places to Work in the Federal Government rankings.

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During the past 21 years, the nonpartisan, nonprofit Partnership for Public Service has been dedicated to building a better government and a stronger democracy. We work across administrations to help transform the way government works by providing agencies with the data insights they need to succeed, developing effective leaders, inspiring the next generation to public service, facilitating smooth presidential transitions and recognizing exceptional federal employees. Visit ourpublicservice.org, follow us @PublicService and subscribe today to get the latest federal news, information on upcoming Partnership programs and events, and more.

The Best Places to Work in the Federal Government rankings, produced by the Partnership for Public Service and BCG, offer the most comprehensive assessment of how federal public servants view their jobs and workplaces, providing employee perspectives on leadership, pay, innovation, work-life balance and other issues. The rankings are based on the Best Places to Work employee engagement and satisfaction score, and calculated using a proprietary model developed in 2003 when the rankings began. The employee engagement and satisfaction score is derived from a subset of questions in OPM’s Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey and additional individual agency surveys. The 2022 rankings include 506 federal agencies and subcomponents, the most in the history of Best Places to Work. This is the 17th edition of the rankings.

BCG is a global management consulting firm dedicated to advising clients in the private, public and not-for-profit sectors. We partner with our clients to identify their highest-value opportunities, address their challenges and transform their enterprises so that they achieve sustainable competitive advantage, build more capable organizations and secure lasting results. In our work with the federal government, BCG is recognized for bringing commercial insights and best practices to our public sector clients. To learn more, visit bcg.com.

Reporting and picture editing by Bronwen Latimer. Design and Development by Shikha Subramaniam and Jake Crump. Design Editing by Matt Callahan and Virginia Singarayar.

Additional reporting by Jakob Bowen. Editing by Sergio Non. Additional editing by Jordan Melendrez and Jeffrey Tomik. Audience engagement by Maite Fernandez. Additional research and support by Amanda Farnan at the Partnership for Public Service.