Finance Careers in Federal Departments

  • Economists
  • Financial Analysts
  • Forensic Accounting
  • Financial and Economic Research
  • Department Leadership

The U.S. government employs about 9 million workers, but it is difficult to say how many federal finance jobs are on the payroll because there are numerous and diverse positions that require a solid background in finance. Finance expertise may be useful in different departments most notably with the Federal Reserve, Department of Treasury and the Office of Management and Budget. However, other departments require workers with a strong financial background for positions that entail research, forensic investigations and policy analysis.

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1. Economists

Economists are involved in the collection and analysis of data pertaining to production, manufacturing and distribution of resources and commercial output. They study long-term and short-term trends that may have an impact on economic issues on a macro and micro level. As an economist, expect to be involved in research projects, forecasting trends, recommending workable solutions to economic issues, communicating with legislators and members of the public as well as writing for scholarly journals.

2. Financial Analysts

There may be an overlap in federal finance jobs for economists and financial analysts. Both will be involved with researching trends and preparing forecasts, but analysts’ expertise may be more specific to financial instruments, including stocks, bonds and other forms of investment. Financial analysts are needed in various departments including those that handle pension funds, various divisions at the Social Security Administration and at the Department of Treasury.

3. Forensic Accounting

Forensic accounting is a specialized field of accounting that is concerned with researching, investigating and analyzing financial accounts to determine economic damages due to breach of contracts or warranties, business valuations and other matters related to criminal and civil investigations. Forensic accountants may work as part of a team or department charged with investigating fraud, theft and racketeering. According to Investopedia, forensic accountants may be called upon to prepare financial evidence, design applications to document, manage and present the evidence as part of a litigation support team. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is one of the federal agencies that needs the services of forensic accountants on a continuous basis.

4. Financial and Economic Research

Research is the backbone of legislative initiatives. Federal jobs requiring a financial background and research skills are plentiful in various levels of the federal government. Finance majors may find niche opportunities as legislative aides in the offices of lawmakers or in working committees for policymakers. Financial and economic researchers are also needed in federal agencies with investigative missions such as the FBI and the CIA. In fact, any agency with a federal budget and a grant-seeking mission will need researchers to prepare the supporting data for major projects.

5. Department Leadership

A background in finance prepares federal employees for positions of leadership in just about any agency or department. Effective planning and efficient budget management are key skills that financial experts possess. Department managers with these skills are more likely to thrive in environments that operate on strict budgets and protocols.

About 23 percent of the federal workforce are direct hires while the rest are hired as contractors or through public/private organizations that contract for government work. Federal finance jobs may be available starting at the internship level, so finance majors should consider these opportunities as a viable path to a stable career as a federal employee. For those who have completed graduate and post-graduate work in finance, contribute research-based articles to policy journals or join advocacy groups to establish your name and credentials as an expert in the field of finance.