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Best government agencies to work for


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Best government agencies to work for

It’s been a whirlwind couple of years with the COVID-19 pandemic and U.S. government agencies, especially those within the health sector, which are still in full-speed providing public service efforts.

Based on federal agencies that made the Partnership for Public Service’s 2020 Best Places to Work rankings, 84% of federal workers said their coworkers were cooperative in getting work done. Employees also expressed satisfaction overall with work-life balance, innovation, and how leadership at their workplace handled the pandemic. This is the most recent data from 2020, which was released in 2021.

The success of each agency’s efforts depends largely on the dedication of the roughly 2.1 million civilians who comprise the federal workforce, though. And research shows that when it comes to employee engagement, some agencies fare better than others.

To learn more about which government offices rank highly among their staffs, Stacker used data from Partnership for Public Service’s Best Places to Work in the Federal Government rankings to compile a list of 35 federal agencies that are the best to work for, based mainly on a survey collected by the Office of Personnel Management. The survey was completed between September and November 2020 by 624,800 government agency employees that are permanent full-time or part-time workers. The 35 agencies in this list are ranked by their 2020 employee engagement score.

Whether you’re considering a career in public service, or you’re just curious about the federal government as a workplace, read on to learn about the best government agencies to work for.

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#35. Consumer Product Safety Commission

– 2020 employee engagement score: 71.7 (3.9% higher than government-wide score)
– 2019 employee engagement score: 60.6
– One-year score change: +11.1
– Agency workforce size: small

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), created by Congress in 1972 under the Consumer Product Safety Act, strives to reduce the risk of injuries and even death from consumer products. CPSC is dedicated to protecting consumers from products that could be hazardous by enforcing standards that must be met, banning consumer products, recalling products and ensuring there’s repairs, among other methods.

This agency has jurisdiction over myriad types of consumer products ranging from coffee makers to toys and even gardening products. CPSC employs people in a range of industries such as attorneys, administrative and clerical staff, compliance officers, and toxicologists and chemists. Employees gave the agency high scores in overall well-being during COVID-19, effective leadership supervisors, and work-life balance.



Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post // Getty Images

#34. Merit Systems Protection Board

– 2020 employee engagement score: 72.3 (4.8% higher than government-wide score)
– 2019 employee engagement score: 70.7
– One-year score change: +1.6
– Agency workforce size: small

This quasi-judicial agency studies merit systems, reviews the actions of the Office of Personnel Management, and protects the rights of employees under federal merit systems. Staff at the Merit Systems Protection Board feel that the team cooperates to meet goals and shares knowledge among its members, according to a 2019 survey.

[Pictured: Mark Robbins, vice chairman and acting chairman of the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board.]



Mark Wilson // Getty Images

#33. Department of the Treasury

– 2020 employee engagement score: 72.5 (5.1% higher than government-wide score)
– 2019 employee engagement score: 62.5
– One-year score change: +10
– Agency workforce size: large

The Department of the Treasury is responsible for operating and maintaining systems that are critical to the nation’s federal finances. This includes collecting taxes and overseeing national banks, which involves printing and minting the country’s paper currency. Its staff consists mostly of financial professionals such as accountants, financial analysts, and budget analysts but there are other industries hired by the Department of the Treasury such as human resources professionals and information technology specialists. Employees are satisfied with how The Department of Treasury has handled the COVID-19 pandemic, supervisor leadership, and work-life balance.



wutzkohphoto // Shutterstock

#32. Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board

– 2020 employee engagement score: 72.7 (5.4% higher than government-wide score)
– 2019 employee engagement score: 62.5
– One-year score change: +10.2
– Agency workforce size: small

The Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board is an independent federal agency that administers the Thrift Savings Plan. This tax-deferred plan, similar to 401(k) plans, helps federal employees with additional savings toward retirement security. Employees have reported that they are satisfied with the leadership team, how the agency has handled the COVID-19 pandemic, the teamwork, and work-life balance.



Vitalii Vodolazskyi // Shutterstock

#31. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

– 2020 employee engagement score: 73.3 (6.2% higher than government-wide score)
– 2019 employee engagement score: 67.1
– One-year score change: +6.2
– Agency workforce size: midsize

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission enforces federal laws that protect job applicants and workers from discrimination. A range of investigators, attorneys, information specialists, mediators, and statisticians keep this agency running. With such a strong mission, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission may help employees feel a deep sense of purpose with their work.

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Mark Wilson // Getty Images

#30. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

– 2020 employee engagement score: 74.5 (8% higher than government-wide score)
– 2019 employee engagement score: 70
– One-year score change: +4.5
– Agency workforce size: midsize

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is responsible for regulating commercial nuclear power plants and the use of radioactive materials for other purposes, like medicine. It primarily recruits engineers, scientists, and security experts. Employees feel their work is connected to the goals of the agency and that they have protection from job-related health and safety hazards, according to a 2019 survey.



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#29. Department of Commerce

– 2020 employee engagement score: 74.9 (8.6% higher than government-wide score)
– 2019 employee engagement score: 69.6
– One-year score change: +5.3
– Agency workforce size: large

This agency works to promote job creation, encourage economic growth, and boost the standard of living across the country. It runs many offices and bureaus, including the International Trade Administration, Census Bureau, National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, and the Office of Inspector General. The 2019 employee survey shows that 81% of staff at this agency have trusting, respectful, and supportive relationships with their supervisors.

[Pictured: Attendees at the U.S.-Africa Business Forum, 2016.]



Mark Wilson // Getty Images

#28. Department of Health and Human Services

– 2020 employee engagement score: 75.3 (9.1% higher than government-wide score)
– 2019 employee engagement score: 71.4
– One-year score change: +3.9
– Agency workforce size: large

This agency works to promote advancements in public health, medicine, and social services to ensure the health and wellbeing of Americans. Employees can work at offices around the world, including in Denmark, Guam, Egypt, and Indonesia. Workers at the Department of Health and Human Services overwhelmingly report that they like their work and cooperate well with their colleagues, according to a 2019 survey.

[Pictured: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci speaks about the coronavirus while flanked by (L-R) Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Robert Kadlec, CDC Principal Deputy Director Anne Schuchat, and HHS Secretary Alex Azar.]



Kevin Dietsch // Getty Images

#27. Department of Energy

– 2020 employee engagement score: 75.4 (9.3% higher than government-wide score)
– 2019 employee engagement score: 68.2
– One-year score change: +7.2
– Agency workforce size: midsize

This agency is charged with “advancing the energy, environmental, and nuclear security” of the nation, as well as encouraging innovations in science and technology and providing environmental cleanup related to nuclear weapons. It needs a variety of scientific and technical professionals to conduct its work. The agency has seen rising employee engagement scores since 2014.



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#26. Department of Transportation

– 2020 employee engagement score: 76.1 (10.3% higher than government-wide score)
– 2019 employee engagement score: 65.7
– One-year score change: +10.4
– Agency workforce size: large

The Department of Transportation makes sure the country’s transportation system is safe, efficient, and modern. Employees at this agency have expressed rising rates of job satisfaction in recent years. Around three-quarters of respondents to a recent survey said they would recommend the Department of Transportation as “a good place to work.”

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Alex Wong // Getty Images

#25. Federal Communications Commission

– 2020 employee engagement score: 76.6 (11% higher than government-wide score)
– 2019 employee engagement score: 62.9
– One-year score change: +13.7
– Agency workforce size: midsize

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), regulates communications through radio, television, cable, and telephone. The FCC, considered the key authority in communications law in the country, upholds standards within media and methods of communication and oversees media company mergers and acquisitions. The FCC recruits for a variety of positions such as human resources specialists, program analysts, and sign language interpreters.

In 2020, FCC employees expressed satisfaction with effective leadership, employee skills matching with the agency’s mission, and how the agency handled the COVID-19 pandemic.



Chip Somodevilla // Getty Images

#24. Intelligence Community

– 2020 employee engagement score: 76.7 (11.2% higher than government-wide score)
– 2019 employee engagement score: 69.9
– One-year score change: +6.8
– Agency workforce size: large

This agency gathers and analyzes foreign intelligence and counterintelligence data for the president, legislators, the military, and law enforcement. The Intelligence Community is staffed by business and accounting professionals, mathematical scientists, infrastructure and logistics experts, security providers, and intelligence analysts, among other workers.



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#23. Surface Transportation Board

– 2020 employee engagement score: 77 (11.6% higher than government-wide score)
– 2019 employee engagement score: 65.8
– One-year score change: +11.2
– Agency workforce size: small

Primarily focused on freight rail, this independent federal agency determines the economic regulation of surface transportation. Most employees at the Surface Transportation Board say they like the kind of work they perform, and they know exactly what’s expected of them, according to a 2019 survey.



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#22. National Credit Union Administration

– 2020 employee engagement score: 79.4 (15.1% higher than government-wide score)
– 2019 employee engagement score: 70
– One-year score change: +9.4
– Agency workforce size: midsize

This agency regulates federal credit unions and provides insurance for deposits at credit unions. Its workforce mainly consists of legal professionals, credit union examiners, and information technology specialists. Most employees at the National Credit Union Administration not only enjoy their work, but they also feel that it’s important, according to a 2019 survey.



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#21. Federal Housing Finance Agency

– 2020 employee engagement score: 79.5 (15.2% higher than government-wide score)
– 2019 employee engagement score: 66.7
– One-year score change: +12.8
– Agency workforce size: small

Created 12 years ago, the Federal Housing Finance Agency supervises, regulates, and provides oversight of the housing mission of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac (the Enterprises), and the Federal Home Loan Bank System. Its staff primarily consists of finance professionals, information technology specialists, lawyers, and examiners. Employees report that their supervisors show support for work-life balance and that they have an open dialogue about their performance.

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U.S. Air Force

#20. Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service

– 2020 employee engagement score: 80.5 (16.7% higher than government-wide score)
– 2019 employee engagement score: 73.8
– One-year score change: +6.7
– Agency workforce size: small

This agency aims to promote labor-management peace through mediation and conflict resolution for government agencies, communities, and industry. People who have experience or interest in mediation can seek employment at the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. It’s no surprise that a workforce of people who know how to resolve conflict report higher-than-average levels of teamwork scores.

[Pictured: John Everman and Barry Brown, mediators with the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, lead labor management relations training at Robins Air Force Base.]



MANDEL NGAN // Getty Images

#19. Selective Service System

– 2020 employee engagement score: 81.3 (17.8% higher than government-wide score)
– 2019 employee engagement score: 61.3
– One-year score change: +20
– Agency workforce size: small

The Selective Service System maintains information and registers eligible men in the case of a military draft. There’s a general draft for men ages 18–25 and a special skills draft based on professional expertise. In the event there would be either type of draft, the Selective Service System would send out notices and assign draftees. It’s a federal law for male citizens and male non-citizens to register with Selective Service within 30 days of their 18th birthday. At 26, men are ineligible to register.

Work-life balance, innovation, teamwork, and pay were some categories that ranked high among employees at the Selective Service System.



Keith Holloway/National Transportation Safety Board // Getty Images

#18. National Transportation Safety Board

– 2020 employee engagement score: 81.3 (17.8% higher than government-wide score)
– 2019 employee engagement score: 75.4
– One-year score change: +5.9
– Agency workforce size: small

Every civil aviation accident on American soil, as well as major accidents in other types of transportation, are investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board. Its 400 employees have backgrounds in transportation and administrative support. Its scores in effective leadership, support for diversity, and pay are higher than other similarly sized agencies.



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#17. National Endowment for the Arts

– 2020 employee engagement score: 82.2 (19.1% higher than government-wide score)
– 2019 employee engagement score: 78.8
– One-year score change: +3.4
– Agency workforce size: small

With an appropriation of $162.5 million, this agency provides funding and support for the arts. Employees have given the National Endowment for the Arts high scores in compensation and innovation.

[Pictured: Sen. Chris Coons, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and Mary Anne Carter, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, convened with members of the arts community to hear about the impact of NEA grants in Delaware in 2019.]



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#16. Smithsonian Institution

– 2020 employee engagement score: 82.3 (19.3% higher than government-wide score)
– 2019 employee engagement score: 74.3
– One-year score change: +8
– Agency workforce size: midsize

With 19 museums and a zoo, the Smithsonian Institution runs the largest “museum, education, and research complex” in the world. It hires a range of professionals, including animal keepers, accountants, conservators, curators, fundraisers, librarians, educators, and researchers. The vast majority of employees say that the Smithsonian Institution is “a good place to work,” according to a 2019 survey.

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#15. Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation

– 2020 employee engagement score: 82.5 (19.6% higher than government-wide score)
– 2019 employee engagement score: 78.1
– One-year score change: +4.4
– Agency workforce size: midsize

Responsible for promoting confidence in the financial system, this agency insures deposits at banks for at least $250,000 and limits the effect of a bank failure on the overall economy. Its staff includes bank examiners, financial analysts, economists, and other professionals. In 2019, the FDIC started a new employee engagement program that encourages participation in project teams to improve the workplace and support the agency’s mission.



U.S. Federal Maritime Commission // Wikimedia Commons

#14. Federal Maritime Commission

– 2020 employee engagement score: 83 (20.3% higher than government-wide score)
– 2019 employee engagement score: 72.3
– One-year score change: +10.7
– Agency workforce size: small

The U.S. international ocean transportation system is regulated by the Federal Maritime Commission for the benefit of exporters, importers, and American customers. Most employees at the agency feel that their performance appraisals are fair and that the commission is successful at working toward its mission, according to a 2019 survey.



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#13. General Services Administration

– 2020 employee engagement score: 83.9 (21.6% higher than government-wide score)
– 2019 employee engagement score: 75.6
– One-year score change: +8.3
– Agency workforce size: midsize

This agency procures billions of dollars worth of resources, like products and facilities, to help federal agencies serve the public. Around 75% of employees at the General Services Administration feel that they are given on-the-job opportunities to improve their skills, according to a recent survey.

[Pictured: On Oct. 5, 2017, former Sen. Claire McCaskill meets with St. Louis-native Emily Murphy.]



National Science Foundation // Wikimedia Commons

#12. National Science Foundation

– 2020 employee engagement score: 84.2 (22% higher than government-wide score)
– 2019 employee engagement score: 75.7
– One-year score change: +8.5
– Agency workforce size: midsize

The National Science Foundation promotes scientific progress and provides funding for research at colleges and universities. While it employs scientists and engineers, the agency also consists of program administrators, directors, public affairs and communications professionals, and business operations experts. As a workplace, the National Science Foundation’s strengths include support for work-life programs and high standards of integrity, according to a 2019 employee survey.



Nicolas Axelrod // Getty Images

#11. Peace Corps

– 2020 employee engagement score: 84.8 (22.9% higher than government-wide score)
– 2019 employee engagement score: 80.7
– One-year score change: +4.1
– Agency workforce size: small

The Peace Corps runs a service program that places volunteers in more than 60 countries around the world. It ranks highly as a place to work for effective leadership, employee skills-mission match, and teamwork.

[Pictured: U.S. Peace Corps volunteer Danielle Carrillo addresses other volunteers in Siem Reap, Cambodia.]

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NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP // Getty Images

#10. Securities and Exchange Commission

– 2020 employee engagement score: 85.7 (24.2% higher than government-wide score)
– 2019 employee engagement score: 77.4
– One-year score change: +8.3
– Agency workforce size: midsize

The Securities and Exchange Commission is responsible for maintaining “fair, orderly, and efficient markets” that protect investors and facilitate the formation of capital. It recruits attorneys, accountants, economists, examiners, and industry specialists. Employees consider their relationships with their supervisors to be a strength of the SEC as a workplace, saying they feel their work-life needs are supported and their performance is discussed, according to a 2019 survey.

[Pictured: U.S. Attorney General William Barr speaks at the SEC’s Criminal Coordination Conference in Washington D.C., on Oct. 3, 2019.]



Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call // Getty Images

#9. Farm Credit Administration

– 2020 employee engagement score: 86 (24.6% higher than government-wide score)
– 2019 employee engagement score: 81.1
– One-year score change: +4.9
– Agency workforce size: small

This agency regulates the entities of the country’s biggest agricultural lender, the Farm Credit System, including banks, associations, and Farmer Mac. Most employees feel that they have the right resources to get their jobs done, as well as a reasonable workload, according to a 2019 survey.

[Pictured: Kenneth A. Spearman, center, chairman and CEO of the Farm Credit Administration, testifies during a House Agriculture Committee hearing in Longworth Building to review the Farm Credit System.]



US Department of Labor // Wikimedia Commons

#8. Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation

– 2020 employee engagement score: 86.1 (24.8% higher than government-wide score)
– 2019 employee engagement score: 79.6
– One-year score change: +6.5
– Agency workforce size: small

This agency provides insurance that protects private-sector pensions. It has more than 900 workers, including accountants, auditors, employee benefits law experts, and actuaries. According to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation’s 2019 survey, 94% of employees feel they do important work.

[Pictured: Former Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez attends a Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation meeting.]



Toytoy // Wikimedia Commons

#7. US International Trade Commission

– 2020 employee engagement score: 86.4 (25.2% higher than government-wide score)
– 2019 employee engagement score: 85.8
– One-year score change: +0.6
– Agency workforce size: small

This agency creates studies and reports about international trade and tariffs for the president and congressional committees. It also investigates situations related to international trade relief. It has significantly higher than average scores for effective leadership, training and development, and support for diversity.



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#6. Office of Special Counsel

– 2020 employee engagement score: 86.5 (25.4% higher than government-wide score)
– 2019 employee engagement score: 76
– One-year score change: +10.5
– Agency workforce size: small

This investigative and prosecutorial agency protects government workers (especially whistleblowers) and aims to stop corruption. Almost the entire staff at the Office of Special Counsel feels that the work they perform is important, according to a 2016 survey.

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Megan Jelinger/SOPA Images/LightRocket // Getty Images

#5. National Aeronautics and Space Administration

– 2020 employee engagement score: 86.6 (25.5% higher than government-wide score)
– 2019 employee engagement score: 81.5
– One-year score change: +5.1
– Agency workforce size: large

Better known as NASA, this agency is “responsible for science and technology related to air and space.” It studies the solar system with space probes, trains astronauts, improves air travel, and uses satellite data to learn about Earth. Employees feel encouraged to find innovative new ways to do things, and that the agency rewards creativity and innovation, according to a 2019 survey.

[Pictured: Containment suits are seen at NASA where they unveiled the Orion Space Craft. The spacecraft is the first step in NASA’s Artemis Lunar mission; aiming to land the first woman and next man on the moon by 2024.]



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#4. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

– 2020 employee engagement score: 87.2 (26.4% higher than government-wide score)
– 2019 employee engagement score: 82.8
– One-year score change: +4.4
– Agency workforce size: midsize

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is responsible for regulating natural gas and hydropower projects, and “interstate transmission of natural gas, oil, and electricity.” Employees reportedly like working at this agency because they feel that supervisors support work-life balance and treat them with respect.

[Pictured: The NRC and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission discuss shared issues.]



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#3. Federal Trade Commission

– 2020 employee engagement score: 89.1 (29.1% higher than government-wide score)
– 2019 employee engagement score: 82.4
– One-year score change: +6.7
– Agency workforce size: midsize

This agency collects consumer complaints and conducts investigations in effort to stop deceptive and fraudulent businesses. It invests heavily in the careers of attorneys, offering training courses and opportunities to tackle high-profile issues.



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#2. Government Accountability Office

– 2020 employee engagement score: 89.4 (29.6% higher than government-wide score)
– 2019 employee engagement score: 81.8
– One-year score change: +7.6
– Agency workforce size: midsize

Nicknamed the “congressional watchdog,” this agency looks at the way taxes are spent and provides objective information to help Congress and federal agencies save money. It offers career paths for analysts, attorneys, economists, criminal investigators, human capital management specialists, and other professionals. It has ranked among the top five best places to work in government since 2005.



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#1. Congressional Budget Office

– 2020 employee engagement score: 92.8 (34.5% higher than government-wide score)
– 2019 employee engagement score: data not available
– Agency workforce size: small

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is a federal, nonpartisan agency that assists Congress in creating effective budget and economic policies. This agency recruits for a variety of roles such as health analysts, administrative assistants, finance interns, and legal interns. It’s no wonder why many employees enjoy their time working for the CBO with benefits such as flexible spending accounts, health club membership, and access to professional development and training.

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