What is excepted service

What is excepted service DEFAULT
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The excepted service is a subset of the federal civil service that is made up of civilian positions in the federal government outside of the competitive service or the Senior Executive Service. Excepted service positions, also known as unclassified positions, require specialized expertise and are not subject to the merit-based selection process or grade-level classifications of the competitive service.[1][2][3]


See also: Civil service, competitive service, Senior Executive Service

The federal civil service is made up of the competitive service, the excepted service, and the Senior Executive Service (SES). The excepted service functions as "a residual category covering all the many federal entities and groups of employees that are not part of the competitive service or the SES," according to the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO). An analysis by the GAO in 1996 found that excepted service positions made up the majority of civil service positions in the judicial and legislative branches and about half of the civil service positions in the executive branch. A September 2013 report by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) identified roughly 1,250,000 members of the excepted service across the federal government.[4][5]

Key features

The excepted service provides government entities with an avenue to fill specialized positions that cannot be properly recruited or evaluated through the competitive service's centralized, merit-based hiring process administered by OPM. Instead, federal agencies have the authority to determine the specific hiring criteria for excepted service positions. Examples of excepted service roles include federal attorneys, administrative law judges, intelligence officers, chaplains, and certain scientific or technical experts.[6]

Government entities may fill excepted service positions in the following hiring scenarios, according to OPM:[7]

  • To attract highly specialized professionals
  • To hire individuals with specific backgrounds
  • For hard-to-recruit occupations
  • For positions that deal with confidential information[8]

Excepted service positions are not subject to the competitive service's appointment, compensation, and classification rules under Title 5 of the United States Code, but must still follow veterans' preference—the practice of showing preference for veteran applicants over non-veteran applicants in the hiring process.[9][10]

See also

External links

  1. Office of Personnel Management, "Excepted service," accessed August 6, 2018
  2. Electronic Code of Federal Regulations, "PART 213—EXCEPTED SERVICE," accessed August 6, 2018
  3. FedSmith.com, "Federal Job Classifications: Competitive vs. Excepted Service," November 28, 2010
  4. U.S. General Accounting Office, "The Excepted Service—A Research Profile," May 1997
  5. Office of Personnel Management, "Employment and Trends - September 2013," accessed August 16, 2018
  6. Encyclopedia Britannica, "Pendleton Civil Service Act," accessed September 29, 2017
  7. USA Jobs, "Unique hiring paths," accessed August 15, 2018
  8. Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributable to the original source.
  9. USA Jobs, "Entering Federal Service," accessed August 6, 2018
  10. USA Jobs, "Veterans," accessed August 6, 2018

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Instruction 302-1: Employment in the Excepted Service

Issuance Date: 10/30/2020

Material Transmitted:

HHS Instruction 302-1, Employment in the Excepted Service dated 10/30/2020.

Material Superseded:

HHS Instruction 302-1, Employment in the Excepted Service dated 04/08/2020.


This Instruction has been revised to comply with regulatory changes to 5 CFR Part 302, published on November 6, 2020.

This policy is effective immediately and must be carried out in accordance with applicable laws, regulations, bargaining agreements, and Departmental policy.


J. Blair Duncan
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Human Resources
Chief Human Capital Officer

Subject: Employment in the Excepted Service

302-1-00 Purpose
302-1-10 References
302-1-20 Coverage and Exclusions
302-1-30 Definitions
302-1-40 Responsibilities
302-1-50 General
302-1-60 Classification, Qualifications & Recruitment
302-1-70 Priority Consideration Candidates
302-1-80 Assessment and Selection Procedures
302-1-90 Other Actions And Appointment Time Limits
302-1-100 Appeals
302-1-110 Personnel Actions
302-1-120 Documentation and Accountability

302-1-00 Purpose

This Instruction sets forth policy requirements relating to employment in the excepted service and applies to excepted positions that are subject to the provisions of Title 5, United States Code (U.S.C.), or subject to a statutory requirement to follow the veterans’ preference provisions of Title 5.

When provisions of this policy differ from changes in applicable law or regulation, the changes in law or regulation apply.

302-1-10 References

  1. 5 U.S.C §2103, The excepted service
  2. 5 U.S.C §2108, Veteran; disabled veteran; preference eligible
  3. 5 U.S.C §2301, Merit system principles
  4. 5 U.S.C §3320, Excepted service; government of the District of Columbia; selection
  5. 5 U.S.C §7511(a)(1)(B)-(C), Employee definition for Adverse Actions
  6. 5 U.S.C §8101(1), Employee definition for Compensation for Work Injuries
  7. 5 CFR Part 6, Exceptions from the Competitive Service (Rule VI)
  8. 5 CFR Part 211, Veteran Preference
  9. 5 CFR Part 213, Excepted Service
  10. 5 CFR §300.301, Details of Employees
  11. 5 CFR Part 302, Employment in the Excepted Service
  12. 5 CFR Part 362, Pathways Programs
  13. Office of Personnel Management (OPM), Vet Guide, Veterans’ Preference in Appointments, Excepted Service Employment
  14. HHS Instruction, 300-3, Details and IPA Agreements
  15. HHS Instruction, 330-2, Priority Placement Programs

302-1-20 Coverage and Exclusions

A. Coverage

This Instruction covers all excepted positions that are subject to the provisions of Title 5, or subject to a statutory requirement to follow the veterans’ preference provisions of Title 5, including:

  1. Positions filled via government-wide Schedule A and B authorities, unless 5 CFR §302.101(c) exempts the specific Schedule A or B positions from 5 CFR Part 302 appointment procedures.
  2. Positions filled via HHS-specific Schedule A and Schedule B authorities, unless OPM exempts in writing the Schedule A or B authority from 5 CFR Part 302 appointment procedures at the time of approval.
  3. Positions filled under Schedule D, Pathways Programs (5 CFR §362.105(c)(2)).

B. Exclusions

  1. Positions or appointments that are required by the Congress to be confirmed by, or made with the advice and consent of, the Senate (5 CFR §302.101(b)).
  2. Positions exempt from the 5 CFR Part 302 appointment procedures when the positions are specifically listed under 5 CFR §302.101(c). Operating Divisions/Staff Divisions (OpDiv/StaffDiv, or Division) must develop written hiring procedures for such positions and apply them uniformly in accordance with the requirements under 5 CFR §302.101(c), the merit system principles, and applicable HHS guidance. OpDivs/StaffDivs should consult their legal counsel on their internal procedures prior to implementation to ensure they are legally supportable and not in conflict with current case law, rule, law, regulation, or other legal authority.
  3. Non-Title 5 excepted authorities, if the authority’s provisions specifically exempt the positions from Title 5 in part (i.e., appointment or hiring procedures), or completely (i.e., all Title 5 provisions).

C. Bargaining Unit Employees

The provisions of this Instruction pertaining to conditions of employment of bargaining unit employees (e.g., the filling of a position within the scope of the bargaining unit, promotion and reassignments, and adverse actions) are fully negotiable in accordance with 5 U.S.C. Chapter 71. Therefore, when the provisions of this Instruction differ from the requirements contained in applicable collective bargaining agreement(s), the collective bargaining agreement takes precedence for bargaining unit employees.

302-1-30 Definitions

  1. Excepted position. A position in the excepted service.
  2. Excepted Service. Positions not in the competitive service or the Senior Executive Service; includes all positions in the Executive Branch of the Federal Government which are specifically excepted from the requirements of the competitive service by statute, Executive Order, or by OPM regulation.
  3. Preference Eligible. Veterans who are disabled or who served on active duty in the Armed Forces during certain specified periods or in military campaigns, veterans discharged due to sole survivorship, or family members entitled to derived preference. Preference eligible candidates are generally entitled to preference over non-veterans for new appointments in both the competitive and excepted service and in retention during a reduction in force (5U.S.C §2108).
  4. Priority Reemployment List (PRL). A list executive agencies must establish to give reemployment consideration and placement assistance to former HHS excepted service employees who have been furloughed or separated by RIF or compensable injury; or who appealed an adverse action to the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) and was found to have been unjustifiably dismissed from the agency but is not entitled to immediate restoration under the MSPB’s decision (5 CFR §302.303).
  5. Reemployment List (RL). A discretionary executive agency list to give employment consideration to current and former HHS excepted service employees who are not eligible for inclusion on the HHS PRL. A RL is discretionary under 5 CFR §302.303(c) and is not established by HHS.

302-1-40 Responsibilities

A. HHS Assistant Secretary for Administration, Office of Human Resources (HHS OHR):

  1. Develops Department-wide policy and guidance regarding excepted service employment consistent with HHS and OPM policy and guidance, and all applicable federal laws and regulations;
  2. Submits requests to OPM for pass over and objections that require OPM approval;
  3. Submits requests to OPM for approval to detail an excepted service employee, covered under 5 CFR §300.301(c), to the competitive service; and
  4. Periodically reviews OpDiv/StaffDiv excepted service procedures, actions, qualification standards, and reports to assure conformance with HHS and OPM policy and guidance, and all applicable federal laws and regulations.

B. OpDiv/StaffDiv Human Resources Centers (HR Centers):

  1. Comply with this Instruction, HHS and OPM policy and guidance, and all applicable federal laws and regulations;
  2. Establish written procedures regarding the acceptance, rating and ranking, and selection of applications, as required by 5 CFR §§302.301 and 302.302(a) and this Instruction, ensuring procedures are applied uniformly and excepted service positions are filled in accordance with the merit system principles and veterans’ preference laws and regulations;
  3. Ensure that applicants are notified of excepted service vacancies so that applicants have a reasonable opportunity to apply. If job opportunity announcements (JOAs) are used, include a reasonable accommodation statement (5 CFR §302.106);
  4. Document reasons to use ranked or unranked evaluation procedures and make such information available to an applicant upon his or her request (5 CFR §302.302(a));
  5. Ensure that pass over/objection requests that require OPM approval are submitted to HHS OHR for review/concurrence and submission to OPM;
  6. Approve or deny pass over/objection requests that do not require OPM approval, and provide to HHS OHR, upon request, a periodic report of all actions taken. This approval may not be redelegated below the OpDiv/StaffDiv Human Resources (HR) Director level;
  7. Ensure reasons are documented for non-selection of a veteran preference or priority consideration eligible;
  8. Ensure eligible former excepted service employees are entered on HHS’s PRL via HHS’ web-based system identified for this purpose; and the HHS PRL is checked for qualified candidates prior to filling excepted service positions, in accordance with this Instruction, HHS Instruction 330-2, Priority Placement Programs, and 5 CFR §302.304(a).
  9. Ensure that requests to detail excepted service employees to the competitive service, who are covered by 5 CFR §300.301(c), are forwarded to HHS OHR for review/concurrence and submission to OPM in accordance with HHS Instruction 300-3, Details and IPA Assignments;
  10. Obtain a written statement from a non-temporary competitive service candidate acknowledging that s(he) is voluntarily leaving the competitive service to accept the position in the excepted service (5 CFR §302.102(b)); and
  11. Maintain documentation related to each recruitment when filling excepted service positions so recruitment actions can be reconstructed by a third party.

302-1-50 General

  1. Excepted service positions are authorized by law or statute, by the President via Executive Order (E.O.), or by OPM regulation (i.e., Schedules A, B, C, or D). Government-wide excepted authorities/positions approved by OPM are described under 5 CFR Part 213.
  2. Excepted service positions may or may not be subject to the provisions of Title 5. Unless the authority (i.e., law/statute, E.O. or OPM approval/regulations) provisions specifically exempt the positions from Title 5 appointment procedures, the excepted service hiring procedures under 5 CFR Part 302 and this Instruction apply.
  3. Regardless of hiring authority, excepted positions are not subject to the appointment rules/regulations of the competitive service.

302-1-60 Classification, Qualifications & Recruitment

  1. Classification. Unless specifically exempted by the applicable excepted authority, excepted service positions covered under this Instruction are classified using the OPM Position Classification Standards.
  2. Qualification Standards. Unless specifically exempted by the applicable excepted authority or the existence of valid HHS-specific qualification standards, OPM’s Qualification Standards apply. OpDiv/StaffDiv-developed qualification standards for positions covered under this Instruction must adhere to the requirements under 5 CFR §302.202; be validated by an Industrial Organizational (I/O) Psychologist or reviewed by legal counsel to ensure they are legally supportable; and reviewed by HHS OHR for conformity to regulatory requirements prior to use. HR Centers maintain a permanent record of such approved qualification standards, and provide information about such standards to an applicant upon his/her request.
  3. Recruitment Methods. Unless required by statutory or federal regulatory authority (e.g., Pathways Programs), vacancies for excepted service positions are not required to be posted on USAJOBS. However, the merit system principles apply to excepted service recruitment; therefore, HR Centers must use recruitment methods that notify applicants of excepted service vacancies within their Division so that interested applicants have a reasonable opportunity to apply. HR Centers must document their recruitment procedures and the acceptance of excepted service applications (5 U.S.C. §§2301 and 5 CFR §302.301).
    1. Notification options, include, but are not limited to, notice on the HHS or OpDiv/StaffDiv’s website of existing or future excepted service vacancies; notices provided at job fairs; or a traditional JOA;
    2. OpDivs/StaffDivs must consider whether their method of recruitment and time allowed provides for fair and open competition, attracts a sufficient pool of qualified candidates, and ensures potential applicants will receive fair and equitable treatment;
    3. Applications are accepted from ‘Current Federal Employees,’ ‘Former Federal Employees,’ ‘Internal Employees/Agency Employees’ or ‘U.S. Citizens.’
      1. Under no circumstances should an excepted service JOA be restricted to ‘Status Candidates’ since excepted employees do not acquire competitive status unless they have previously held a non-temporary competitive service position.
      2. Applications from persons with disabilities (Schedule A, 5 CFR §213.3102(u)) may be accepted.
    4. OpDivs/StaffDivs may use the following options to manage application volume for positions that attract a high number of applicants. OpDiv/StaffDiv procedures for receiving applications must address the use of these options (5 CFR §302.301). When one or more of the limitations are used, the limitations must be stated in the JOA, advertisement, or notice and justification included in the recruitment case file.
      1. Limiting the number of days a JOA is open: OpDivs/StaffDivs have the discretion to determine the length of time that a JOA is open. When doing so, organizations should give consideration to the types, grade levels, and geographic locations of the positions being filled; and ensure the time allowed provides for fair and open competition that ensures potential applicants have reasonable opportunity to apply consistent with the merit system principles.
      2. Limiting the number of applications received: OpDivs/StaffDivs have the discretion to set “cut-offs” or limits (e.g., the first 100 applications received) on the number of applications that they will consider when filling a position. When using such limits, HR Centers shall accept any application received up until 11:59 p.m. on the day the limit is reached in order to accommodate applicants in non-Eastern time zones.
  4. Veterans Preference. OpDivs/StaffDivs must ensure veterans’ preference provisions are applied in accordance with 5 U.S.C. §3320; 5 CFR Part 211; and this Instruction when filling excepted service positions. HR Centers shall request additional information from applicants when there is conflicting documentation in their application package concerning their claimed veterans’ preference. For example, in cases where the applicant submits supporting evidence that shows they are entitled to veterans’ preference, but also provides contradictory evidence that shows they are not entitled to veterans’ preference they are claiming, HR Specialists must request additional information, as necessary, to ensure veterans’ preference is adjudicated properly.

302-1-70 Priority Consideration Candidates

  1. OpDivs/StaffDivs must provide reemployment consideration to former HHS excepted service employees registered on HHS’ Priority Reemployment List (PRL) when filling excepted service positions (HHS Instruction, 330-2, Priority Placement Programs), following the assessment and selection procedures described in this Instruction.
  2. Qualified candidates on HHS’ PRL must be given selection priority before referring the names of other qualified candidates (5 CFR 302.304(a)).
  3. OpDivs/StaffDivs may appoint a candidate who is not a PRL eligible, or a PRL eligible who has a lower standing on the PRL list, when the PRL eligible(s) qualifications will create an undue interruption to the position. The HR Center must notify each PRL eligible of the reasons for non-selection and must also notify any preference eligible(s) on the PRL list of their right to appeal to the MSPB (5 CFR 302.304(a)). This documentation must be maintained in the recruitment case file.
  4. Once an HR Center fulfills these requirements, other excepted service candidates may be considered for the position.
  5. HR Centers must retain sufficient documentation to demonstrate PRL clearance for each excepted service vacancy.

302-1-80 Assessment and Selection Procedures

  1. OpDivs/StaffDivs must follow the provisions of 5 CFR Parts 211 and 302 relating to the examination, rating, and selection of an applicant, when a qualified preference eligible, non- preference eligible, or person entitled to priority consideration applies for appointment to a position covered by this Instruction.
  2. OpDivs/StaffDivs must use job related assessment methods to evaluate candidates; document its assessment and selection procedures; apply them uniformly; and furnish applicants information on such procedures and their ratings upon request in accordance with 5 CFR Part 302, Subpart C.
  3. Veterans’ preference is granted as follows (5 CFR §302.201):
    1. When eligible candidates are referred without numerical ratings, preference is noted as:
      1. ‘CP’ for preference eligibles having compensable service connected disability of 10% or more (5 U.S.C. §2108(3)(C));
      2. ‘XP’ for all other candidates eligible for 10-point veteran preference (5 U.S.C.§2108(3)(D-G);
      3. ‘TP’ for candidates eligible for 5-point veteran preference (5 U.S.C. §2108(3)(A-B)); and
      4. ‘SSP’ for candidates eligible for sole survivorship preference (5 U.S.C. §2108(3)(H)).
    2. When numerical ratings are used, 10 additional points are given to preference eligibles described under 1. a. and b. above; 5 additional points are granted to preference eligibles described under 1. c. above; and 0 additional points are given to sole survivorship preference eligibles.
  4. Assessment. OpDivs/StaffDivs may evaluate candidates based on eligibility/ineligibility determinations, numerical scores, or a category rating-like process (5 CFR §302.302).
    1. Alternate rating and selection procedures may be developed, such as procedures similar to category rating (e.g., category grouping), to fill excepted service positions, as long as the procedures give preference and priority consideration eligibles at least as much advantage as they would receive under the 5 CFR Part 302hiring procedures (5 U.S.C§3320; 5 CFR §302.105). Such procedures must be documented and applied uniformly across similar/same types of positions.
    2. Reasons are documented for using a ranked or unranked referral lists (5 CFR§302.302(a)) and the quality ranking factors used, if using numerical rating or category grouping.
    3. Numerical ratings are assigned on a scale of 100, with each qualified candidate assigned a rating of 70 or more (plus any additional veteran preference points). Numerical ratings are not required when all qualified applicants will be offered immediate employment (5 CFR §302.302(b)).
    4. When there is a high volume of applicants, ratings are only required for a sufficient number of the highest-qualified applicants to meet the OpDiv/StaffDiv’s needs within a reasonable time; however, preference eligible candidates are still considered in the order they would have been considered if all applicants had been assigned ratings (5 CFR§302.302(b)).
  5. Certificates and Order of Consideration. Qualified candidates are placed on a certificate in the following order (5 CFR §211.102(d)(3); 5 CFR §302.303(d); 5 CFR §302.304):
    1. Priority reemployment candidates. Qualified candidates on HHS’s PRL must be given selection priority before other candidates can be referred, in accordance with 5 CFR §302.304(a), and are placed on a PRL certificate in one of the orders listed in 2. below.
    2. Other candidates are considered in one of the following orders:
      1. When candidates are rated only for basic eligibility:
        1. Qualified preference eligibles that have a compensable, service-connected disability of 10% or more;
        2. All other qualified candidates eligible for 10-point veteran preference;
        3. All qualified candidates eligible for 5-point veteran preference;
        4. All qualified candidates eligible for sole survivorship; and lastly
        5. Qualified candidates not eligible for veteran preference.
      2. When candidates have been assigned numerical ratings:
        1. Qualified preference eligibles having a compensable, service-connected disability of 10% or more, in order of the augmented ratings; and
        2. All other qualified candidates in the order of their augmented ratings. At each score, qualified candidates eligible for 10-point preference are entered ahead of those eligible for 5-point preference, followed by sole survivorship preference eligibles, then lastly qualified non-preference eligible candidates.
        3. When candidates have the same numerical ratings, preference eligibles are listed ahead of non-preference eligibles (5 CFR §211.102(d)(3)).
      3. For professional and scientific positions at the GS-9 grade level and above:
        1. If numerical ratings are assigned, applicants are considered in the order of their scores, augmented for veterans’ preference. When candidates have the same numerical ratings, preference eligibles are listed ahead of non-preference eligibles (5 CFR §211.102(d)(3)); or
        2. If numerical scores have not been assigned, all preference eligibles are considered together regardless of the type of preference, followed by other candidates.
      4. Order specified in the OpDiv/StaffDiv’s alternate rating and selection procedures, in accordance with 5 CFR §302.105, and the assessment procedures above.
  6. Selection.
    1. OpDivs/StaffDivs must adhere to the selection procedures under 5 CFR §302.401(a), or follow its alternate rating and selection procedures (such as category grouping), when making selections from priority reemployment or regular certificates. The Indian Health Service must give selection priority in accordance with 25 U.S.C. §5117, prior to applying the veterans’ preference provisions under 5 CFR Part 302.
      1. Selections under 5 CFR §302.401(a):
        1. When numerical ratings are assigned, selections are made from the highest three candidates listed in Order A, i.e., preference eligibles who have a compensable service-connected disability of 10 percent or more, followed by all other qualified candidates, in the order of their numerical ratings, with preference eligibles listed ahead of non-preference eligibles with the same ratings (5 CFR §211.102(d)(3)).
        2. When numerical ratings are not assigned, selections are made from the highest preference category, as long as at least three candidates are in that group. When fewer than three candidates are in the highest preference category, consideration may be expanded to include the next highest preference category.
      2. Selections under OpDiv/StaffDiv alternate rating and selection procedures:
        1. Documented alternate rating and selection procedures must be applied uniformly.
        2. If making selections under category rating-like (e.g., category grouping) procedures, OpDivs/StaffDivs must select from the highest quality category (i.e., any preference eligible within the highest quality category may be selected; veterans have selection preference over non-veterans; preference eligibles with a 10% or more disability are placed in the highest quality category ahead of the non-preference eligibles, except for scientific or professional positions at the GS- 9 level or higher).
    2. Selection of Competitive Service Candidate. A written statement must be obtained from a non-temporary competitive service candidate, acknowledging s(he) is voluntarily leaving the competitive service to accept the position in the excepted service (5 CFR §302.102(b)). Such employees generally do not lose appeal rights, see Section 302-1-100 of this Instruction. In addition, employees who previously held a non-temporary competitive service position retain their competitive service status and may continue to apply to competitive service positions open to ‘status’ candidates. (Employees should be advised to provide a SF-50 showing they previously held a non-temporary competitive service position when applying to jobs.) Excepted employees who have never served in a non-temporary competitive service position are eligible to apply only to competitive service announcements open to all candidates or U.S. Citizens.
  7. Pass Overs and Objections of Preference Eligibles (5 CFR 302.401(b) and OPM Delegated Examining Operations Handbook).
    1. OpDiv/StaffDiv HR Directors may approve or deny pass over requests of less than 30 percent compensable disabled veterans for excepted service positions and document reason(s) for selecting a non-preference eligible. This approval may not be redelegated below the HR Director level.
    2. The following pass over and objection requests require OPM approval before making selections for excepted service positions covered under this Instruction:
      1. A pass over of any preference eligible with a 30 percent or more compensable service connected disability (5 U.S.C §3318);
      2. A pass over of a preference eligible based on medical qualifications (5 CFR§§339); and
      3. Suitability determinations involving material, intentional false statement, deception or fraud in examination or appointment, or refusal to furnish testimony as required by 5 CFR §731.103(a).
    3. Pass over requests requiring OPM approval must be sent to the HHS OHR for review and concurrence. OHR will send the request to OPM if it concurs with the request. HR Centers must submit the following documentation to HHS OHR:
      1. Completed SF-62, Agency Request to Passover a Preference Eligible or Object to an Eligible, www.opm.gov/Forms/pdf_fill/SF62.pdf;
      2. Resume/Application package to include title, series, and grade;
      3. Copy of Position Description;
      4. Copy of Vacancy Announcement;
      5. Certificate of Eligibles; and
      6. A memorandum approved by the HR Director with a description of the reason sufficient to sustain an objection/pass over.
    4. No correspondence is sent to a 30 percent or more compensable disabled applicant until HHS OHR concurrence is received. Only after OPM has approved the pass over of the preference eligible may the 30 percent or more compensable disabled veteran be passed over and another applicant selected.
    5. OpDivs/StaffDivs should be mindful of 5 U.S.C. §3320 and 5 CFR §332.406 when considering reasons for passing over a preference eligible, and consult with their legal counsel, if necessary, on whether the justification is likely to meet the standard of making selections in the same manner and under the same conditions required for the competitive service, as required by 5 U.S.C. §3320.

302-1-90 Other Actions And Appointment Time Limits

  1. Details. Details of employees in the excepted service are made in accordance with the rules under 5 CFR §300.301, and HHS Instruction 300-3, Details and IPA Assignments.
  2. Reassignments. Individuals reassigned to another position without promotion or change to lower grade, level or band must meet the qualification requirements described in 302-1-60 B. of this Instruction for the excepted service position (series and grade).
  3. Promotions.
    1. The merit system principles apply to promotions within the excepted service; therefore, the employee must compete/have competed for the proposed position/grade level(s) otherwise the action is a prohibited personnel practice (5 U.S.C. §§2301 and 2302).
    2. Promotions within the excepted service are not subject to the time-in-grade restrictions outlined in 5 CFR Part 300, Subpart F; however, employees must meet the qualification requirements for the position (series and grade). Time-in-grade restrictions outlined in 5 CFR Part 300, Subpart F, apply to movement to or within the competitive service; therefore, while promotions within the excepted service are not subject to time-in-grade; promotions upon non-competitive conversion to the competitive service (for excepted service authorities that authorize non-competitive conversion) are subject to time-in-grade restrictions.
    3. The requirements such as age, height, and weight in determining qualifications for a promotion for a preference eligible are waived unless the qualification(s) is/are essential to the performance of the duties of the position (5 CFR §302.403).
    4. The physical requirements of a position in cases of promotion are waived if, in the opinion of the employing OpDiv/StaffDiv, and after considering the recommendation of an accredited physician, the preference eligible is physically able to perform the duties of the position (5 CFR §302.403).
  4. Reappointments. OpDivs/StaffDivs may reappoint a current or former non-temporary federal employee who is a preference eligible to a vacant HHS position without regard to the names of qualified applicants on HHS’ PRL or a regular employment list (5 CFR §302.402).
  5. Appointment Time Limits. The time limits described under 5 CFR §213.104 for temporary, time-limited, intermittent, or seasonal excepted appointments are followed.

302-1-100 Appeals

  1. Excepted service employees who meet the definition of ‘employee’ under 5 U.S.C §7511(a)(1)(B)-(C) are generally entitled to appeal rights to the MSPB. Servicing Employee Relations staff should be consulted when dealing with unacceptable performance and/or employee misconduct to ensure actions are in compliance with law, regulations, HHS policy, and applicable collective bargaining agreement(s).
  2. Individuals entitled to priority consideration who are preference eligibles, or suffered a compensable injury, have appeal rights to the MSPB if they believe their reemployment rights were violated (5 CFR §§302.103; 302.304(a) and 302.501).

302-1-110 Personnel Actions

  1. OPM’s Guide to Processing Personnel Actions, Chapter 11, Excepted Service Appointments, is used when processing personnel actions, and the specific law/statute, Executive Order (E.O.), or Schedule (A. B, C, etc.) authority that authorizes the appointment must be cited.
  2. Tenure is assigned following guidance in OPM’s Guide to Data Standards. Generally, time- limited or temporary appointments are Tenure Code 3; individuals serving trial periods are assigned Tenure Code 2; and employees who have completed trial periods and are on permanent appointments are Tenure Code 1.

302-1-120 Documentation and Accountability

  1. Records associated with hiring actions should be retained in individual recruitment case files to allow for third-party reconstruction. Records associated with personnel actions, including all documentation sufficient for third party reconstruction purposes, must be retained according to the record disposition schedule. Generally, all records created in a given year must be retained for a total of three (3) full years. Records involved in litigation and grievance processes may be destroyed only after official notification is received from OPM, Department of Justice, courts, the Office of the General Counsel, etc. that the matter has been fully litigated, or resolved, and closed.
  2. HHS OHR will conduct periodic accountability reviews to analyze compliance with this Instruction, HHS and OPM policy and guidance, and all applicable federal laws and regulations.
Sours: https://www.hhs.gov/about/agencies/asa/ohr/hr-library/302-1/index.html
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The excepted service and the competitive service are two different classifications for federal jobs. Whether you are already a federal employee, or are applying for a federal job for the first time, either of these could present some significant advantages and disadvantages in your career. But what is the difference, and what do these differences mean to you?

What is the Excepted Service?

If you are in the excepted service, it means that you didn’t have to undergo the same hiring process as federal employees in the competitive service.  Simply put, the competitive service has to follow the U.S. Office of Personnel Management’s hiring rules, pay scales, and so on.  Agencies or positions in the excepted service don’t. In addition, Veteran’s Preference — which means if there is a veteran who meets the qualifications of the job, he or she gets priority over other equally qualified candidates — applies to competitive service jobs, but not to the excepted service.

This has many implications for federal employees. If you have a job in the competitive service, you have already gone through the OPM’s hiring process, including the thorough hiring examination. Once you have done it once, you don’t have to do it again, even if you want to transfer to another job in the competitive service.

If you have a job in the excepted service, on the other hand, you may not have the same mobility. Some excepted service agencies have an agreement that allows employees to transfer to the competitive service without undergoing the hiring examination, but not all of them do. Usually, in order to have this sort of agreement, an excepted service agency must have a similar merit scale to what the competitive service uses.

Just because excepted service jobs use different a hiring process than the thorough OPM hiring exam, doesn’t mean they are necessarily easier jobs to get. Many excepted service jobs have much more difficult hiring standards, such as the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), which has an extensive background check that can take as long as a year to complete.  Because of the strict requirements and the sensitive nature of the job, the agency has to be excepted from OPM hiring standards.

Although calling it the excepted service makes these jobs sound like an exception, and therefore fewer than those in the competitive service, in fact the excepted service makes up about half of all federal jobs. Thirty-one percent of federal jobs are with the U.S. Post Office, the biggest excepted service agency, and about 20 percent are with other agencies within the excepted service. Individual positions can also fall under the excepted service, even if the agency the position is in is part of the competitive service, due to the unique requirements of the job.

How Do Positions or Agencies Become Excepted?

Positions and agencies in the excepted service are usually there for one of a few different reasons. As already discussed, jobs are often in the excepted service because the hiring requirements have to be stricter, such as in the case of the CIA. Agencies that require a very narrow specialty, such as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), may also be in the excepted service, which allows them to offer better pay scales and benefits in order to attract highl specialized professionals.

A third group of excepted service jobs are there because a person’s qualifications for the job can’t be judged as well as in other fields. A few examples are attorneys, special agents, and chaplains. And finally, if the position deals with confidential information, such as a cabinet advisor or secretary, it typically falls into the excepted service.

In order to become part of the excepted service, however, an agency or a position has to be defined as such by statute, by the President, or by OPM. Excepted service positions are further classified into Schedules A, B, and C, as well as non-career executive assignments.

Should I Take the Job?

Competitive service versus excepted service can limit your career options somewhat. For instance, if you already have a federal job, you may not be able to transfer easily if you are in the excepted service. Competitive service employees, on the other hand, can transfer to another federal job without having to undergo the OPM hiring exam again, as can employees in certain excepted service agencies, such as the NRC.

If you are applying for a federal job for the first time, you might want to consider this as a significant disadvantage of taking a job in the excepted service. Before taking the job, find out if the agency has an interchange agreement that would allow you to more easily move into a competitive service position at a later date.

One other disadvantage is the lengthy hiring process of some agencies or positions in the excepted service. The CIA is a good example, as its background check can take as long as a year.

However, there are some advantages to taking a job in the excepted service, whether or not you are already a federal employee. For instance, some excepted service agencies, such as the NRC, offer better pay scales and benefits packages than the competitive service. It is definitely worth comparing these factors to comparable jobs in the competitive service.

In addition, first-timers may find it easier to “break into” a federal job in the excepted service.  Whereas competitive service position openings often hire internally, only considering applicants who already work in the competitive service, excepted service positions are more often open to all applicants. Also, even though you cannot transfer as easily from the excepted service, you may still find it easier to move into a competitive service job later on, since you will be more likely to have the correct qualifications.

It’s impossible to say whether the competitive or excepted service is right for you, since this varies for everyone and every individual situation. The first step toward making this decision, however, is understanding the differences between the two, as well as the advantages and disadvantages offered by both.

© 2021 Jason Kay. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from Jason Kay.

Sours: https://www.fedsmith.com/2010/11/28/federal-job-classifications-competitive-vs-excepted/
Veterans Preference and Special Hiring Authorities 101

Excepted service

The excepted service is the part of the United States federal civil service that is not part of either the competitive service or the Senior Executive Service. It provides streamlined hiring processes to be used under certain circumstances.


Most civilian positions in the federal government of the United States are part of the competitive service, where applicants must compete with other applicants in open competition under the merit system administered by the Office of Personnel Management. However, some agencies (and some positions within other agencies) are excluded from these provisions. Although they primarily operate on a merit basis also, they have their own hiring systems and evaluation criteria. These agencies are called excepted service agencies and such positions are part of the excepted civil service.

The primary common denominator of many of these agencies and positions is that they have national security and/or intelligence functions, such as the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, Central Intelligence Agency, the Department of State, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Secret Service, and the NCIS. Attorney positions, Presidential Management Fellows, Presidential Innovation Fellows, and Foreign Service positions are examples of positions excepted across-the-board in all Federal agencies. Not all excepted service members serve in sensitive areas—for example, teachers and administrators at DOD schools, both in the U.S. and overseas, are also excepted, as are all patent examiners. In addition, most employees in the legislative branch of the federal government are excepted service employees.

One key factor concerning the excepted service is that employees have fewer appeal rights (compared to positions in the competitive service) in the event of disciplinary actions or job termination. For example, non-veteran employees in the excepted service are generally barred from appealing adverse agency personnel decisions to the United States Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) or to the Federal courts for their first two years of employment, whereas employees in the competitive service have a one-year probationary period. Some members of the excepted service, including some of those in intelligence agencies and all Central Intelligence Agency employees, have no right to an external appeal at all.[1] Excepted service agencies have consistently claimed that they need the speed and flexibility afforded by being in the excepted service in order to perform their missions and maintain good order and discipline.

Legal basis[edit]

From 5 U.S.C. § 2103:

(a) For the purpose of this title, the excepted service consists of those civil service positions which are not in the competitive service or the Senior Executive Service.

(b) As used in other Acts of the United States Congress, “unclassified civil service” or “unclassified service” means the “excepted service”.

Hiring authorities[edit]

Circle frame.svg
  •   Schedule A: 13.8%
  •   Schedule B: 1.3%
  •   Schedule C: 0.2%
  •   Schedule D: 2.5%
  •   Executive: 0.1%
  •   Other: 82.1%
Excepted service positions by hiring
authority in 2015[2]

A hiring authority is the law, executive order, or regulation that allows an agency to hire a person into the federal civil service.[3]

Office of Personnel Management schedules[edit]

Some service positions are classified by the Office of Personnel Management into four categories, although not all excepted service authorities fall into this classification:

  • Schedule A appointments are "impracticable to examine". They are used to appoint specific position types such as attorneys, chaplains, physicians; when there is a critical hiring need or the position is in a remote location; and to hire disabled applicants. In addition to this, as of 2016, there were 122 agency-unique Schedule A hiring authorities.[2][4]
  • Schedule B appointments are "not practicable to hold a competitive examination". Schedule B appointees must meet the qualification standards for the job. As of 2016, there were 36 agency-unique Schedule B hiring authorities.[2][4]
  • Schedule C appointments are political appointments to confidential or policy-setting positions.[2][4]
  • Schedule D appointments are those where competitive service requirements "make impracticable the adequate recruitment of sufficient numbers". These are known as the Pathways Programs, which consist of the Internship Program, Recent Graduates Program, and Presidential Management Fellows Program.[2][4]
  • Schedule E appointments are administrative law judges.[5]

In addition to these schedules, the Donald J Trump Administration established Schedule F, designed to apply to "confidential, policy-determining, policy-making, or policy-advocating positions".[6]. On his second full day in office, President Joe Biden eliminated Schedule F through an Executive Order.[7]

Schedules A and B were created by the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act of 1883, Schedule C was created in 1956, and Schedule D was created in 2012.[2] Schedule E was created in 2018[5] and Schedule F in 2020.[6] The creation of Schedule F by the Trump administration was controversial, as it was estimated to cause tens or hundreds of thousands of career employees to lose civil service protections,[8] and increase the number of political appointments by a factor of ten.[9] The Office of Management and Budget placed 88% of its career staff into Schedule F positions in December 2020, but that action was nullified by the elimination of Schedule F on January 22, 2021.[10]

Other hiring authorities[edit]

Several excepted service hiring authorities are not classified into the four schedules. Some of the more prevalent include:

  • Title 38 appointments are for the Department of Veterans Affairs to hire certain medical occupations.[3] The National Institutes of Health also uses Title 38 appointments for health care occupations that provide direct patient care services or services incident to it.[11]
  • There is an excepted service hiring authority for National Guard technicians, used for the Army Reserve Technician Program and Air Reserve Technician Program.[3]
  • There is a special Veterans Recruitment Appointment authority.[3]
  • There are also agency-wide excepted service authorities, of which the largest are the Transportation Security Administration and Federal Aviation Administration.[3]
  • A Title 42 appointment allows scientists and special consultants to be hired as part of the Public Health Service or Environmental Protection Agency under a streamlined process.[12][13]
  • The Senior Biomedical Research Service, formally the Silvio O. Conte Senior Biomedical Research and Biomedical Product Assessment Service, is for scientific and technical experts in biomedical research, clinical research evaluation, and biomedical product assessment.[14] It was created by the Federal Employees Pay Comparability Act of 1990[15][16] and implemented in 1995, because the National Institutes of Health concluded that the Senior Executive Service was not ideally suited for their purposes, and a personnel system more similar to academia was needed.[16] Initially there was a cap of 500 individuals in the Service,[16][17] but the 21st Century Cures Act increased this to 2000 individuals in 2016.[17]

Principal excepted agencies[edit]

The following are selected excepted service agencies:[18]


  1. ^https://fas.org/irp/gao/nsiad-96-6.pdf
  2. ^ abcdef"Excepted Service Hiring Authorities: Their Use and Effectiveness in the Executive Branch"(PDF). U.S. Office of Personnel Management. 2018-07-01. pp. 1–2, 9, 20. Retrieved 2019-03-03.
  3. ^ abcde"Federal Hiring: OPM Needs to Improve Management and Oversight of Hiring Authorities". U. S. Government Accountability Office. 2016-09-01. pp. 0, 9–11.
  4. ^ abcd"Federal Hiring Flexibilities Resource Center". U.S. Office of Personnel Management. Retrieved 2019-03-04.
  5. ^ ab"Executive Order Excepting Administrative Law Judges from the Competitive Service". whitehouse.gov. 2018-07-10. Archived from the original on 2021-01-20. Retrieved 2020-10-24 – via National Archives.
  6. ^ ab"Executive Order on Creating Schedule F In The Excepted Service". whitehouse.gov. 2020-10-21. Archived from the original on 2021-01-30. Retrieved 2020-10-24 – via National Archives.
  7. ^www.whitehouse.gov
  8. ^Rein, Lisa; Yoder, Eric (2020-10-22). "Trump issues sweeping order for tens of thousands of career federal employees to lose civil service protections". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2020-10-24.
  9. ^Ogrysko, Nicole (2020-10-23). "What they're saying about the new Schedule F". Federal News Network. Retrieved 2020-10-24.
  10. ^"OMB Reportedly Designates 88% of Its Employees for Schedule F".
  11. ^"NIH Policy Manual: Title 38 Premium Pay". U.S. National Institutes of Health. Retrieved 2019-03-19.
  12. ^"Pay for Consultants and Scientists Appointed under Title 42". U.S. Government Accountability Office. B-323357. 2012-07-12. pp. 2–5, 17, 20. Retrieved 2019-03-03.
  13. ^"HHS and EPA Can Improve Practices Under Special Hiring Authorities". U. S. Government Accountability Office. GAO-12-692. 2012-07-12. pp. 0–6, 11, 25. Retrieved 2019-03-03.
  14. ^"HHS Instruction 42-3: Senior Biomedical Research and Biomedical Product Assessment Service". U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 2020-06-03. Retrieved 2020-11-22.
  15. ^H.R. 5241, Pub.L. 101–509
  16. ^ abcHooper, Celia (January–February 1995). "Title 38, SBRS raise salary caps". The NIH Catalyst. Retrieved 2020-11-22.
  17. ^ abDenigan-Macauley, Mary (2020-05-08). "Biomedical Research: HHS Has Not Yet Used New Authorities to Improve Recruitment and Retention of Scientists". U. S. Government Accountability Office. Retrieved 2020-11-22.
  18. ^"Excepted Service Information & Employment Opportunities"(PDF). U.S. Office of Personnel Management. 2010-01-15.
Sours: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Excepted_service

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