How do I get a job in the White House?

Non-Career Positions

President-elect Barack Obama and his economic team hold a press conference.
President-elect Barack Obama and his economic team hold a press conference.
Brian Kersey/­Getty Images

­Some of the most important government roles in the United States are appointed non-career positions. There are four main kinds of appointments: presidential appointments that require consent from the Senate (PAS), presidential appointments that do not require confirmation (PA), Non-Career Senior Executive Service positions (NC-SES) and Schedule C positions.

Congress determines how many PAS and NC-SES appointments the president can make. But the president decides how many PA and Schedule C positions will be in his or her administration. Positions in the PAS category include high-ranking cabinet roles and judiciary appointments. PA positions include the president's executive staff. NC-SES jobs are senior management positions -- typically with titles like deputy undersecretary or bureau director. And a person in a Schedule C job is responsible for determining policies and working with the key appointments in a confidential manner [source: Progressive Government].

According to the Progressive Government Web site, the White House can fill 6,478 appointed positions during a term. That sounds like a lot of jobs, but it's nothing compared to the number of applications. According to The New York Times, the Obama-Biden administration received more than 200,000 résumés within three weeks of launching the application site.

That brings us back to the application process. Here's a summary of the information you must include when submitting an application to

  • Your name, address and citizenship status
  • A résumé
  • Y­our educational background
  • Your managerial experience
  • Your public speaking experience
  • Your private sector, government, non-profit and political experience
  • The desired position
  • At least three references


There is another section in which applicants can submit optional information such as their gender, race and political party affiliation.

If you get beyond this first round, you'll have to answer more questions. Time Magazine reports that the seven-page personnel application includes 63 questions -- some of a very personal nature. That's because anyone holding a political position comes under intense scrutiny. The most intimate personal details sometimes take center stage -- things you considered private become topics of public discussion.

That's why the application asks tough perso­nal questions about your lifestyle and interactions with other people. It even grills you about your online activity. For example, it asks if you've ever sent e-mails or instant messages to other people that could become embarrassing to the administration if they were revealed to the public.

­One of the more controversial questions addresses gun ownership. The question asks if the applicant or an immediate family member owns a gun, if the gun is registered, if the registration ever lapsed and if the gun has caused personal injuries or property damage. Some gun advocacy groups claim that this question indicates the Obama administration is against personal gun ownership [source: Buckeye Firearms Association].

Even after passing the application, the journey isn't over. The applicant can expect the FBI to perform a full background check, including visits to friends, family, neighbors, schools and workplaces. And some positions then require the applicant to appear before the Senate for approval before getting the post.

­What if you don't want to go through this process, but still want to work at the White House? We'll look at internships and career jobs next.