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Careers with the Northern Plains Area

Applicant Information:


The Northern Plains Area offers a multitude of interesting and challenging career opportunities as well as temporary employment for students and post-docs.  The 14 locations in the Northern Plains Area range from small towns to mid-sized cities, and nearly all locations are in the same city as a university, or near a university.  The home communities of the NPA locations provide enviable and affordable lifestyles ??? friendly communities, abundant outdoor recreational opportunities, outstanding school systems, and rewarding career possibilities.  To learn more about each location in the Northern Plains Area, click on the desired location under NPA Research Locations, or click here.

The Northern Plains Area complies with all EEO rules and regulations, and is committed to a diversified work force.  Men, women and members of historically underrepresented groups are invited to consider ARS as a career.  Citizenship restrictions apply (learn more about the citizenship requirements and restrictions at:

Vacancy announcements for positions in ARS can be viewed through the ARS careers website (  Many NPA locations also list job openings on their web sites. When applying for a federal position, it is critical that applicants complete all application steps, and pay careful attention to the KSAs (knowledge, skills and abilities) and be sure to accurately and thoroughly respond to the specialized knowledge criteria.  The ARS careers website is filled with practical advice and guidance on navigating the federal employment application process, so be sure to spend some time looking through the site to learn more about KSAs, specialized knowledge, etc.

The following links provide brief background information on four selected job categories:

Research Scientists and Engineers

Research scientists conduct cutting-edge research in a number of agriculturally-related fields, and ARS scientists have been involved in a number of remarkable discoveries and patents.  In addition to working in exciting and rewarding scientific endeavors, ARS/NPA scientists enjoy competitive pay and benefits and up-to-date research facilities. Nearly 300 scientists are employed in the Northern Plains Area, and there are typically anywhere from one to half a dozen or so vacancies at any given time.  Check the ARS Careers Website for current openings (

Postdoctoral Research Associates (post-docs)

The NPA also offers post-doc positions, to candidates who have completed all requirements for the Ph.D (preferably within four years of accepting a post-doc).  Post-doc positions are available for up to two years, and the pay and benefits are highly competitive.  Check the ARS Careers Website for current openings ( 

Administrative, Technical, Clerical, and Trades

The NPA employs talented individuals in a wide variety of occupations, including technicians, secretaries, information technology, and administration.  Vacancies are listed on the ARS careers website.  To learn more about job categories, and to view thousands of federal vacancies, click on the following website:

Students and Summer Programs

There are a variety of possible employment situations for high school and college students throughout the Northern Plains Area.  There are four distinct programs designed exclusively for students:  STEP (Student Temporary Employment Program); SCEP (Student Career Experience Program); Summer Internship Program; and Summer Apprenticeship Program. 

STEP:  This program employs students (at least 16 years of age) in any occupation on a temporary basis (full-time or part-time) not to exceed one year during the school year and/or during the summer (there are no restrictions on the number of reappointments).  STEP employees are assigned to any position in any series for which the student qualifies, although most STEP appointments start at the lower end of the GS schedule.  STEP employees earn sick leave, and those with appointments lasting 90 days or more earn annual leave. The student???s field of study need not be related to the job duties.  Also, STEP students may be non-competitively converted to the SCEP program. Students who are interested in STEP appointments should contact individual locations in the Northern Plains Area directly.

SCEP:  This program offers valuable work experience directly related to students??? academic field of study by providing work that enhances their academic studies. SCEP students may be eligible for permanent employment after successfully completing their education and meeting work requirements. SCEP employees earn sick and annual leave and are eligible to enroll in health and life insurance, participate in the Federal Employees Retirement System and Thrift Savings Plan.  Students who are interested in SCEP appointments should contact individual locations in the Northern Plains Area directly.

Summer Internship Program:  This program offers currently enrolled college students excellent summer paid internships to work with research scientists or other professionals in agriculturally related fields.  The rate of pay is generally at the GS-3 level ($10.19/hour in 2004), for an eight week internship.  Students who are interested in summer internships should contact individual locations in the Northern Plains Area directly.

Summer High School Apprenticeship Program.  This program is similar to the summer internship program, except that this is for high school students, and the rate of pay is generally at the GS-1 level ($8.30/hour in 2004) for an eight week apprenticeship.  Students who are interested in summer apprenticeships should contact individual locations in the Northern Plains Area directly.

Term and Competitive Temporary Appointments

Term Appointments

  • TERM appointments may be from 13 months up to a maximum of 4 years
  • It is imperative that when making the appointment, the selecting official is conservative in how long to make the appointment. TERM employees may not be terminated before their NTE date since it requires a Reduction in Force (RIF) action.
  • TERM appointment vacancies must be announced for a minimum of five days; open to U. S. citizens only.
  • Appropriate uses of the TERM authority:
    • To carry out special project work
    • To staff new or existing programs of limited duration
    • To fill positions in units in the process of being closed
    • To replace permanent employees who have been assigned to other positions, are on extended leave, or who have entered military service
  • Remark for SF-52. Be sure to include ???Appointment may be extended for up to a total of 4 years without further competition???. Without this remark, the position will have to be re-announced in order to extend.
  • Attach a justification memo
    • Pay and Benefits for Employees With Regularly Scheduled Tours of Duty:
      • Paid Leave and Holidays
      • Health and Life Insurance eligibility
      • FERS Retirement and TSP eligibility
      • Within Grade Increases
      • Position may have promotion potential
      • Does not confer status for permanent positions

Temporary Appointments (Competitive)

  • A non-status appointment in the competitive service not to exceed 1 year
  • Position may be extended for one additional year only
    • Pay and Benefits With Regularly Scheduled Tours of Duty:
      • Paid Leave and Holidays
      • Ineligible for health insurance unless extended into the second year. During second year, employee is responsible for total cost

Career Opportunities

The links below are to current ARS job openings listed at the official job site of the US Federal Government, USAJOBS.

ARS openings in Fargo, ND
ARS openings in North Dakota
ARS openings nationwide