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This Position Is No Longer Available

Job Title:  Soil Conservationist (USDA Pathways Recent Graduates Program)
Department:  Department Of Agriculture
Agency:  Natural Resources Conservation Service
Hiring Organization:  Natural Resources Conservation Service
Job Announcement Number:  PA-14-1007094-EX-PT

This position is closed and no longer accepting online applications through USAJOBS.

The contents of the announcement can still be viewed.
$31,315.00 to $50,431.00 / Per Year
Friday, December 13, 2013 to Friday, December 27, 2013
Full Time - Recent Graduates
1 vacancy in the following location:
Lemont Furnace, PA View Map
Open only to applicants eligible under the Pathways Recent Graduates Program
Q - Nonsensitive


About the Agency

This vacancy announcement is open to applicants who have completed a qualifying associates, bachelors, masters, professional, doctorate, vocational, or technical degree or certificate from a qualifying educational institution such as an accredited technical or vocational school, 2-year or 4-year college or university, a graduate or professional school, or a post-secondary home school curriculum within the previous two years.  Exceptions to the two-year limit may be made for applicants who graduated between 12/27/2010 and 7/10/2012, and for veterans precluded from applying within two years of graduation due to their military service obligation (those veterans may have up to six years after degree completion to apply). Click here   for more information.  If you do not meet this criteria you will not be considered for this announcement.  


The Pathways Recent Graduates Program is a 1-year Excepted Appointment program structured to help prepare and promote individuals who have recently graduated from qualifying education institutions or programs for a possible career in the federal government.  This particular position is a developmental position located in Lemont Furnace, Pennsylvania, and is intended to prepare the applicant for a career as a Soil Conservationist, assisting our agency in carrying out conservation programs and activities. Applicants will be hired at either the GS-5 or GS-7 level, and if they successfully complete the program may be non-competitively converted to the competitive service after one year.




  • Occasional Travel
  • approximately 10%


  • No


  • You must be a US Citizen or US National
  • A valid state motor vehicle license is required if selected.
  • Must meet all Pathways Program eligibility requirements


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As a Soil Conservationist under the USDA Pathways Recent Graduate Program you will serve in a trainee capacity, performing routine and recurring developmental assignments that will help you acquire knowledge and understanding of the functions, principles, practices, and methods used to accomplish conservation activities and objectives. Some of those duties include:


Collaborate with peers to provide technical assistance to individuals and groups of farmers in the development, application, and maintenance of a wide variety of soil and water conservation plans and practices.


Assist in the analysis of workload; the development of business plans; the establishment of goals in line with needs, available manpower and other resources; and other facets of field office operations.


Help administer Farm Bill programs offered to producers in the assigned location, including explaining programs and eligibility requirements; develop conservation plans and contracts related to those programs; design, install, inspect, and certify conservation practices; and more.


Operate a government owned motor vehicle as an incidental driver.



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QUALIFICATIONS REQUIRED: To qualify for this position you must meet the basic education requirement and the specialized experience requirement listed below, and all eligibility requirements for the Pathways Recent Graduate Program. 


Basic Education Requirement:

A. Degree: soil conservation or related agricultural or natural resource discipline such as agronomy, soil science, forestry, agricultural education, or agricultural engineering. The study must have included 30 semester hours in a natural resource or agricultural field, including at least 12 semester hours in a combination of soils and crops or plant science. Of the 12 semester hours, a minimum of 3 semester hours must have been in soils and 3 semester hours in crops or plant science.


B. Combination of Experience and Education: at least 30 semester hours in one or more of the disciplines as shown in A above, including at least 12 semester hours in a combination of soils and crops or plant science, plus appropriate experience or additional education equivalent to a 4-year degree. Of the 12 semester hours, a minimum of 3 semester hours must have been in soils and 3 semester hours in crops or plant science.


You must submit a copy of your college transcripts OR a list of college courses with credit hours, dates completed, and grades received to verify that you possess the education listed above. Unofficial transcripts will be accepted. *Transcripts must be received by the closing date of this announcement. Non-submission of these documents will result in non-consideration.


Education completed in foreign colleges or universities may be used to meet the above requirements.  You must show that the foreign education is comparable to that received in an accredited educational institution in the United States It is your responsibility to provide such evidence when applying. Please visit OPM’s web site at for additional information on this topic.


Specialized Experience Requirement:

GS-5: Applicants who meet the basic education requirement above and all Pathways Recent Graduate Program requirements will be rated as qualified for this position at the GS-5 grade level. There is no specialized experience requirement at the GS-5 level.


GS-7: To qualify for this position at the GS-07 level you must also possess one year of specialized experience equivalent to the federal GS-5 level assisting in the installation of soil and water conservation practices, forestry practices, and/or wildlife conservation practices. Examples of this experience may include:

· Interpreting soil survey data for use in conservation plan development and compliance reviews, or

· Identifying and collecting on-site data to inventory natural resources and their condition, or

· Assisting farmers with the selection and application of sustainable cropping systems, grazing management and waste management systems.

OR- you must have completed (and documented) 1 year of graduate-level education in soil conservation or a directly related agricultural or natural resource discipline such as agronomy, soil science, forestry, agricultural education, or agricultural engineering.

OR- you must have (and document) an equivalent combination of graduate level education and specialized experience

OR- you must meet (and document) Superior Academic Achievement criteria in one of the following ways:

1. Class standing - Applicants must be in the upper third of the graduating class in the college, university, or major subdivision, such as the College of Liberal Arts or the School of Business Administration, based on completed courses.

2. Grade-point average (G.P.A.) - Applicants must have a grade-point average of: 3.0 or higher out of a possible 4.0 ('B' or better) as recorded on their official transcript, or as computed based on 4 years of education, or as computed based on courses completed during the final 2 years of the curriculum; or 3.5 or higher out of a possible 4.0 ('B+' or better) based on the average of the required courses completed in the major field or the required courses in the major field completed during the final 2 years of the curriculum.

3. Based on membership in a national scholastic honor society. Membership in a freshman honor society cannot be used to meet the requirements of this provision.


It is the applicant's responsibility to ensure they understand and document all qualifications requirements. All requirements must be met by the closing date of this announcement.

Education used to qualify for this position must have been obtained through an accredited educational institution.  Applicants may refer to the U.S. Department of Education's Institutional Accreditation System to determine whether their school/program is accredited:


Special requirements apply to education obtained through foreign colleges and universities.  See the Required Documents section of this announcement for details.


Pathways Recent Graduate Program Requirements:

You must be at least 16 years of age.


Recent Graduates serve a trial period for the duration of their excepted service appointment.


Recent graduates must sign a Pathways Recent Graduate Participant Agreement.


Recent Graduates will enter and must complete a formal training program with a mentor and an Individual Development Plan outlining training requirements and program expectations.


Other Requirements:

This position requires regular and recurring physical exertion related to conservation field work, including walking on rough terrain, jumping ditches or furrows, climbing steep banks, and exposure to operating agricultural equipment or earthmoving equipment, herbicides, and chemical spray conditions requiring safety precautions and/or protective equipment. Because much of the work is performed outdoors, there may be exposure to deep snow and ice conditions and other adverse weather conditions. Encounters with wild animals are also possible.

Background Investigation: To ensure the accomplishment of its mission, the Department of Agriculture requires each and every employee to be reliable and trustworthy. To meet those standards, all selected applicants must undergo (or have undergone) and successfully complete a background investigation for Suitability as a condition of placement in this Non-Sensitive level position. This review includes financial issues such as delinquency in the payment of debts, child support and/or tax obligations, as well as certain criminal offenses and illegal use or possession of drugs.

E-Verify: This employer will provide the Social Security Administration and, if necessary, the Department of Homeland Security with information of each new employee's Form I-9 to confirm work authorization.


Direct Deposit – Per Public Law 104-134 all Federal employees are required to have federal payments made by direct deposit to a financial institution of your choosing. 



We will review your resume and supporting documentation to ensure you meet the minimum qualification requirements and Pathways Program Requirements. If you meet the minimum qualifications, we will use a job questionnaire to further determine your eligibility based on your experience, education and training and will place you in one of the categories listed below using agency Category Rating Procedures. Your application will be rated on the extent and quality of your experience, education and training relevant to the position. Your resume must support that you meet the specialized experience requirements described above and are proficient in the skills or competencies listed below. Please note you are not required to provide narrative responses to the skills and competencies described in this section.




1.     Knowledge of the principles, methods and techniques of soil conservation and related sciences.

2.     Ability to collect, measure, and analyze data.

3.     Ability to work effectively and communicate well with others.


If you meet the minimum qualifications you will be placed in one of the following categories:

· Best Qualified: Applicants possessing a background that demonstrates a superior level of evaluation criteria.

· Well-Qualified: Applicants possessing a background that demonstrates a satisfactory level of evaluation criteria.

· Qualified: Applicants possessing the basic qualifications, with general knowledge, skills, and abilities.


Veterans: Veterans with 5-point preference who meet the eligibility and qualification requirements are placed above non-preference eligibles within the category in which they qualify. Veterans who have a compensable service-connected disability of at least 10% are listed in the best qualified category, except when the position being filled is scientific, professional at the GS-09 grade level or higher. For information on veterans' preference click here:


Note:  Your ratings in the Assessment Questionnaire are subject to evaluation and verification based on the documents and information you submit. Later steps in the selection process are specifically designed to verify your ratings. Attempts to falsify information, inflate your qualifications, or providing inaccurate information on federal documents may be grounds to adjust your rating or to not select you. Errors, omissions or providing inaccurate information on federal documents may also affect your eligibility and could be grounds for dismissing you from the position/agency. Please follow all instructions carefully and answer all questions accurately.






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You can review our benefits at:

The Federal government offers a number of exceptional benefits to its employees. Applicants hired under the USDA Pathways Recent Graduate Program receive full benefits as allowed by law.  We encourage you to follow the provided link for more information.




USDA Pathways Recent Graduate appointments are intended to last for a 1-year period, after which they may be converted to a TERM (1 to 4 year) or permanent appointment in the competitive service. Continued employment is not guaranteed, it is dependent on agency needs and funding and the applicant's successful completion of all conversion requirements.


This position is being advertised at both the GS-5 and GS-7 levels.  Management has the prerogative to select at any grade level.  The full performance level of this position is GS-09, and this recruitment provides promotion opportunity to the full performance level without further competition when the selectee is eligible and recommended by management.  However, promotion is not guaranteed and no promise of a promotion is implied.


On November 21, 2011, The President signed the VOW (Veterans Opportunity to Work) to Hire Heroes Act of 2011 (Public Law 112-56). The VOW Act amended chapter 21 of title 5, United States Code (U.S.C.) by adding section 2108a, “Treatment of certain individuals as veterans, disabled veterans, and preference eligible(s). This job opportunity announcement (JOA) includes Veterans Opportunity to Work (VOW) to Hire Heroes Act of 2011 (Public Law 112-56). Active duty service members who have begun their civilian job search prior to discharge or release from active duty will know how their application will be considered.  Applicants who are active duty service members and apply for federal employment shall be considered for competitive service positions and granted tentative veteran’s preference status when they submit a certification, in lieu of a DD-214, when applying to a federal job.  A certification is any written document from the armed forces that certifies that the service member is expected to be discharged or released from active duty under honorable conditions no later than 120 days from the date of certification is signed.









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Before you apply, please read the entire vacancy announcement and follow instructions carefully to ensure that your application is complete when submitted. 


To apply for this position, you must provide a complete Application Package which includes:

1. Your Résumé
2. A complete Occupational Questionnaire
3. Additional Required Documents (see Required Documents section below) 


The complete application package must be submitted by 11:59 PM (EST) by the closing date of this announcement Friday, December 27, 2013


You may apply for this position in two ways; see Option A and Option B below. Note: You must refer to the Required Documents section below to complete your application package regardless of which option you choose to apply.


OPTION A:  Electronic Submission

To begin the electronic submission process, click the Apply Online button to the right of this announcement to create a USAJOBS account or log into your existing USAJOBS account.  Be sure to upload all required documents before you submit your application.  

Please ensure you click the Submit My Answers button at the end of the process. 

Note:  To change or update your application, simply reapply through USAJOBS before the closing date of the announcement.  To check the status of your application, log into your USAJOBS account, select Application Status and click on the More Information link under the application status for this position.

OPTION B: If you cannot apply online

If you cannot apply online, your Resume, Required documents, and Occupational Questionnaire must be submitted as follows:

                   1.    Click the following link to view and print the occupational questionnaire View Occupational Questionnaire and

2.    Print the OPM Form 1203FX to provide your response to the occupational questionnaire. 

3.    Fax the completed 1203FX form along with all required and supporting documents to (478) 757-3144. Do not use a  separate coversheet. Your 1203FX form must be placed on top of all materials and will serve as a cover page for your fax transmission.

 4.   Keep a copy of your fax transmission receipt in case verification is needed.

 To fax supporting documents you are unable to upload through the online electronic submission process:


1.   Complete this cover page using the following Vacancy ID number:       1007094.  You must use this fax cover sheet in order for your documents to be matched with your online application.

2.   Fax this cover sheet and supporting documents to (478) 757-3144.




1.  Your résumé.


2. Your responses to the job questionnaire View Occupational Questionnaire


3. A copy of your college transcripts (unofficial is acceptable) documenting all required coursework Those with foreign education, click this link and ensure your documentation meets all requirements. Failure to provide these documents will result in a rating of ineligible.


4. Proof of eligibility to apply under the USDA Pathways Recent Graduate Program.  (See Job Summary section of this announcement for details.)  This may include proof of graduation after 12/27/2010, type of degree and awarding institution, documentation showing date of discharge from the military if applying outside the normal 2-year window, etc.  Failure to provide these documents will result in a rating of ineligible. 


5. Are you a veteran? Submit a copy of your DD 214 (Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty) that shows your type of discharge and character of service and documentation of service connected disability (if applicable).  Applicants who are active duty service members and apply for federal employment shall be considered for competitive service positions and granted tentative veteran’s preference status when they submit a certification, in lieu of a DD-214, when applying to a federal job. A certification is any written document from the armed forces that certifies that the service member is expected to be discharged or released from active duty under honorable conditions no later than 120 days from the date of certification is signed.   Click here for more veterans' information.



WARNING: All submitted documents (application/resume, college transcripts, etc.) must support each other. Any exaggeration or misrepresentation of your experience or education, or attempt to conceal information, is cause for not hiring you, removing you from a Federal position, or barring you from Federal employment in the future. Prior to appointment or promotion, you will be asked to sign and certify the accuracy of all the information in your application and complete a Declaration for Federal Employment (OF-306) to determine your suitability for Federal employment.


Donna Tatum
Phone: (505)761-4425
Agency Information:
PA NRCS State Office
One Credit Union Place
Harrisburg, PA


After all application packages have been received, we will review your résumé and transcripts to ensure you meet the basic qualification requirements.  If you are found to be basically qualified, we will evaluate your responses to the Online Questionnaire and refer the best qualified applicants to the selection manager for consideration.  The best-qualified applicants may or may not be asked to participate in an interview.  After making a tentative job offer, we will conduct a suitability and/or security background investigation.  A final job offer is typically made within 45 days after the deadline for applications has closed.



Status updates regarding this vacancy are generally made using email.  Should your email address change, please notify the point of contact identified in the vacancy announcement as soon as possible so that we can update our system.


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