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2024 Data Scientist (GS 11/12) Hire

USGS is hiring a data scientist (GS 11/12) to work in the Data Science branch in the Water Mission Area.

Date Posted July 3, 2024 Last Updated July 15, 2024
Author David Watkins
Reading Time 8 minutes Share
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UPDATE The job posting is open on USAJobs .

This July, the U.S. Geological Survey Water Mission Area will be hiring a GS-11/12 Data Scientist to join our Applied Data Science Team. We are looking for someone to add to the team’s MLOps and data engineering capability and contribute to high-impact water prediction projects.

About the role

This position will be a member of the Applied Data Science team, which houses the Data Science Branch’s model building and ML Ops capabilities. Current team members work on several water prediction projects, including operationalizing streamflow drought forecasts (likely to be a significant focus area for this role) as well as water temperature and lake depth prediction. The team has recently taken on a new responsibility for delivering forecasts, which is a relatively new area of work for the Water Mission Area.

Our projects often have a mix of research (i.e. publications) and operational (i.e. forecast delivery) goals. In either case we are typically working on greenfield projects and are the leaders in data science throughout the mission area, so there are many opportunities to use your engineering chops to make our model development workflows efficient and reproducible and enable smoothly operationalizing our models.

The position is telework eligible (i.e. hybrid) and the location of the duty station negotiable. The USGS has office locations in many parts of the country. Remote work is possible in limited cases but not guaranteed.

Duties include

  • Contribute to the Data Science Branch set of capabilities with special emphasis on operationalizing ML models and data pipelines in the cloud.
  • Build, test and deploy data pipelines to cloud resources in collaboration with an interdisciplinary project team
  • Engage in project planning, building prototypes, and/or aid in the design of concepts that bring data science approaches into USGS-Water Mission Area research.
  • Identify patterns and outliers in datasets and apply existing software tools and known procedures to collect and analyze structured and unstructured data

About the application process

Hiring for federal government positions follows a particular set of processes that are often somewhat different from other organizations, so we hope this blog post makes the process and requirements clear.

This position is an interdisciplinary job series (physical scientist – 1301 , biologist – 0401 , and mathematical statistician – 1529 ) which means as long you meet the minimum education and experience requirements for one of the included job series, you may be referred to the hiring manager.

How to find the vacancy announcement

The position is a permanent federal position at the GS-11 or 12 experience level. Apply online at, where the position will be open to applicants between 07/15/2024 to 07/19/2024. We will update this blog with the link to the vacancy once it opens.

The position may close early if there are more than 50 applicants. In that case, the vacancy will close at 11:59 PM ET on the day when that threshold is passed (all applications received before that time will be considered). For all positions, an unofficial transcript and detailed resume summarizing job qualifications and relevant skills is needed. We strongly encourage having your application materials ready for the first day the posting is open, as the applicant quota may fill quickly.

For additional information, please contact the hiring manager (David Watkins).

Our Commitment to Diversity, Inclusion, and Transparency

We are committed to creating a diverse and inclusive workplace where all employees feel valued and have the support they need to thrive. We believe that a diverse team brings a wide range of perspectives, experiences and ideas that drive innovation and improve our ability to deliver cutting edge science. We encourage applicants from all backgrounds, including those from underrepresented groups, to apply for these positions.

Additional Information

Calculating the value of the job While pay scales within federal government cannot compete directly with the private sector for data science job compensation, there are additional benefits you should weigh when calculating the value of the job.

Pay - The pay and responsibilities of this job are defined by general schedule (GS) grades, which are roughly equivalent to levels of work experience. This position will be advertised at the GS-11 and 12 levels. Salary bands are started at the nation-wide GS Base Pay Scale and then adjusted for location. To find what salary band you’d be looking at, visit OPM’s GS 2024 Salary Table , scroll down to the locality that matches your geographic area, and look at Grade 11 and 12. If your geographic area is not listed, then you are in the “Rest of United States” pay locality. The “steps” in the grade are intermediate performance-based pay increases between grades. Typically, new hires into the federal government start at “Step 1”.

Benefits - This position includes health and life insurance. The federal government pays for 75% of the biweekly premium for health benefits and 33% of the premium for life insurance. Other benefits include 5% retirement match in the Thrift Savings Program, 11 federal holidays, 13 sick days + 13 vacation days per year (for new federal hires, which increases to 20 vacation days after three years), 12 weeks paid parental leave, and accrual of federal service to count towards a pension (typically an additive 1% of the average of your highest 3 years of salary for each year of service). See the USGS new hire pay and benefits information page for more details.

Intangibles - If the mission of public service towards advancing environmental science communication and data delivery resonates with you, there will be no shortage of energy and motivation as you work with great colleagues on these challenges. Likewise, a flexible schedule and emphasis on work life balance are important components to work at the USGS.

How to Apply

Creating a USA Jobs account - These federal positions will be posted and filled using public vacancy announcements on . If you are remotely interested in applying to any of the positions mentioned here or elsewhere, get ahead by creating an account as soon as you can. Having an active account will allow you to set up job filters and get a jump start on getting your application materials together. We highly suggest reading guidance from USGS Water Mission Area’s Chief of Staff on how to develop a federal resume (which is quite different from the private sector).

Qualifying for the GS-11 and 12 grades - We recognize that individuals from a wide range of backgrounds and different experiences will be able to excel at this job. That said, federal pay grades and job series have requirements that applicants must meet for the system to pass you on to the pool that we can then review. We CAN’T STRESS THIS ENOUGH: see USGS tips for combining graduate education and experience and spell out how you meet the grade and job series qualifications. One way to do this is to attach an additional document to the hiring package that makes this math clear to HR. We will be advertising a combination of biologist, physical scientist, and mathematical statistician job series.

  • Possess an undergraduate degree related to the field for the job series to which you are applying: physical scientist – 1301 , biologist – 0401 , mathematical statistician – 1529 OR a combination of education and experience for a total of 4 years which includes at least 24 hours semester hours of education of biology or physical science coursework or 12 hours mathematics and 6 hours statistics
  • One year of specialized experience (see below) at or equal to the next lowest grade to which you are applying

Specialized experience - We’re using USGS’s direct hire authority (DHA) to post public positions and see a wide candidate pool. We expect a lot of applications and are planning on interviewing lots of people. By using DHA, we will be able to consider any candidate who meets the minimum educational and work experience for the job series (see above) and the Specialized Experience that we’ve defined for the role. Some examples of specialized experience for each grade level include:

For GS-11:

  • Contributing to moderately sized projects involving physical, hydrologic, biological, natural resources, or geospatial data and/or information delivery use of a variety of data collection and processing methods
  • Building reproducible data pipelines in modern programming languages (e.g., R, Python)
  • Writing test suites for code bases
  • Data visualization
  • Training or utilizing artificial intelligence / machine learning models
  • Advancing current data users’ workflows

For GS-12:

  • Development of best practices that improve reproducibility, data quality, automation, documentation, and/or efficiency of software code planning and executing complex projects involving physical, hydrologic, biological, natural resources, or geospatial data and/or information delivery
  • Use of a variety of data collection and processing methods,
  • Reproducible data pipelines in modern programming languages (e.g., R, Python)
  • Data visualization
  • Design, development, and/or deployment of artificial intelligence / machine learning models
  • Advancing current data users’ workflows
  • Deploying data pipelines or models on cloud resources

Specialized Experience includes the demonstration of specific skills for a minimum of one year, so make sure to be explicit about how you’ve met these requirements in your resume.

Materials – You’ll need a resume and educational transcripts (unofficial are OK). Again, to make sure HR can see that you’re qualified, make sure your resume explicitly ties your experience to each of the qualifications listed for the grades you are applying for and also the Specialized Experience section.


After the application window closes, HR combs through applications and filters for candidates who meet the GS Grade qualification and specialized experience. Then they’ll pass on that entire list to the hiring manager – in this case, David Watkins . The hiring manager will contact all the qualified candidates for additional information and will set up interviews, visits, or writing/code requests. From there, they will refer a selected candidate to HR, and HR will extend an offer. After HR makes an offer, that is your chance to negotiate the offer and ultimately accept or reject it. Once negotiations are done and you accept the offer, HR will perform a background check. Then you agree to a start date and at that time your employment at the USGS begins!


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