The State Worker

How to get a state job: getting past classifications

California has more than 3,800 vacant state job positions right now. Departments want applicants. But there’s a obstacle from the start: How do you find a job when you don’t know what it’s called?

You want to be a writer. The state calls that job an “editorial technician.” You’d like to be a lifeguard. The state is looking for a “State Park Peace Officer Cadet.”

Learning the arcane language of California’s state-government job titles can be a daunting task.

State workers probably already understand the system of job classifications – terms for large swaths of workers that, like military ranks, can cover what the uninitiated think of as actual jobs. Some classifiers extend across the state’s departments: You can find a “program technician” or an “office assistant” almost anywhere, although the titles may leave you guessing about the work itself.

Other job titles are more specific – the Aging Programs Analyst II classification, for example – but can still seem mysterious.

The state jobs site,, still uses those kinds of insider terms to label jobs, so searching by job title is nearly impossible for the uninitiated. If you search for “accountant” you might get a half-dozen hits of vacancies. Search “accounting” and you could get three times the hits. (The Department of Human Resources, which maintains the online job portal, is working on making the website more intuitive, like Google.)

It helps to understand the state’s job classification system first. Once you know a classification name, it’s easier to find out jobs that match your background. Check out this PDF with some state classifications listed by minimum-education requirement. You can also search job names here to get classification and salary information.

With that background info in hand, you can go back to the home page and plug in a job title to search for openings. After taking an exam to qualify to apply to jobs in a category, you’ll need to choose a specific position in a particular place.

Still confused? State human resources representatives say they often just ask prospective applicants what they want to do and then suggest which classifications might best fit.

CalHR holds lunchtime seminars in Sacramento, advertised here, where they can offer help to job seekers. The next one is scheduled for noon on July 14 at 801 Capitol Mall in Sacramento.

Andrew Holzman: 916-326-5545, @andrewlholzman

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