How does President Trump's Presidential Memorandum Regarding the Hiring Freeze affect academic jobs in the United States? Does it have any impact on public universities or research labs? Does it have any practical effect on people currently seeking academic or research jobs?

I am not fully familiar with how education and research is organized within the US.

  • 1
    Not a US citizen by myself, but most of the jobs you will find are not federally-employed.
    – Ambicion
    Jan 24, 2017 at 11:51
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    It's not even clear to me which jobs the freeze refers to. All people paid by the federal government? All people employed by the government? All people employed in an administrative position by the government? Does e.g. NASA jobs count? How about national laboratories like Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory?
    – Charles
    Jan 24, 2017 at 12:01
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    At least in Germany, news outlets reported that a temporary hiring freeze for federally-paid positions (except military) is customary in the U.S. whenever a new president assumes his or her post. I am not sure how accurate that statement is, but if it is true, you may want to look at previous years. Jan 24, 2017 at 12:52
  • 1
    To further the comment by @Charles - people at national labs (like Lawrence Livermore (NNSA) or Lawrence Berkeley (DOE Office of Science) ) are not federal employees. Now, budget uncertainties may impact hiring in the short term as the new administrations priorities shake down through the system...
    – Jon Custer
    Jan 24, 2017 at 14:55
  • "Does it have any impact on public universities" - Public university employees are not federal government employees, except for the very small group of colleges and universities run by the federal government (e.g. USNA.)
    – ff524
    Jan 24, 2017 at 19:18

1 Answer 1


It's complicated.

In the United States the interplay between federal employment and academic positions isn't very clear-cut. This has resulted in unusual situations where members of the same department may be employees of a number of different entities and may be either federal employees, university employees, or organization employees (ex. Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CaF)).

The text of the memorandum includes the following:

As part of this freeze, no vacant positions existing at noon on January 22, 2017, may be filled and no new positions may be created, except in limited circumstances.


Moreover, it does not limit the hiring of personnel where such a limit would conflict with applicable law.

The "except in limited circumstances" is the relevant bit because it means it means that open (or opening) positions may still be filled. From a pragmatical standpoint, it means that if a job positing went up after January 22, 2017, odds are someone can be hired into it.

Another line that is relevant is the following:

Contracting outside the Government to circumvent the intent of this memorandum shall not be permitted.

This means that organizations that hire contractors are likely to put new contract roles on hold unless the position is vital to national defense. This may impact national labs, but is heavily dependent upon what the line of funding for the contract is. Be sure to ask about this if you are interviewing for a role.

Since this memorandum does not impact grant funding, academic and research positions that are paid through an existing line of funding are exempt.

In terms of actually conducting a job search. If you are on USAJOBS you should pay close attention to the details of the posting since some since some organizations like the CaF advertise for non-federal employees on there. These jobs would not be impacted by a federal hiring freeze. Likewise, positions that are in exempt from hiring freezes due to legislation (ex. medical professionals) are also not impacted. Positions at state and private universities would also not be impacted, and would unlikely to be advertised on USAJOBS.

Generally the most basic rule of thumb is that if you are applying for a job that is listed under the General Schedule there is a high likelihood that the hiring freeze applies.


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