Student Trainee (Economics)

Student Trainee (Econ) GS-0199-07/09


The Economic Research Service (ERS) is a primary source of economic information and research in the U.S. Department of Agriculture. ERS conducts a research program to inform public and private decision making on economic and policy issues involving food, farming, natural resources, and rural development. 

The ERS research program is aimed at the information needs of USDA, Congress, policy officials, the research community, and the public at large on economic and policy issues related to agriculture, food, natural resources, and rural development.

The incumbent is enrolled in the Internship Program of the Pathways Program. This position is designed to serve as a developmental experience and in conjunction with formal education, to provide the incumbent with the knowledge, skills, and/or abilities for employment in a civil service career. 

Upon successful program completion and having met all legal and regulatory requirements, the incumbent may be converted to a permanent position or a term position lasting 1-4 years. 


  • The incumbent performs provides technical support to economists, and/or independently performing assignments in accordance with established precedents. 
  • Performs individual research and analysis assignments of a well-defined scope and moderate difficulty. 
  • Supports project leaders in their preparation of complex projects, and helps conduct detailed phases of technical work as part of larger research projects. 
  • Uses a large variety of data sources and computer software tools to support data gathering, analysis, and dissemination. 
  • Completes a variety of assignments requiring the application of software and the design of information systems needed to support the analytical work of the incumbent and other agency economists. 
  • Prepares data and analysis for publication and briefings related to subject matter analysis and special studies. 


Factor 1: Knowledge Required by the Position

Knowledge of economic theory, principles, and analytical techniques to assist more senior economists and program specialists in their research and analytical work and to frequently complete individual projects of broad scope and increasing technical difficulty.

Skill in using statistical and database software (Excel, Access, Power Point) to develop and maintain databases and to serve as a team member and work alone in conducting empirical analyses and the ability to learn new computer skills as needed.

Ability to manipulate statistical data and present it graphically, in databases, and report formats that can be accessed using the Agency’s internet outlets.

Factor 2: Supervisory Controls

The supervisor levies assignments; determines objectives, priorities and deadlines; and assists the incumbent with unusual situations.  The incumbent plans and carries out the work, handling problems and deviations in accordance with instructions, Agency policy, previous training, or accepted professional practices.  Completed work is reviewed for technical adequacy, appropriateness, soundness, and conformance with Agency policy.

Factor 3:  Guidelines

Guidelines are available, but not completely applicable to the work, or have gaps in specificity.  Incumbent uses judgement in interpreting and adapting guidelines such as agency policy, regulations, etc., to specific problems.

Factor 4:  Complexity

Assignments are of greater variety and involve different but established methods, techniques, etc. Incumbent must select an appropriate course of action from a variety of possible alternatives.  The incumbent compiles, processes, evaluates and summarizes data used in the analysis of factors affecting the agricultural and economic status of a given subject‑matter or geographic region.

Factor 5:  Scope and Effect

The purpose of the work is to identify, analyze and present technical and economic information and brief analytical reports on various economic issues.  The information provided and the analyses performed serve to define economic issues and identify alternative approaches.

Factor 6:  Personal Contacts 

Contacts are with economists and other specialists in the Agency, and with professional staffs of other agencies involved in economic analysis with research work.  Many of these contacts are continuing so they tend to become routine. 

Factor 7:  Purpose of Contacts 

The purpose of contacts is to obtain or clarify information, or to further the assignment by planning and coordinating work efforts to provide factual information. 

Factor 8:  Physical Demands 

The work is sedentary. 

Factor 9:  Work Environment 

The work is performed in a typical office setting.