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FAQs About Civil Service

Frequently Asked Questions About Civil Service


General Questions

Application Questions

Testing Questions

Hiring Questions


General Questions

    1.    What is the Pennsylvania State Civil Service Commission?
 
    2.    Where are civil service jobs located?
 
    3.    What is the first step in obtaining a civil service job?
 
    4.    Is there one generic examination, which covers all job titles?
 
    5.    How do I know what civil service examinations are open?
 
    6.    How can I improve my chances for employment in a civil service job?
 
    7.    How do I update my contact (mailing address, telephone, email, etc.)information?
 
    8.    How do I obtain my log-on credentials if I have forgotten my User ID and Password?
 
    9.     How do I check my test score or my rank on the eligible list?
 
   10.    Can I reactivate my name on an eligible list if it has been deactivated?
 


Application Questions

   11.   Is there a fee to apply for or take a civil service examination?
 
   12.   How do I apply for a civil service examination?
 
   13.   When completing an Application for Employment/Promotion, what should I remember?
 
   14.   Is Pennsylvania residency required for employment?
 
   15.   Is the possession of a criminal conviction a bar to civil service employment?
 
 

Testing Questions

   16.   What are the types of civil service examinations?
 
   17.    What assistance is available for persons with disabilities?
 
   18.    Where can I take a test?
 
   19.    How soon will I be tested after I submit my application?
 
   20.    Does the State Civil Service Commission offer testing on a “Walk-In” basis?
 
   21.    How can I prepare for a civil service test?
 
   22.    How is a computerized test different than a paper test?
 
   23.    What should I bring to the test center?
 
   24.    What should I not bring to the test center?
 
   25.    How do I cancel or reschedule my test?
 
   26.    Can I retake a civil service test?
 
   27.    How long does it take to receive my test results?
 
   28.    What if I am deemed ineligible or believe my test results should be higher?
 
   29.    What happens after I get my test results?
 
   30.    Can I change the counties where I am willing to accept employment?
 


Hiring Questions

   31.    Do veterans receive hiring preference?
 
   32.    Do individuals aged 60 and over receive employment preference?
 
   33.    Is employment or promotional preference given to individuals in  certain geographic locations in which
           jobs are located? 
  
   34.    What happens after I get hired?
 
   35.    What happens if I am not selected for the job?
 
   36.    Can I be reinstated to a civil service position?
 
   37.    Can I transfer between agencies in the merit system?
 
   38.    Do you have additional questions?
      
    


1.  What is the Pennsylvania State Civil Service Commission?

   Civil Service is a merit system of employment that hires, retains and promotes people based on their qualifications and ability to perform the job.

   The Pennsylvania State Civil Service Commission administers the Commonwealth’s merit system for 37 state agencies having almost 57,000 civil service employees.  Additionally, approximately 9,000 employees work for 300 local government offices that have contracted with the Commission to provide merit services. 

   The Pennsylvania State Civil Service Commission develops and administers job specific tests and creates listings of qualified candidates for agencies to use in hiring candidates into civil service covered positions.

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2.  Where are civil service jobs located?

   The majority of jobs are located in state agencies in Harrisburg, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.  There are also a number of jobs located throughout the Commonwealth in such places as: district or regional offices, state parks and forests, engineering district offices, state correctional facilities, state liquor stores, veterans’ homes, state mental hospitals and mental retardation centers.

   Civil service jobs also exist in certain local government agencies.  This includes certain positions in Emergency Management Agencies, Mental Health/Mental Retardation County Agencies, Children and Youth County Agencies, Drug and Alcohol County Agencies, Area Agencies on Aging, and Housing Authorities.  The State Civil Service Commission does not provide merit system services to any local government agencies located within Philadelphia County. 

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3.  What is the first step in obtaining a civil service job?

   The first step is to apply and take an examination.  All examinations are based upon the job-related knowledge, skills and/or abilities needed to perform the job.  You can only apply for a specific civil service examination when it is announced and open for testing.

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4.  Is there one generic examination, which covers all job titles?

   No.  Each examination measures knowledge, skills and abilities needed to successfully perform the duties of a particular job or group of related jobs.  The “TESTING” section of the test announcement contains information about the type of test and test content.

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5.  How do I know what civil service examinations are open?

   View the Open Career Opportunities located on our website.  The summary lists civil service examinations currently open and those to be announced in the near future.  A paper version is also published monthly and can be obtained from a State Civil Service Commission office.

   For those jobs that are of interest to you, read the appropriate test announcements .  Test announcements include information about the salary, nature of work, minimum job requirements, job opportunities, testing, test time lengths, test results and how to apply.

   Carefully view the “JOB REQUIREMENTS” section of the test announcements to determine if you meet the minimum requirements.  For most tests, your qualifications will not be reviewed until AFTER you take the test.  Your test results will count only if you meet all job requirements.  If you have questions regarding your qualifications, contact one of our offices for assistance.

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6.  How can I improve my chances for employment in a civil service job?

  • Periodically review the Open Career Opportunities to obtain information about newly-issued examination programs.
  • Consider accepting employment in those counties that have the greatest number of job opportunities.
  • Consider as many kinds of employment options as possible including career, part-time, temporary and seasonal.
  • Complete additional training or get additional work experience in order to qualify for more job titles.
  • Apply for local government positions as well as state government positions.

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7.  How do I update my application or contact (mailing address, telephone, email, etc.) information?

   You may update your contact information by signing in to the Online Services section of our website.

   If you need to complete or update an application prior to testing, you may update your employment and training information by reapplying through our Online Services link.  Make sure you provide accurate and complete experience and training information such as names, dates, etc.  This information will be used to determine if you meet minimum job requirements.  Be certain that you meet all job requirements because your qualifications will not be reviewed until AFTER you take the test.  Your test results will count only if you meet all job requirements.

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8.  How do I obtain my log-on credentials if I have forgotten my User ID and Password?

   You may obtain your User ID and/or Password on our Online Services section of our website by clicking on one of the “Forgot User ID?” or “Forgot Password?” links.

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9.  How do I check my test score or my rank on an eligible list?

   You can check this information by signing in to our Online Services section of our website.

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10.  Can I reactivate my name on an eligible list if it has been deactivated?

   Contact our Information Services Unit at (717) 787-7811 for information regarding reactivating your name on an eligible list if it has been deactivated.

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11.  Is there a fee to apply for or take a civil service examination?

   No.  The State Civil Service Commission does not charge a fee for any services provided to applicants.  This includes civil service job information, applications, forms or examinations.

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12.  How do I apply for a civil service examination?

   Read the “HOW TO APPLY” section of the appropriate test announcement to determine if you can apply through our Online Application System or if you must apply with a paper application.

   If you can apply online, this option is best.  By submitting an online application, your application will reach us and be processed more quickly than by mailing a paper application.  The information you provide when completing an online application will be stored electronically.  Therefore, if you want to submit another application for other examinations, your previously submitted information (job history, education, similar data) will not have to be re-entered.  However, if you acquire additional experience or training, you should update this information when applying online for additional examinations.

   Another advantage to applying online is that you can conveniently schedule an examination by selecting a location, date and time after you have completed your application.  You also have the ability to reschedule or cancel an examination due to an emergency.

   Online service is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

   You may also complete a paper Application for Employment/Promotion and submit it according to the instructions provided in the Application Instructions or on the test announcement.

   A separate application is required for each test announcement.

For fastest service, either submit your application online or mail your paper application directly to the address listed on the test announcement.

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13.  When completing an Application for Employment/Promotion, what should I remember?

  • Read the test announcement carefully for information about the salary, nature of work, minimum job requirements, job opportunities, testing, test time lengths, test results and how to apply.  The test announcement will state if you can apply with an online application or if you must submit a paper application.  It is to your advantage to apply online if this option is available because your application will reach us and be processed more quickly than mailing a paper application.
  • If you complete a paper application, type or legibly print/write all information so it can be easily read.  Also, reference the question number and write your social security number on all attachments to the application.  Make sure that you sign and date your paper application.
  • Be sure to include all job titles and job codes on a given test announcement for which you wish to be tested.  You will not be permitted to add job titles after you have tested .
  • Complete all sections of the application that apply.  Credit cannot be given for information that is incomplete or omitted.  Also, remember to read and answer the question concerning criminal history.
  • Describe your experience and training as accurately and completely as possible.  Include paid employment, volunteer work, dates of employment and course work completed since this information will be used to determine if you meet the minimum education and training requirements.  The experience and/or training you provide may be verified.  If you are relying on education acquired outside of the United States in order to qualify, you will need to provide documentation prepared by a professional foreign credentials evaluation organization.
  • Include the counties where you are willing to work.  You may include up to 10 counties where you will accept employment.  Refer to the “JOB OPPORTUNITIES” section of the test announcement for information on where jobs are located.
  • For some job titles you may be asked to complete a survey to provide information on certain skills you possess or to select agencies/facilities where you are willing to accept employment.  You are encouraged to complete all surveys.
  • Submit your application by the filing deadline, which is listed on the test announcement.

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14.  Is Pennsylvania residency required for employment?

   Most civil service jobs require you to be a Pennsylvania resident or a former resident who meets certain requirements.  (Click here to view the requirements.)  To determine if Pennsylvania residency is required, refer to the “JOB REQUIREMENTS” section of the test announcement.

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15.  Is the possession of a criminal conviction a bar to civil service employment?

   A conviction does not prevent you from being tested and is not necessarily a bar to employment.  You may be asked to provide details of your criminal history if you are interviewed for a job.  Therefore, you should take any information explaining your criminal history to the interview.  The hiring agency will determine the job-relatedness of your criminal history record.

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16.  What are the types of civil service examinations?

   Each test announcement indicates the type of examination to be given.  All examinations assess knowledge, skills and/or abilities needed to perform the job.  The four most frequently used types of examinations are listed below.  Other types may be used; they are described on the test announcement.  Some announcements consist of more than one type of examination, such as a rating of experience and training and an oral test.

Experience and Training (E&T) Ratings:   You provide your experience and training information on an application and/or application supplement.  Your score is based on the information you provide.

Computer Administered Tests:   You take a test on a computer in a test center.  These tests can include multiple-choice, fill-in-the-blank or essay questions.  On-screen instructions guide you through the examination process.

Oral Tests:   You respond to a series of structured questions and your responses are rated on specific factors.  Typically, you appear before a panel of trained examiners and/or sometimes before a video camera.

Typing Test:   You take this test on a computer with on-screen instructions that guide you through a practice exercise and the actual typing test.  The computer program measures and reports your speed and accuracy to determine your net words per minute.

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17.  What assistance is available for persons with disabilities?

   The State Civil Service Commission offers reasonable testing accommodations for persons with disabilities.  It is your responsibility to inform the Commission of your needs prior to your test date.  This information will be kept confidential.  A Justification for Testing Accommodation form must be completed and be on file before testing accommodations are granted.  If you have not tested previously or since 2003 with the State Civil Service Commission, it will be necessary to return the completed signed form to the Test Administration Division, State Civil Service Commission, P.O. Box 569, Harrisburg, PA 17108-0569 or fax to (717) 783-0838.

   Commission staff will work with you to set up a testing date, time and location.

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18.  Where can I take a test?

   The test announcement contains information about the test location(s).  Refer to the “TESTING” section of the announcement.

Computer Administered Tests:

   Computer-administered tests are given in the Harrisburg, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh State Civil Service Commission offices on most Mondays through Fridays.

   They are also administered in Allentown, Erie, Johnstown, Lock Haven and Scranton.  Testing occurs at these sites approximately 10 days each month – Tuesdays and Wednesdays with some evening and Saturday testing.

   Special situations may require that testing be held at a facility other than those identified above.  If this should occur, information will be provided in the “TESTING” section of the announcement.

Oral Tests:

   These tests are usually held in the Harrisburg office.  Other locations are sometimes used, such as the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh offices.

Experience and Training (E&T) Ratings:

   You do not go to a test center to be tested.  Your test score is based on the experience and training information on your application and/or application supplement.

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19.  How soon will I be tested after I submit my application?

   The time period varies based on the type of examination for which you applied, the method used to apply (i.e., online or by mail) and the seating availability based upon the number of applicants to be tested at the location you choose.

Computer Administered Tests:

If you apply online , you will automatically be directed to select an available test location, date and time that fits your schedule.  When you receive the online confirmation, you should print the notice for your reference.

If you apply using a paper application , the State Civil Service Commission will schedule you for the first available test date and time at the test location you have selected.  Approximately 10 days prior to the test date, you will receive written notification of your scheduled examination.

Oral Tests:

If you apply online or using a paper application , you will receive notification when you can go online to schedule your test, or if you are unable to schedule online, you can call the State Civil Service Commission’s Test Administration Division at (717) 787-2935 to be scheduled for the examination.

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20.  Does the State Civil Service Commission offer testing on a “Walk-In” basis?

   Yes.  Walk-In testing is an option on most testing days on a first-come, first-served basis based upon “available seating.”  Available seating occurs when an applicant scheduled for testing does not arrive or when an applicant completes their test early.  More information is available on our Walk-In Testing link.

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21.  How can I prepare for a civil service test?

   The State Civil Service Commission does not provide study guides for specific examinations nor do we recommend the purchase of any study materials.  However, the best method of preparing for any civil service test is to carefully read the test announcement, particularly the “TESTING” section and follow these suggestions:

  • for multiple-choice tests, you may want to review books or search the Internet on the “Subject Areas” listed on the test announcement.
  • for typing tests, review the test announcement to determine the performance standard that must be met, then practice the skill to improve your chances of getting a good score.
  • for oral and essay tests, review the “factors” listed on the test announcement and practice your skills in these areas.
  • for experience and training ratings, your score is based on the information presented on your application and/or application supplement.  Therefore, to help you receive proper credit for your experience and training, please read all instructions carefully, include all required information (e.g., dates of employment, number of hours worked, job titles and names of employers, etc.) and make certain the information is clear. 

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22.  How is a computerized test administered?

   A computerized test is taken at a workstation equipped with a computer, mouse, keyboard, and headphones.

   On-screen instructions guide you through the examination process.   Test questions appear on screen.  Only one question appears at a time.  You select answers by pointing and clicking with a mouse or by typing answers in text boxes.

   In cases where a calculator, audio, video, graphics and/or reference documents are associated with a test, you access them by clicking on buttons displayed on the screen.

   The amount of time you have to complete the test is constantly displayed in a window on the computer screen.  More information on computerized testing is located on our website.  Click on the Computerized Testing Tutorial link.

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23.  What should I bring to the test center?

   You MUST bring two forms of identification.  One form of identification must contain both your signature and a recent photograph such as a driver’s license or a non-driver's photo identification card.  You will not be permitted to take a test without proper identification.

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24.  What should I not bring to the test center?

  • You are strongly encouraged not to bring any wireless communications devices (i.e., calculators, cell phones, blackberries, IPODs, personal digital assistants) to the test site.  The use of such devices is strictly prohibited in the test room.
  • Do not bring originals of official documents such as DD-214s (documentation for veterans’ preference) and college transcripts.  We do accept legible, readable copies of these documents.
  • Do not bring food or beverages.
  • Do not bring unattended, minor children.  Applicants reporting for testing who have an unattended, minor child will not be permitted to test.

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25.  How do I cancel or reschedule my test?

   You can cancel or reschedule your test by signing in to the Online Services section of our website or by contacting one of the telephone numbers below:

        Office Voice Text Telephone
(Deaf/Hard of Hearing Callers only)
Harrisburg (717) 783-3058 (717) 722-2685
Philadelphia (215) 560-2255 (215) 560-4367
Pittsburgh (412) 565-7666 (412) 565-2484
All Other Test Centers (717) 787-2901 (717) 787-5581

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26.  Can I retake a civil service test?

   Information about retests appears on the test announcement under the “TESTING” section.  If a retest is permitted, you must submit a new application in order to be retested.  Your most recent test results will be the only one counted.

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27.  How long does it take to receive my test results?

   Normally, you should receive your Notice of Examination Results in the mail within 10 business days from the date of your test or from the time your application is received.

   When a new test announcement is issued, it may take four to six weeks to establish a new list of eligible candidates.  However, you will receive your test results in the mail as soon as possible.

   You can also check the Online Services link on our website for your test results. 

   If you pass the test and meet the minimum job requirements, you will receive the following information on your Notice of Examination Results:

  • Your test results for each job title.
  • How long your name will remain on the eligible list(s).
  • The number of applicants scoring higher, lower, or the same as you for each county for which you made yourself available.
  • Your standing on an eligible list will change as more applicants take the test and are placed on the list or as positions are filled.

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28.  What if I am deemed ineligible or believe my test results should be higher?

   If you believe we erred in determining your eligibility or test results, you must respond in writing.  Follow the instructions below.  These instructions are also located under Challenge Procedure on the back of your Notice of Examination Results.

   If you believe we erred in determining your eligibility or test results, you must respond in writing.  Your response must include your social security number, the job title, and a detailed explanation of the basis for your challenge.  Mail and/or fax responses must be signed.  We must receive your response no later than thirty calendar days after the date of your Notice of Examination Results, or it will be rejected as untimely.  Mail to:

State Civil Service Commission 
(ATTN:  Challenge)
P.O. Box 569
Harrisburg, PA 17108-0569
E-mail to ra-cs-challenges@pa.gov
or FAX to (717) 787-8650


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29.  What happens after I get my test results?

   Upon passing the civil service test and meeting the minimum job requirements, your name is added to eligible lists of applicants and ranked according to test score.  When a job vacancy occurs, the hiring agency may request an eligible list from which to interview for that job title.  You may be contacted by telephone or in writing to determine your interest in interviewing for the job.  Hiring is normally done from the highest ranking candidates on an eligible list.  If you are ranked high enough on the eligible list, you may be contacted by the hiring agency to report for a job interview.  Failure to respond to an availability notice will result in your name being removed from the list.

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30.  Can I change the counties where I am willing to accept employment?

   Yes.  You must contact our Information Services Unit at (717) 787-7811 in order to change your counties of availability.  You are limited to 10 counties.

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31.  Do veterans receive hiring preference?

   Yes.  Applicants who pass civil service examinations (required for appointment to positions covered by the State’s Merit System) receive additional benefits in recognition of their military service.  These benefits commonly are referred to as veterans’ preference.  The authority for veterans’ preference in Pennsylvania government employment is contained in The Military Affairs Act of August 1, 1975 (P.L. 233, No. 92), as amended.  Note:  Veterans’ Preference does not apply to promotions.

More information can be found on the Veterans’ Preference link on our website.

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32.  Do individuals aged 60 and over receive employment preference?

   Yes.  Employment preference will be granted to individuals aged 60 and over for jobs in the Department of Aging and Area Agencies on Aging.  Refer to the “JOB OPPORTUNITIES” section of the test announcement to determine if employment preference is granted.

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33.  Is employment or promotional preference given to individuals in certain geographic locations in which jobs are located?

   For some agencies (such as, but not limited to, local government agencies), employment preference may be given to residents of the county, region and/or district in which the job is located.  Also, promotional preference may be given to employees who work in the county, region and/or district where job openings occur.  Refer to the “JOB OPPORTUNITIES” section of the test announcement to determine if preference is granted.

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34.  What happens after I get hired?

   If you are selected for a position, the agency will notify you and establish a start date.

   After you are hired, the State Civil Service Commission will verify your experience and training used to qualify you for this job title as indicated on your application and/or application supplement.

   You will serve a civil service probationary period to determine your suitability for permanent employment.  When you successfully complete your probationary period, you will acquire regular civil service status.

   If you accept a permanent full-time position, your name will be deactivated on other eligible lists you may be on for equal or lower level job titles.  In order to have your name reactivated for the job title you were appointed to, you must send a letter to the Executive Director of the State Civil Service Commission.  If you are made inactive for other equal or lower job titles, you can call the Information Services Section at (717) 787-7811 to request to have your name reactivated on those lists.

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35.  What happens if I am not selected for the job?

   If you are interviewed and not selected for the position, your name remains on the eligible list to be considered for future vacancies for a specified period of time.  Your standing on the eligible list may change as more applicants are tested and added and as appointments are made.

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36.  Can I be reinstated to a civil service position?

   Yes.  If you left civil service employment with regular status and in good standing, you may request to be reinstated to a job title equal to or lower than any civil service covered position that you previously held, provided you are qualified for the position.

   If you are a former civil service employee who is interested in reinstatement, it is your responsibility to pursue reinstatement by contacting the Human Resources Office of agencies to which you seek reinstatement.  Agencies may consider your request for reinstatement, but they are not required to do so.  When filling vacancies, agencies have several options to choose from including eligible lists, transfers, promotions, demotions and reassignments.

   More information can be found in the Reinstatement pamphlet.

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37.  Can I transfer between agencies in the merit system?

   A transfer may occur between state agencies, local government agencies, or state and local government agencies that have a contract with the State Civil Service Commission for merit system coverage.

   If you are an employee in the civil service system with regular or probationary status, you may transfer/reassign to job titles having the same or lower maximum salary rate as the job you currently hold.  You must meet the minimum experience and training requirements for the position for which you are seeking transfer/reassignment.

   It is your responsibility to seek out transfer/reassignment opportunities.  Current Commonwealth employees may view job postings on the State Civil Service Commission’s State JobNet or you can contact the Human Resources Office of agencies in which you would like to work.  When filling vacancies, agencies have several options to choose from including eligible lists, promotions, reassignments, demotions, and transfers.  Preference is not given to those who desire to transfer.

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38.  Do you have additional questions?

Click inside each box to provide the following information.  When you are finished, click on the "Submit Questions" button.  Make sure you enter your Email address and phone number.  We cannot reply to your question if we do not have a current Email address or phone number.

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