Intellectual Property

Patent Examiner Profession

Wed Mar 03, 2010 2:12 pm
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Comments: 84 Views: 5304

General starting salary for qualified candidates is $67,589/yr (GS-7, Step-10). As a patent examiner, you are eligible to work flexible hours of your choosing, part-time if you have a very young child and several years of service, and as a full-time or part-time employee of a certain GS level, you are also eligible to apply to "hotel", meaning you can work at home all but 1 hour per week.  In return for these benefits, you accept the responsibility of being accountable for high production quotas (in terms of applications processed) per bi-week, per fiscal quarter and per fiscal year. The high production quotas often require unpaid overtime work on weekends, evenings, etc. As a result of the demanding quotas of work required, turnover among patent examiners is quite high. However, the generous pay and flexibility of hours work to offset the sheer amount of work involved in the job.

*Due to the current economic situation, at this time, the PTO is only hiring those people who have previously worked as a patent examiner.


 For those of you who have questions about the application or hiring process, please contact Human Resources at or 1-800-786-9757.  I, personally, am not involved in any hiring decisions whatsoever at the PTO and I do not represent the PTO in any official capacity. All opinions given here are strictly my own and not those of the PTO.

Wed Feb 20, 2008 8:59 pm
Name: clmsnsccr | Comment: I am considering a job with the USPTO as a patent examiner with the long term ambition to go to law school and become a patent attorney. How do law firms specializing in patent law look at former patent examiners? Thanks!

Thu Feb 21, 2008 8:26 amThere are many patent attorneys in the DC area who are former patent examiners. I think law firms would probably rather hire someone from the PTO than someone who is just straight out of law school because new PTO employees receive 8 full months of intensive training in patent law, and having the experience of working at the PTO gives a new patent attorney the benefit of understanding how the PTO examining practice actually works. My friends who have started at the PTO and then gotten their law degree haven't had much trouble finding themselves jobs at law firms.

Thu Feb 21, 2008 10:23 pm
Name: clmsnsccr | Comment: Thanks for the response! Any advice/lessons learned prior to starting with the PTO or law school?

Fri Feb 22, 2008 8:41 amAs far as law school, just keep in mind that you're not eligible for the tuition reimbursement program until you've served 2 years at the PTO and you are required to work for the PTO, after finishing law school, for 1 month for every 3 credit hours that the PTO paid for. Also, this job requires a lot of work, consistantly - there's no downtime - couple that with going to law school part-time and it's a demanding schedule. The other thing to be aware of, if you are not from the DC area, is the cost of living here. PTO pays well but housing, transportation and day care are expensive (parking at the PTO is $110 a month for employees, PTO day care is $1200/month). Patent examiners belong to a union called POPA. POPA's website has links to info about the law school tuition reimbursement program and many other PTO programs

Mon Mar 03, 2008 11:48 am
Name: Adam | Email: ajgspan attt yahoo dottt com | Comment: I recently became registered as a patent agent, with the hopes of catching on with a law firm to perform patent prosecution. My experience is somewhat limited, and I have not garnered the level of interest I had hoped. I have sumitted an application for an examiner position at the PTO, but I live in Philadelphia. While I would consider a commute, the telework program would also be appealing. Do you know what is the GS level and experience required to participate in this program

Thu Mar 06, 2008 3:29 pmIn order to be eligible for the “telework program” (i.e., working at home 1 day per week) and the “hoteling program” (i.e., working at home all but 1 hour per week), you have to be at least a GS-12 and have worked at the PTO for 2 years. The hoteling program also has the additional requirements of successfully passing either the Certification Exam or the Registration Exam, having and maintaining at least a Fully Successful rating (job performance evaluation) and access to high speed broadband internet service.

Thu Apr 10, 2008 1:21 pm
Name: Sandi | Comment: I am a former patent examiner who have not taken the Patent Bar to become a Patent Agent. I spent about 10 years at the Patent Office. What other jobs are available to former patent examiners instead of patent agents or attorneys?.

Fri Apr 11, 2008 9:27 amSome local law firms hire "Technical Specialists", which would not require being an agent or attorney. Particularly, they are looking for people with advanced degrees in their field. Also, some firms hire former patent examiners to run searches of prior art for them and report relevant findings. If you didn't want to work for a law firm, you might also go into teaching at some level.

Sun May 18, 2008 10:00 am
Name: NIRAV | Comment: I am intrested i position at DC as patent examiner and I am chemical engineer. What do you mean by working unpaid overtime and weekends

Sun May 18, 2008 10:01 am
Name: NIRAV | Comment: How often would you be working overtime and not get paid?

Sun May 18, 2008 1:28 pmAs a patent examiner, you have a certain number of patent applications that you have to process every 2 weeks. If it only takes you 40 hours a week to get those required number of applications done, then you only have to work your 40 hours. However, it sometimes takes more than 40 hours to get all of the required applications done, hence you have to work overtime to get them done. Some applications are fairly simple but some are very, very complex. Whether it takes you 30 hours to get your applications done or 60 hours, you will be getting paid for 40 hours. How much (if any) overtime you have to work depends on the complexity of your applications, how fast you can work and how thoroughly you do your job. That being said, not all examiners work overtime. Some manage to find a way to get it all done without doing any overtime.

Mon May 19, 2008 4:54 pm
Name: JC | Comment: When applying for a patent examiner position, what determines which area of specialty is assigned to you?

Mon May 19, 2008 8:39 pmYour degree/professional background determine which Tech Center (electrical, chemical, mechanical, biotech, business) you will be placed into. Beyond that, you will be placed into whatever specific area they need people the most, whether you're familiar with that particular technology or not.

Mon Jun 30, 2008 7:06 am
Name: Jay | Comment: What are the benefits of becoming a patent examiner AFTER graduating law school?

Tue Jul 01, 2008 6:34 pmIn my opinion, the main benefit would be that the PTO offers a very flexible schedule as compared to a typical law firm (e.g., the ability to work from home, working hours of your own choosing, easy to schedule vacation time).

Wed Jul 02, 2008 6:45 am
Name: Gigi | Comment: Do law firms routinely recruit and hire examiners with law degrees from the USPTO?

Thu Jul 24, 2008 9:52 am
Name: Matt | Comment: I've been a patent searcher for about 3 years for a small patent search firm. I have a college degree in Computer Information Systems. In addition to doing patent searches, I've written several applications for clients. At what GS level could I expect to start? Thanks. Matt

Mon Jul 28, 2008 9:33 amI really don't know but I would guess GS-11.

Sat Aug 02, 2008 7:48 pm
Name: Guy | Comment: No, you would start at GS-9. PTO doesnt start anyone at GS-11 anymore. They used to start PhDs at that level, but not anymore. At the GS-11 level, the expectations are too high for a new examiner.

Thu Aug 28, 2008 3:00 pm
Name: Eric | Comment: Thanks for this forum. I have an interview with the PTO tomorrow, however, the more I read about the culture at the PTO the less interested I become. In your opinion, do you think that the negatives of working at the PTO are outweighed by the positives? Why? Also, what is a realistic radius around Alexandria from which a person could reasonably commute? I'm from the midwest and we are very accustomed to living in a house with a yard.

Fri Aug 29, 2008 9:30 am"do you think that the negatives of working at the PTO are outweighed by the positives?" Overall, I think they do, but of course, one person's positives are another person's negatives. For example, this job requires no collaboration/teamwork with others, you work almost entirely independently - for some people this is a positive, for others it may be a negative. For some people, the flexibility of working hours of your own choosing is a great benefit, to others it may not be that important. To me, the ability to work part-time is extremely important because it means that I get to stay home during the day with my young child and work in the evenings-to other people the ability to work part-time is irrelevant. As far as a commuting radius, this is tough to answer because everyone has a different tolerance for how much time they want to spend each day commuting. Personally, I wouldn't live any farther out than the Woodbridge, VA or Manassas, VA areas. Traffic here is a nightmare and I have no desire to sit in it for 2+ hours a day, but some people who work at the PTO live as far away as West Virginia and Delaware. For that matter, some people who "hotel" (see above) live in California and Colorado and fly into DC once every 2 weeks to meet their required hours at the Alexandria office.

Tue Sep 09, 2008 5:04 pm
Name: Paul | Comment: This forum is very helpful. I have a question about salary at USPTO. What is the average starting salary for new hire w/ bachelor degree? I've been working in industry for 2 years and have a good gpa. Is salary negotiable at USPTO?

Tue Sep 09, 2008 9:16 pmA new college graduate with a GPA of 3.0 or higher starts as a GS-7, Step 10 (current salary $64,704) and those having a GPA under 3.0 start as a GS-5, Step 10 (current salary $52,233). The precise qualifications are found here:
The salary is not negotiable. You are paid according to established government pay tables found here:

Wed Sep 10, 2008 1:42 pm
Name: Paul | Comment: Thank you for your response. I have some other question related to benefits such as health insurance. Does USPTO have health insurance benefit or we have to pay for full premium in the first 2 year trial period? For example, in my current company, the health insurance is about 460, the company pay 400 and I only pay 60 per month. Is it the same way in USPTO?

In general, what kind of deduction the new examiner is expected in his/her paycheck per month such as heath insurance, life insurance, 401k...? How much is health insurance per month at USPTO?

Thanks & have a good nite.

Wed Sep 10, 2008 5:13 pm
Name: Tony | Comment: First of all thank you for creating this forum it is very helpful. I just have one question. I am a biology/economics double major who has been working at a biotech company for a little over a year and I am looking to get into the patent office. I was wondering if you had any idea when the USPTO will start hiring biotech or biology patent examiners? I have noticed that they haven't had any openings on for biology majors this year and was just curious if you had any idea when/if they will starting hiring for these positions.
Thank You

Wed Sep 10, 2008 7:32 pmHealth insurance: you have a variety of different plans you can choose from (HMO's, Blue Cross, etc.). Blue Cross Basic is among the cheapest of the plans and an employee pays $85 per month for self coverage or $200 per month for family coverage. Rates for government health insurance plans are here:
Rates for government life insurance are here:
Government retirement program is Thrift Savings Plan - you have the option of choosing what percentage of your pay, up to the maximum, that you would like to contribute:

Wed Sep 10, 2008 7:39 pmI don't know if they are currently hiring biology majors. If you go to this link:
and click on "Chemistry", it says under Qualifications that they are looking for people who have "at least a bachelor's degree in physical sciences, life sciences, or engineering that included 30 semester hours in chemistry, supplemented by course work in mathematics through differential and integral calculus, and at least 6 semester hours of physics" OR "Have a combination of education and experience--course work equivalent to a major as shown in A above, including at least 30 semester hours in chemistry, supplemented by mathematics through differential and integral calculus, and at least 6 semester hours of physics, plus appropriate experience or additional education." In any event, it probably doesn't hurt to fill out an application and see what happens.

Wed Sep 10, 2008 8:02 pm
Name: lainy43 | Comment: I am currently pursuing a bachelors degree in biomedical engineering with mechanical concentration and want to eventually become a patent attorney. I graduate May 2009 and am very interested in working as a patent examiner first before law school. Would this be beneficial for me? Why or Why not? How long would I have to work for the PTO before they would pay for law school? Would I have to work for the PTO after I complete law school? Should I even begin studying for my LSATs now or should I wait til after I graduate this May? How would I go about applying to become a patent examiner? Lastly, I am also studying Chinese and will be going to China in the summer of 2009 to study advanced Chinese. Would this increase my eligibility of getting hired? I know these are a lot of questions- I'm just very curious. Thank you!

Thu Sep 11, 2008 6:49 pm
Name: Paul | Comment: Again, I would like to thank Sunny for providing very useful insight information in this topic. Also, I have another question about promotion at USPTO. How often a patent examiner get promoted? How fast the salary will increase since living in DC is so expensive...

Thu Sep 11, 2008 9:29 pm
Name: Paul | Comment: Also, USPTO benefits said "paid overtime or compensatory time". Does that mean the Patent Examiner will get paid overtime. How do they track and compensate? What should be production level of GS-7 and up?

Mon Sep 15, 2008 6:52 am
Name: P. Shah | Comment: I am currently working in the software industry and I have a MS in Computer Science. I have no interest in law school, but just want to do something with my degree that is different from software development. I have friends that work at the USPTO, but they have been there for 6+ years so they currently love it, but said that the beginning is tough. I wanted to know the monotonous level, is the work "doing the same thing everyday" or does the variety in the applications make break up the monotony. Also, are the people that work there very intorvert? I'm used to working in teams, however I know that the job is solitary, do you just sit in a room in front of a computer all day? Also, how long would it take to move up in terms of pay (as I have 8 years in industry, so the gs9 would be a slight pay cut, but I am willing to do that if it is a good long term investment). Thanks in advance for your help, i've been looking for a forum like this for a while.

Tue Sep 16, 2008 1:17 pm
Name: Eric | Comment: Thanks for answering my last question. I've had my interview and filled out some paper work that I had to fax to the PTO. I was told that human resources would review my interview questionnaire and advance an offer if they were interested in hiring me. How long does this process generally take? I faxed the documents about two weeks ago and have yet to hear from the PTO. If an offer comes, how is it typically made, ie., through the mail, email, phone, etc. . . Thanks again.

Wed Sep 17, 2008 7:41 amPatent Examiner promotions: Patent Examiners may receive a one-time accelerated promotion after six months, from GS-5 to GS-7; GS-7 to GS-9; or GS-9 to GS-11. If you perform at a fully successful job performance level, you are eligible for Step (Within Grade) increases according to the normal OPM schedule found here:
Otherwise, if a patent examiner performs at a fully successful level for 1 year and maintains production at 100% of the requirement for first 6 months of said year and maintains production at ~108% for the last 6 months of said year, they are eligible for a Grade increase to the next GS level up to the GS-13 level.

Wed Sep 17, 2008 7:43 amI do not know how long the current hiring process takes. When I was offered a job as an examiner, I was notified by a phone call from Human Resources about a few weeks after my second interview but I do not know if that is still the procedure.

Wed Sep 17, 2008 7:49 amDue to the enormous backlog of patent applications, the PTO encourages examiners to work paid overtime. However, working paid overtime means that your production quota increases correspondingly.
Here is an explanation of "compensatory time":
Working compensatory time will also increase your production quota in the same way that working paid overtime does.

Wed Sep 17, 2008 8:04 am"is the work 'doing the same thing everyday?' do you just sit in a room in front of a computer all day?" Yeah, pretty much. You read the patent application, you examine it for formalities, you do a search of the patents databases for relevant references, you respond to attorneys' arguments, you write up an office action with your findings. This routine is broken up occasionally by interviews with attorneys about their applications, various forms of training, technical lectures, etc.

Sun Nov 09, 2008 4:25 pm
Name: ashley4 | Comment: I was just recently hired as a patent examiner at the PTO and I'm just wondering if you have any insight on where to live

Sun Nov 09, 2008 8:02 pmI would advise living where you have the ability to use public transportation to get to the PTO. Traffic around here is a nightmare, parking at the PTO is expensive, and as a federal employee, you can receive $120 public transit subsidy per month if you use public transportation to commute to the PTO. That being said, I have lived in Alexandria for 8 years and I love it here. Just about all of Alexandria is accessible by some form of public transit. If you are looking to live in an apartment, I would advise checking out your potential apartment complexes on before you sign a lease anywhere.

Tue Nov 11, 2008 8:33 am
Name: ashley4 | Comment: Thanks for the helpful information - I did notice that parking is quite expensive. In your experience, are there a large percentage of patent examiners that are let go before completing their two year probationary period as a result of bad performance ratings or an inability to keep up with the workload?

Tue Nov 11, 2008 8:33 pmAs to what percentage of examiners are let go during their probationary period, I really have no idea. I know that it happens but I would guess that the number is low simply because the PTO really, really needs examiners.

Tue Nov 25, 2008 7:13 pm
Name: Tony | Comment: Hello I commeted before asking about when you think the patent office is going to hire biology majors, well they just posted an opening and I put in an application for it. I am try to figure out if there is anything I can do to increase my chances of getting an interview. I attempted to sign up for one of those interview sessions they have at the USPTO but the website doesn't allow me to sign up. Is there anything else I can do.

Thank You

Tue Dec 02, 2008 7:33 pmI do not know of any interview sessions or job fairs currently scheduled at PTO. If I learn of any, I'll post them on this site.

Wed Dec 03, 2008 7:30 pm
Name: what are my chances? | Comment: I used to work as a patent attorney doing prosecution work for 3 years then went into private practice. While in private practice, I did some patent work, but this was not the majority of my work.

Anyway, I need more stability in my life and would like to become a patent examiner. I'd rather work for the government than in private industry, so an examiner is my first choice.

Any ideas, what my chances are? I have a BS undergrad in Computer Science and went to a first tier law school. I've passed the patent bar and have experience as a patent attorney. However, I don't remember having a B+ average in undergrad (over 10 years ago) and had a B-/C+ in law school (although it was a first tier school). Specifically, I'm wondering if a law degree will count the graduate school requirement. Considering that the PTO is paying for people to get a law degree, I would assume that it probably does, but who knows.

Also, I read Russian and Spanish, and have conducted prior art searches in Russian (using the Russian database). Are foreign language skills a plus?

Thu Dec 04, 2008 9:26 amAccording to this current job posting, the PTO has "many vacancies" in the Computer Science patent examining field:
Due to the fact that you have already passed the patent bar and have worked as a patent attorney, I would think that you would have an excellent chance of being hired. That is only my personal opinion and in no way do I speak for the PTO. I am not involved in any hiring decisions whatsoever, so it is only an educated guess on my part as to what they are looking for in candidates. As far as I know, the PTO is still committed to hiring 1200 patent examiners every year. According to the job posting link above, first consideration will be given to eligible applicants who submit the required application by December 5, 2008.

Tue Dec 23, 2008 10:49 am
Name: Timeline when applying through USAJobs | Comment: Hello everyone. I am curious about the application to offer process for patent examiner positions advertised on, particularly PE in Biology positions. The times I've seen in other posts varies wildly between a week to 6 months. Is this something that depends upon when an applicant will be available, what division/field they are in or other factors? In my case, I have a BS in Biology with good grades (B+ average) and am finishing my PhD (A average) in six months with an interest in IP law. I am curious about how long it takes to get some sort of response or the events that happen after application so that I may make smart choices if any offers come in. The revolving door at the USPTO leads me to believe that applicants are sorted according to some quantitative measurement then called upon as their availability date approaches. Thanks for your help.

Wed Dec 24, 2008 6:31 pm
Name: JRS | Comment: sunny77,

I just wanted to say that information that you've supplied to these questions is just awesome. I've just graduated and been offered a Patent Examiner Position, and the information you're supplying to the questions here has been very helpful.

If you wouldn't mind, I had a few more questions that I was wondering about. I know the position pays well - but how far does 64k go in Virginia? I mean I know it varies by person - but in general for an average person, how far would you say the salary can go? I was just wondering since I come from Tucson, AZ where the cost of living is fairly low and even 60k would go a fairly long way.

My next question is about law school. Is the policy of 1 month for every 3 credit hours still in effect? I know about the 2 year waiting period, but HR has never said anything about that policy to me. And although I don't want to pursue IP law, would they still pay for the basic law classes (and then I'd have to pay for the higher non-IP law classes)?

Thanks in advance.

Sat Jan 03, 2009 7:38 pm
Name: mysham | Comment: As a new hire, will I be able to telework from the start

Sun Jan 04, 2009 12:28 pm
Name: Ryan | Comment: Thanks for all your input Sunny, it's been very beneficial. I just graduated with a Mechanical Engineering degree and have above a 3.0 gpa. I'm scheduled for an interview with the USPTO on Jan 10th and I'm curious what to expect from the interviews.

Tue Jan 06, 2009 10:43 amRe: the law school program - as far as I know, it has not been changed. I don't think they will pay for it if you are not going into IP law, but you should ask HR.
Re: how far does $64k go? - actually the GS-7, Step 10 salary for 2009 is $66,587. How far it gets you depends upon your point of view. A nice one-bedroom apartment in Alexandria is generally about $1300-1500/month.
Re: what to expect from the interview? I was interviewed over 8 years ago, so I really don't know what the current process entails.
Re: telework - In order to telework, you have to either have to have worked there at least 2 years or be a GS-13 and have worked there at least 6 months.

Thu Jan 08, 2009 7:23 am
Name: Karl | Comment: Hello Sunny, My question has to do with the difference between starting at GS 5, 7, or 9.

I have 18 months experience working as a patent agent with a VA law firm. I am not enjoying the work that I do here, because it is not in my field (Comp Eng.) So I want to move to the PTO to become an Examiner. What should I apply for (GS 5, 7, or 9)?

Thanks in advance.

Thu Jan 08, 2009 9:29 amIf you graduated college with at least a 3.0 GPA or finished in the top third of your class, you qualify for at least the GS-7 level. The qualifications for GS-5, GS-7, GS-9 are found here:

Mon Jan 19, 2009 3:19 pm
Name: David | Comment: Hi sunny77,

I applied for a patent examiner position a few days ago. I was wondering approximately how long will it take to receive a response. And, if that response is positive, will there be an on-site interview down in Alexandria or just a phone interview?


Wed Jan 21, 2009 2:48 pm
Name: Joseph | Comment: I applied last week, and I am assuming it will take about a month until they contact you. If they are partially interested, then you will take a character survey. If your results are appealing to them, then they will set up a time through email to have a phone interview within the next couple of weeks. I would assume there would be two separate phone interviews (One in general and one as your specific manager).

My two question are;
1- I have a bachelors and masters degree in EE both with a high gpa. I have internships totally to about two full years. I qualify as a grade 9, but what is their consideration for the step level? What I am getting at, is should I expect to GS-09 Step-10 or GS-09 Step-01? NOTE: I have read about the production requirements between the grade levels, and that many grade 9 eligible new hires will accept a lower level to reduce production requirements; so I am aware of the additional work load.

2 - What would be style/type of questions I should expect to encounter? I am assuming to hear; why work at the uspto, what are your long term goals, and explain this experience you listed on your resume, but will there be technical questions?

Tue Jan 27, 2009 10:35 am
Name: Bill | Comment: After 35 1/2 years in private industry and with a degree in Chem Eng and an MBA my position was eliminated so I'm looking for possible career options.

Wondering what chance an "older" applicant might have, considering the extensive skill set I've acquired over the years?

Oh, am also a Vet, Air Force mid-70's.

Tue Jan 27, 2009 8:44 pmI don't know at what step level they hire GS-9's. I know they hire GS-7's at the step 10 level and the next promotion after that is to a GS-9, step 7. I don't know what the typical questions are that they'll be asking. When I was hired, many years ago, the questions were very general-type questions, no technical questions.

Tue Jan 27, 2009 8:45 pmThere are many new hires at the PTO who come there mid- or even late-career. Not unusual at all. I don't think your age would be an issue in the hiring process.

Wed Jan 28, 2009 6:56 pm
Name: David | Comment: I just had an on-campus interview today with an SPE. I'll be getting my B.S. in ME by May 2009, so keep in mind the questions they give me may be different than ones for an MS, PhD, or someone with experience.

So, they didn't ask me a single technical question. The interview was used more as a way for them to gauge my communication skills. I had to write a short blurb about why I believe I will succeed at the USPTO. Then he asked me to provide the best example of a time when: "had to deal with a difficult customer", "had to make a technical decision quickly", "had to gather a large amount of info in short period of time", and how I dealt with the situation and what the resolution was (if applicable).

These questions and the short essay were all off what looked like standard USPTO interview forms.

By the end of the interview, the SPE told me I should get an offer in 1-2 weeks :-D

Wed Jan 28, 2009 6:59 pm
Name: David | Comment: There were other questions, along those lines, but I don't remember them.

I have a question for sunny77, If you qualify for GS07 do you start at step10?

Sat Feb 07, 2009 11:08 pm
Name: Oasis | Comment: Sunny77: Do you know if there any walk-in interview sessions coming up? Also I have BS degree and now studying for MS; but GPA is 2.9/4.0 for the whole 4yrs, but I have 8 years of industry experience. What level/step I will get hired? I also submit resume through USAJOBS, will they call?

Mon Feb 09, 2009 2:42 pm
Name: amb | Comment: First off this is a really good resource and I'd like to thank sunny for doing this!
I am currently studying for a PhD in chemistry, but am considering leaving with a masters degree as I am not very satisfied with lab work. Being an examiner at the PTO interests me and I was wondering what the salary implications are of being hired now with a masters degree or as compared to three years from now with a PhD.
Also, in order to leave my program I would need to decide 3 or 4 months in advance in order to write a masters thesis. Do you know if the USPTO allows that long of a time to lapse between getting an offer and starting work? I could leave my program without an offer but in this economy I don't want to give up my research assitantship without an offer.

Mon Feb 09, 2009 7:22 pmOn February 10, the USPTO will host two virtual booths at the Engineering Virtual Career Fair (VCF) online, from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Candidates can visit the USPTO virtual “Entry Level” or “Electrical Engineering” booth to learn about USPTO and obtain key agency information such as patent examiner vacancy announcements, employee benefits, and incentives. Candidates may also participate in live chat sessions with recruiters to obtain more detailed information about patent examiner job opportunities.
These recruiters can probably answer your hiring questions a lot better than I can.

Sun Feb 15, 2009 6:49 pm
Name: JD | Comment: How are these steps figured out with the GS-rating? I can't figure it out. I'm contemplating joining the PTO for awhile (the patent prosecution field is slow for new grads), but was wondering how they figure out steps in association with a GS rating...

I graduate in May with a JD and a MS in biology.

Mon Feb 16, 2009 9:00 pmIn the past, they started GS-7's at step 10, but I'm not sure if that is still the case. For anyone who has hiring-related questions, I encourage you to contact Human Resources at: or 1-800-786-9757
They should be able to answer your questions or put you in touch with someone who can.

Wed Feb 18, 2009 2:47 pm
Name: LB | Comment: I have a phone interview for patent examiner position, how technical the questions are? Pone interview or walk in interview better?

Wed Feb 18, 2009 7:13 pm
Name: VWR | Comment: I would be so grateful for any advice you are willing to offer. I have a PhD in Physics (1978) with GPA 3.8/4.0 and a BS in Physics with GPA 4.0/4.0, plus 30 yr solid experience in semiconductor R&D at major US corporations. I submitted PE applications for Grade 9 in Physics in Nov '08 (near end of cycle) and again in Dec '08, but haven't heard anything other than NOR stating I am eligible for this specialty/grade. In the meantime, I heard that there are many more openings for EE, so I submitted application for Grade 5 with explanation that I have sufficient combined coursework plus work experience ... however NOR said I do not quality for that specialty/grade. No Veteran's status. Is there anything else I might be able to do to convince the USPTO to move me forward to interview?

Thu Feb 19, 2009 5:21 pm
Name: Bama | Comment: I accepted a job in November 2008 starting in May 2009 but signed my contract when the salary for a GS-7 was $64,000. I see it has gone up to $66,600 or so. Do you think I will get the salary increase since it was not in effect as of last year? Thanks for your help!

Fri Feb 20, 2009 10:51 amYes, you will get the salary increase. In 2009, you will be paid according to the current 2009 GS pay scale, regardless of what you signed last year.

Now, for the person above with the PhD in Physics, the PTO website says that they are currently hiring in both the Physics and EE areas. Based upon your education and experience, I would suggest just sticking with the application that you already submitted for the Physics area for now and seeing what happens. The government is notoriously slow for processing those USAJobs applications and getting back to people Keep checking the PTO website for possible job fairs (probably your best bet) and call or e-mail HR at the address phone number listed above for any other hiring questions. Good luck!

Fri Feb 20, 2009 3:32 pm
Name: VWR | Comment: Thanks a million for the feedback ... I will certainly follow your advice ... may I ask how you would define "notoriously slow"? 2 months or 2 years? By the way, I tried making an appointment for Job Fair in Alexandria on March 10, but there are no slots remaining!

Sat Feb 21, 2009 5:17 am
Name: VW | Comment: Sunny77: I am scheduled for a walk-in; however when I applied for G9 I received NOR that I am not qualified. I resubmitted for G7 and waiting for the reply. My question is still I can go to walk-in even my G7 comes back and the NOR will say I am not qualified? My bachelors cumilative GPA 2.7; final two semesters >3.0; is that going to be a problem? the walk-in I set up is for a different discipline than the application I submit, can I tell them I am interested in both areas such as Chem or EE?

Wed Feb 25, 2009 7:59 am
Name: JJ | Comment: can anyone answer, my NOR says I am not qualified, still able to go to the uspto career fair?

Fri Feb 27, 2009 9:03 pm
Name: sc | Comment: Hi, I just received my NOR mail one week after applying for EE job at GS-9 level. Nor says I am eligible for the post and no further action is required at this point. Do I just need to wait now for next mail? or I should contact HR about next step. Thanks in advance.

Mon Mar 02, 2009 7:37 am
Name: -_- | Comment: Hiring freeze.

Mon Mar 02, 2009 8:33 am
Name: sc | Comment: Sunny77: Hi, I just received my NOR mail one week after applying for EE job at GS-9 level. NOR says I am eligible for the post and no further action is required at this point. Do I just need to wait now for next mail? or I should contact HR about next step. Thanks in advance.

Mon Mar 02, 2009 11:41 am
Name: wv | Comment: Just talk to a HR person at USPTO. They suspended all hiring for now. So Econ seems to have hit them too, Hiring is indeed freezed.

Sat Jan 16, 2010 11:39 pm
Name: Christian Sanchelima | Comment: Thank you Suuny for your contribution. Is the hiring freeze still in effect for PE's?

Sun Jan 17, 2010 3:31 pmThe PTO is currently hiring back former patent examiners who left the office less than 3 years ago or who worked at the patent office for more than 3 years. As far as I know, they are not hiring anyone else at this time.

Mon Jan 18, 2010 7:12 am
Name: foreign examiner | Comment: Does anyone know if the USPTO hires non-citizens as Patent Examiners? I am currently working as a patent examiner for Brazil's patent office but I'm looking to work for the USPTO. I don't have a work visa or any other status in the US at the moment. Can anyone tell me if the USPTO would be willing to sponsor my visa? I heard that there are many foreigners working as patent examiners for the USPTO but all the job postings say, "US Citizens only". Help please!

Wed Jan 20, 2010 1:26 pm
Name: tian6869 | Comment: Qustion on USPTO Promotion and Gov Within-Gread increase

I was GS-7 step 10 for more than 1 year, then take the promotion to becaome GS-9 step 7, do you know how long i have to wait, to become GS-9 step 8?

I know the waiting period is 104 weeks, but i don't know, does the waiting period reset by the promotion?

do i have to wait 1 year (1 year when i was GS-7+ 1 year when i am GS 9) or 2 year (when i am GS-9), in order to become GS-9 step 8?

Wed Jan 20, 2010 8:15 pmThe waiting period between step 7 and step 8 is 156 weeks (3 years). The time period starts from the date you were promoted to a GS-9 step 7. In general, the waiting period between step 1 to step 2, step 2 to 3 and step 3 to 4 is 52 weeks each. The waiting period between step 4 to 5, step 5 to 6 and step 6 to 7 is 104 weeks each. Then the waiting period from step 7 to 8, step 8 to 9 and step 9 to 10 is 156 weeks each.

Thu Jan 21, 2010 5:10 pm
Name: Sharon | Comment: Whatever you do save yourself. Do not work here. Working here is like being a slave! Modern day slavery! Don't do it .production will stress you out. No life, long hours and horrible managment.

Tue Feb 23, 2010 3:15 pm
Name: former examiner | Comment: Sharon you are so right. The USPTO is a modern day sweatshop.

Sat Feb 27, 2010 11:26 pm
Name: current examiner | Comment: sharon and former examiner are so wrong. This first year is the hardest, then after you build up your pipeline, it can be super easy. Learn how to do the job right and your rarely have to work. Efficiency counts! People who get fired or forced to quit are likely to have a "sweat shop" view of the office. To each their own

Mon Mar 01, 2010 11:25 am
Name: mrkia | Comment: Iv seen the management at the PTO go after examiners near retirement for personal reasons. Imagine how badly the junior examiners are treated.

Fact is the PTO is run like a government bureaucracy not a business. Think about it. If someone had great management skills they would be in the private sector where the big bucks are.

Here are some stats for you. 70% of examiners leave within the first 5 years. If it was such a great place to work why are they leaving in masses? Anyone who defends the PTO is either a brownoser, management or a moron.

Funny part the PTO is only hiring former examiners right now. LOL.

Wed Mar 03, 2010 2:12 pm
Name: another current examiner | Comment: i dont understand why so many people complain about working at the PTO, I have friends in the private sector who are consultants and accountants where they work 80+ in a biweek including time on weekends, not to mention many doctors who work even harder.

This job is so flexible that if you're smart you can easily get your work done on time. I completely disagree that its a sweatshop, its all about working smarter not harder, so you just need to figure out how to maxmize the use of your time wisely

In response to mrkia, the attrition ratio is well known, however, the reasons could be anything from the person not being suitable for the job (i.e. cant handle the work load even from a GS 7 or 9 level), to leaving to pursue other interests.

Furthermore, the reason why the PTO is only hiring former examiners is because for budget purposes they do not want to start the Patent Training Academy (PTA) back up and therefore hiring old examiners saves them the 8 months that would be necessary for training

The only thing I would complain about is that its a completely individual job where there is absolutely zero group interaction or working along side with a team. So if you dont mind going to the office and sitting in front of a computer screen for 8 hours a day then you wont mind the job.

Lastly, what is true is the rediculous cost of living in this area and you will get sticker shock when looking for housing in areas near the PTO such as Alexandria, Arlington Springfield, Annandale, and Falls Chruch

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