Government work is a career option that may often be overlooked by students. The pay is generally not quite what they might have if they find jobs in the private sector, it's true, but local, state, or federal government work can be very rewarding and often offers great benefits, not to mention better work/life balance in many cases. Not only does a government worker have an impact on their local, state, or national society but they receive healthy compensation packages that may include comprehensive healthcare coverage, generous time off including maternity and paternity leave, as well as a pension for when they retire.
Since the government is so pervasive, nearly any sort of career found in the private sector has an analogue in government. The government hires doctors, lawyers, engineers, cyber security experts, and even bricklayers. Further, recent changes in government policy enable students to defer their student loan payments if they take a job working for a government agency.
A government career is a great way to give back and support your country while also making a great salary that includes generous benefits and a pension plan. The good thing about preparing for a government career is that there are many levels at which a person can begin their career. No matter your level of experience or education, there is likely a government job that needs your work.
With that said, it's best to attain the highest level of education possible. Like the private sector, government jobs pay more for better-trained individuals. While one counter argument here is that government jobs don't pay as well as their private sector equals, they do tend to have better benefits and other perks. One of the biggest perks to working for the government is that, thanks to a plan set in place by President Obama, workers can defer their student loans in return for government work. After enough time, the entire loan may be erased.
Another way to enter government work is by taking a Civil Service Exam. This test, or some variation, is offered at many levels of government. Those who want to work for their city government can take that test while those who are more interested in being a federal employee can take the test. However, 80% of federal government jobs are filled after a review of the applicant's education, experience, and skills.
There are many degrees that focus on government to some extent. There are public administration master’s degrees that many use to rise through the ranks of government. There are also political science degrees at every level, which educate students as to the workings of governments. Even accountants can specialize in non-profit or government accounting. Other students may earn degrees in public policy, urban planning, and military schools often offer jobs that focus on the administration of armies and war.
Government focused degrees are a great idea, and they are definitely worthwhile for the civil service minded student. These degrees are not only great background for students who are interested in working for a government agency but are also good for those who desire a career track that engages with government agencies from a private sector office.
One issue that students may face is the fact that their desired career path may not be available in their local area. Students who are interested in working for federal agencies, for instance, may have to relocate to Washington, DC or some other location. After all, federal agencies have offices in cities and states from coast to coast. Students who are looking for their first job may not have much choice other than to move for their work.
Students might also want to look at the average salary figures for government jobs relative to equivalent jobs in the private sector. Since jobs on the federal payroll, or state or local, tend to offer a lower base average salary, many feel that the jobs aren't worth it. However, students are advised to consider other forms of compensation such as paid time off, sick pay, pension plans, and healthcare benefits. Further, students with loans can defer their payments in return for working in a civil service position.
As our population continues to grow, so do the government jobs needed to help support the populace. Much like the private sector, however, this growth is likely to occur most in STEM-focused positions. One of the fastest growing jobs in the government is in statisticians. Their field is projected to see a 23% growth rate through 2030, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
However, the BLS reports that the overall outlook for government careers tends to be on the decline. Administrative positions may be waning, as well as service positions, and even some of the highest paid federal employees. However, this does not mean that hiring will cease or that the current contraction will be permanent. A surge in infrastructure spending, for instance, might result in a need for more managerial and hands-on professions, such as construction workers.
Students who are interested in working for the government, but who may not be able to find the position they desire in a government field should not fret. There may be equivalent positions available for or from government contractors who have privatized many of those government functions. Some of these contractors may also operate as non-profit organizations, a feature that may allow students to continue to defer their student loans.
There are many routes to a career in government. However, all students should do their best to first attain the highest possible degree they can, in the field that suits them the best. This applies no matter if the student wants to work as a statistician, administrator, aviation expert, or fire fighter. Having earned academic credentials, as well as any applicable private sector experience, it's time to seek an open entry-level position. Even the highest paid federal employees and other government employees usually started at or close to the bottom.
The federal government makes all their open positions available to the public. Candidates should review these job announcements carefully to determine what is required from an applicant. Some jobs will require scores from the civil service exam but many more, 80%, are filled much as any job in the private sector is, by a manager reviewing one's skills, education, and general background.
Careers that require a civil service exam score include mail handlers, US Customs agents, IRS agents, CIA agents, and Border Patrol workers.