Begin a Career in Government: Options, Outlook and Requirements

Sep 21, 2019

From social service assistants, geographers and economists, there are a variety of positions available in each level of government. A high school diploma or an associate's degree may suffice for some of these positions, but some governmental jobs do require a higher level of education.

Essential Information

A career with the United States government can mean working for the federal government, state government or local government. This field includes a wide group of professions, based in the public sector, with a large number of potential career paths. Education requirements vary for government positions and can range from little or no necessary formal education up to graduate degrees.

Career Title Social and Human Service Assistant Geographer Economist
Education requirements High school diploma at minimum; associate's degree or relevant experience may be beneficial Bachelor's degree at minimum; additional education may be beneficial Master's degree
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 13% 3% 8%
Median Salary (2018)* $33,750 $80,300 $104,340

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Options

A career in government entails an enormous range of potential professions on the federal, state and local level. Collectively, these three types of government make up one of the largest sources of employment in the nation. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the following categories of government jobs:

  • Management, business and financial
  • Professional and related
  • Office and administrative support
  • Service
  • Installation, maintenance and repair
  • Transportation and material moving
  • Construction and extraction
  • Production
  • Sales and related
  • Farming, fishing and forestry

Examples of possible careers that can be attained across the various levels of government levels include social service assistants, geographers and economists.

Social and Human Service Assistant

Social and human service assistants may work for local or state governments by assisting other professionals, such as social workers. They provide help for individuals who are struggling or require assistance, such as people with addictions, former prison inmates or homeless people. The standard requirement for this position is a high school diploma, though some employers may prefer candidates with similar experience or an associate's degree. Compared to other occupations, jobs in this field are expected to grow at a much faster-than-average rate of 13% from 2018-2028, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS also states that the median annual income for social and human service assistants was $33,750 in 2018.


Geographers examine the features and people that make up a certain area. They may observe how politics or cultures correlate with geography. According to the BLS, nearly 60 percent of all geographers work for the federal government. A bachelor's degree is suitable for entry-level jobs within government, though advanced degrees may lead to additional career prospects. The BLS projected an increase of 3% in jobs for geographers from 2018-2028. The median annual income was $80,300 in 2018.


Economists collect and interpret economic data surrounding economic issues, including the production and distribution of goods, resources and services on a business or government level. According to the BLS, over one-third of all economists are employed by the government. Economists may study a specific field, such as healthcare, education or employment. A master's degree is often the minimum requirement for economists. According to the BLS, job growth for economists is expected to increase by 6% from 2014-2024. The BLS reported that the annual median income for economists was $99,180 in 2015.

Job Outlook

According to the BLS, employment in the field of federal government is expected to decrease 14.1 percent across all occupations from 2018-2028, while job prospects in the field of state and local government are expected to increase by 3.2 percent. Some careers with the best job growth at the federal government level include statistician and mathematician. At the state and local government levels, statisticians and industrial machinery mechanics were projected to see the most growth.

As a result of a large percentage of full-time federal government employees rapidly reaching the age of retirement eligibility, the federal government itself has been attempting to motivate career growth in the industry over the past several years, particularly in the college and university environment. While the number of jobs in the federal government is expected to decrease from 2018-2028, there will be job growth, though slower than average, at the local and state government levels.


The educational, experience and skill requirements for government careers vary wildly depending on the specific profession. Some careers require a graduate degree, while others require a 4-year bachelor's degree, a 2-year degree, a technical certificate, a high school diploma or no formal education whatsoever. Similarly, experience and skill qualifications differ greatly in this broad field. For some students who have completed a bachelor's or graduate degree, a government career internship may be available before or after graduation to assist in career progression. Almost all government professions require job candidates to be United States citizens who pass a background check.

Even though employment in federal government is expected to decline within the next decade, there will be a small increase of job openings within the state and local government. Training, education and experience do vary for each position. Salary is dependent on job title and other factors.

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