Careers in Civil Service: Job Options and Education Requirements

Oct 04, 2019

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a civil servant. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about education, some of the career paths and other requirements to find out if this is the right field for you.

A career in civil service denotes holding a government job, whether at the state, local, or federal level. One may choose to become a law enforcement officer, urban or regional planner, or legislator, among other options. The educational requirements and salaries vary by the job and position.

Essential Information

Positions with the federal, state or local government, with the exception of the military, are considered civil service jobs. In many cases, those seeking a career with a government agency must pass an examination to qualify for a position.

Career Police and Sheriff Patrol Officers Urban and Regional Planners Legislators
Requirements Completion of police academy program Master's degree Elected to office
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 5% 11% 5%
Average Annual Salary (2018)* $65,400 $73,050 $47,620

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Options

Career opportunities exist in civil service in a variety of areas, such as law enforcement, administrative services, human resources, management, foreign affairs, accounting and public affairs. Civil service jobs are available in the legislative, executive and judicial branches of the federal government.

Federal Jobs

The legislative branch of the federal government employs support and administrative workers for senators and representatives. Positions are available through the executive branch of the government in cabinet departments and independent agencies, such as the U.S. Office of Personnel Management and U.S. Social Security Administration.

State and Local Jobs

Job opportunities are also available for individuals in state and local government agencies, including finance professionals, healthcare workers, computer professionals and administrative staff. Individuals can also seek law enforcement careers, such as local sheriffs or police officers.

Local governments offer positions in fire departments, public schools and social services. The U.S. Postal Service provides opportunities for civil service workers with mail delivery, customer service, administration and clerical positions.

Education Requirements

The education requirements for a civil service position depend on the type of job. For example, professional positions, such as accountants and healthcare workers, generally need a college education.

City managers may be required to hold a master's degree in public administration, public policy, business administration or another related area. Degree programs in public administration may include coursework in fiscal management, organizational behavior, economic policies and public administration.

Some local, state and federal agencies require applicants to have a high school diploma or GED equivalent, as well as pass a civil service examination. This can include administrative aides, clerks, toll collectors and motor vehicle department workers.

Government agencies and departments may also use examinations to decide promotions and advancement. Postal workers must pass a civil service examination in addition to meeting age, citizenship and English language requirements.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

The amount a person earns in a civil service career depends on a number of factors, including job title, education and experience, and years of employment with a government agency. For example, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management's 2016 salary tables showed that a grade one employee with minimal experience earned a base salary of $18,343 when working for a federal government agency. Those considered grade 15 in status, who have extensive experience, could earn a base salary of $133,444 when working for a federal agency. Pay for state and local government jobs may be similarly structured.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expected employment opportunities for federal government jobs to decrease by 1.5 percent from 2014 until 2024, while state and local government jobs are expected to increase by 0.4% that decade. This was due to decreases in government agency budgets and outsourcing of work to the private sector.

Those who wish to serve their government may seek civil service occupations, which can include police officers, mail carriers, public school teachers, healthcare workers, and administrative positions. The job qualifications are dependent on the agency one works in, and educational requirements range from a high school diploma to a graduate-level degree.

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