Looking for a Job?
With unemployment affecting nearly 10 percent of the population, many people are struggling to establish their careers. While quality jobs are hard to come by, the public sector continues to offer stable and meaningful work for people of all education levels and skill sets. Whether you're just graduating school, seeking a change in your career or, like many in this economy, facing unemployment, we're here to help you learn more about the many job opportunities in the public sector.
About This Site
This free online guide has the information you need to find a job in the public sector. Learn more about the public sector and the opportunities within its various organizations, and find tips and resources for how to conduct your job search and apply to these jobs. Discover how to make a career in the public sector and enjoy a lifetime of secure, meaningful employment!
Why the Public Sector?
Work/Life Balance: A variety of part-time and full-time jobs are available through the public sector. The work hours are typically very fair and the majority of employees report that they feel very rewarded in their jobs.
Advancement: Most organizations within the public sector have multiple levels of staff and they try to promote from within, meaning there is plenty of opportunity for you to advance your career.
Personal Development: Organizations within the public sector recognize the need for continuous training and personal growth, which is why they encourage staff to develop personal and practical skills in the workplace.
Meaningful Work: Jobs in the public sector are focused on solving pressing public problems. Those who work in the public sector contribute to making a difference for the good of the entire population, and they get paid to do it!
Options: There are a wide range of careers within the public sector, such as nursing, teaching, engineering, law enforcement and armed forces. These jobs have multiple positions for people of all education levels and skill sets.
In short, working for the public sector means working for the government. The public sector encompasses a large network of organizations that all focus on addressing major challenges that define the public agenda, including education, law enforcement, pollution control and much more.
Traditionally, public sector employees were expected to earn slightly less than private sector employees. In return, the government provided them with the perks of job security and generous benefits, which include pensions and lifelong healthcare. In 1962, President John F. Kennedy granted federal employees the right to unionize, giving government workers the added perk of collective bargaining over their salary and benefits.
Today, there are more than 20 million paying public sector positions, many of which actually pay more than private sector jobs. During the recession, public sector jobs remained relatively steady while private sector jobs plummeted. One of the reasons for this is the fact that the government sets forth strict guidelines and regulations making it much harder to fire and lay off their employees.
While there is some debate over whether the government should redefine the benefits and salaries of public sector jobs given the circumstances of the economy, the public sector is still a highly appealing place to work for people of all skill levels and backgrounds. If you're looking for a rewarding job that offers job security and tremendous benefits, you should be aware of the many job opening across the country in the public sector. To learn more about applying for public sector jobs, click on the How to Apply tab above.
Think you need to have a political science degree to work for the government? Think again! Nobody offers a wider variety of opportunities than the public sector. The range of job opportunities within the public sector covers almost every skill level and interest. Before you apply for a public sector job, visit USAJOBS.gov to explore current job openings and learn more about the different departments that make up the federal workforce.
There are many opportunities to grow within each department. In this section, we provide a brief description of the general responsibilities of each department to help you explore your options. Read through the descriptions to see which departments may be right for you.
Department of Agriculture
The Department of Agriculture provides leadership on food, agriculture, national resources, rural development and related issues. Positions in this department range from protecting the safety of food supply to regulating and distributing food stamps.
Department of Commerce
The Department of Commerce is in charge of promoting and developing the U.S. economy. This department is responsible for creating conditions for economic growth and opportunity. They do this by promoting innovation, entrepreneurship and competitiveness among businesses.
Department of Defense
The Department of Defense is responsible for managing national security and safety. This department is split up into four agencies: Department of Defense, Department of Army, Department of Navy and Department of Air Force.
Department of Education
The Department of Education is in charge of promoting student achievement and preparing the next generation for global competitiveness. Positions in this department range from public school teachers to policy makers.
Department of Energy
The Department of Energy focuses much of their efforts on finding solutions to more efficient energy options. They promote scientific and technological innovation to support this mission.
Department of Health and Human Services
The Department of Health and Human Services is responsible for the safety and welfare of the U.S. population. They provide essential human services and offer support to those with the greatest needs. They also sponsor medical and social science research that supports their mission.
Department of Homeland Security
The Department of Homeland Security protects the U.S. from threats. They guard the nation's border and airports, coordinate the nation's emergency response and prevent terrorist attacks.
Department of Housing and Urban Development
The Department of Housing and Urban Development has a mission to increase homeownership, support community development and increase affordable housing. They fund public housing projects, enforce equal housing laws and insure finances and mortgages.
Department of Justice
The Department of Justice is in charge of enforcing the law. They seek punishment for those that are found guilty and promote federal leadership in preventing and controlling crime.
Department of Labor
The Department of Labor is in charge of employment nationwide. They're responsible for improving work conditions, broadening opportunities and promoting the welfare of retirees. They also collect and analyze economic data in order to stimulate job growth.
Department of State
The Department of State is responsible for international relations. They oversee the nation's embassies to protect U.S. citizens outside the country. Their responsibilities range from issuing passports to representing the U.S. before international organizations.
Department of The Interior
The Department of The Interior manages and conserves federally owned land, such as national parks and forests. They initiate programs to protect the environment and conserve natural resources.
Department of Treasury
The Department of Treasury serves as the accountants for America. They are responsible for managing the country's budget and assisting in regulating national banks, promoting economic growth and reducing poverty.
Department of Transportation
The Department of Transportation establishes, designs and constructs standards for the U.S. highways, mass transit, ferries and other transportation programs. They ensure fast, safe, efficient and accessible transportation systems to improve the daily lives of American citizens.
Department of Veteran Affairs
The Department of Veteran Affairs is responsible for managing the benefits of eligible veterans of the U.S. military services and their dependents. They administer programs to help fund disability programs, pensions, specially adapted housing and other services.
General Services Administration
The General Service Administration is in charge of optimizing the government workplace. They provide expert business solutions, assess management and provide innovative and effective management solutions.
Public sector jobs (i.e. government jobs) are highly sought after positions due to their solid pay, great benefits and secure nature. During times of economic downturn, public sector jobs have held steady, offering employees job security and other benefits that private sector jobs simply can't match. In this section, we discuss the many advantages of working in he public sector.
What makes public sector jobs so unique are the many benefits they come with. Government employees enjoy the perks of dental care, extended health care, maternity leave, paid time off and retirement plans. Some federal agencies may also help graduates pay back up to $10,000 per year of student loans and offer financial aid for employees pursuing their graduate degrees. While certain benefits are also offered in the private sector, they rarely reach the level of those provided in the public sector.
Perhaps the greatest benefit of working in the public sector is job security, especially in a struggling economy. This means you won't lose your job provided you meet the basic expectations set forth by the government. Private sector jobs are dependent on both the economy and the company owners' decisions to layoff and fire employees without warning or explanation.
Contrary to popular belief, public sector jobs often offer just as good of salaries as private sector jobs – and the salaries have steadily increased every year. Due to the secure nature of public sector jobs, employees can rest assured that they will continue to see a pay increase with every year they work, whereas the private sector is more likely to stall salary growth and low-ball their offers in an economy where people are desperate for jobs and willing to work for less than they're worth.
Federal jobs are sprouting up all across the country – and around the world! These jobs ore typically more open to flexible schedules for working mothers and people with unique circumstances. In addition, many agencies in the public sector offer on-site childcare and other incentives to facilitate quality of life. Working long hours and weekends is often the expectation of some private sector jobs, whereas public sector jobs tend to remain solid in their 8-hour workday, 5 days a week model.
Public sector employees have highly productive careers that contribute directly to improving the lives of citizens. Most public sector workers find great reward and self-fulfillment in their jobs because they are making valuable contributions to their country and community.
We are in a time of great change. The government is seeking people from all walks of life to help find solutions to the challenging and pressing issues of our time. Working for the public sector in today's economy provides the best of both worlds – a challenging and fulfilling career in a stable environment that offers excellent pay and benefits.
How to Apply
The application process for government jobs is similar to the application process for private sector jobs – you search for openings, gather and submit materials and give an interview. There are, however, some major differences between the two processes. In this section, we will take a closer look at exactly what to expect when applying to a public sector job.
Where to Look
Many of us are familiar with regular job search sites like Monster.com and Craigslist.com. The government maintains a similar site dedicated entirely to public sector jobs, USAJOBS.gov, where you can easily sift through the tens of thousands of jobs that are available at any given time. Through a series of sorting options, you can search by geographic location, job category, salary, or by entering keywords.
How to Apply
While the government encompasses a large variety of public sector jobs, each agency is responsible for their own hiring. After you've explored current job openings at, USAJOBS.gov, check the job page of the agency that is of interest to you for more information.
The application requirements differ with each agency, but it's a good idea to keep your resume, a copy of some sort of proof of identification, letters of recommendations and records of awards and transcripts handy. The government tends to be more detail oriented when it comes to reviewing their applicants, so the more information you can provide, the better.
One key aspect that sets government job applications apart from the typical private sector application is the Knowledge Skills and Abilities questions (KSAs). This questionnaire helps agencies distinguish qualified candidates from unqualified candidates, and it also gives you the opportunity to express why you believe you are the best fit for the job. In your answers, be specific in explaining how the knowledge, skills and abilities you obtained through your education and work experience meet the requirements of the position. For example, if you are applying to a position in information technology, you may be required to spell out what you know about computers, what computer software programs you are familiar with and the types of assignments you have successfully completed in your past experience. The closer your skills and background match the KSAs, the better your job prospects will be.
Getting Your Foot in the Door
While the government is the biggest employer in the country, they are also one of the most selective. However, there are certain actions you can take to increase your chances of getting noticed. In addition to providing precise and thoughtful answers in the KSAs, employment history and past work experience are vital components to your candidacy. Start proving your commitment early by participating in community service projects in a field of work that interests you. Even though the government likes to hire from within, that doesn't mean that you can't jump form a public sector job to a government job. Look for internships both in and out of the public sector to build your experience.
While many agencies provide on-the-job training, there are other key programs that allow students to get their foot in the door and expedite entry into federal government jobs.
- Student Temporary Employment Program (STEP)
- STEP is a government-sponsored program that allows students to participate in paid internships with a federal agency. It is a great way for students to be exposed to the government workforce and gain experience in a particular field of interest. Each program varies in length, ranging from a summer to the entire time a student is enrolled in school. High school students, students in two-year or four-year colleges and students in vocational and graduate programs are all eligible to participate in STEP. For more information on STEP, visit www.opm.gov/employ/students/intro.asp
- Student Career Experience Program (SCEP)
- SCEP is designed to create internship opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students. After completing 640 hours of work, students may be offered a full-time position without going through the traditional hiring process. Most positions are paid and offer academic credit. For more information on SCEP, visit, www.opm.gov/employ/students/intro.asp
- Presidential Management Fellow (PMF)
- This prestigious program is designed to recruit and prepare talented people for upper-level management positions in the federal government. The two-year program is open to any graduate student in his/her final year of school. In order to participate in the program, a student must be nominated by his/her college. After a rigorous evaluation process, a select number of students are selected to continue. Each individual agency structures their program a little differently, but they all include training opportunities and the chance to rotate through different positions in and out of their chosen agency. For more information on PMF, visit, www.pmf.opm.gov
What makes public sector jobs so unique is their emphasis on public service and tackling today's pressing issues. The government is constantly developing new ways to improve the lives of citizens and they need talented people to help develop and execute solutions. While Uncle Sam is always hiring in a wide array of fields, there are a few areas that are considered the most in-demand in recent years. Read on to learn more about some of today's hottest government jobs.
The U.S. faces uncertainty both here and abroad. There is an ongoing need for protection and security in a variety of areas, including intelligence analysis, foreign affairs, international relations, security administration, transportation security officers, park rangers, correctional officers and police officers.
Enforcement and Compliance
With immigration becoming a bigger concern among American citizens, the government has created more positions in the Department of Homeland Security. These positions include border security, custom enforcement, custom inspection and Federal investigation.
In recent years, there have been changes in the way in which visas and passports are processed and distributed. Paralegals, passport examiners and claims assistance representatives are all needed to help enforce this process. Many of these jobs require less education than attorneys and judges, but they are just as vital to upholding America's justice system.
Medical and Public Health
Despite a bad economy, the health and wellbeing of American citizens will always be a priority of the government. The majority of medical government positions these days are within the Department of Veterans Affairs. These positions include many areas of the medical industry including a variety of specialists, occupational therapists, radiologists, physicians and rehabilitation therapy.
Administrative & Program Management
With every organization, there is a staff of people that are required to help run it. Program managers and analysts are needed to monitor the effectiveness of certain programs. Other entry-level jobs include administrative assistants, bookkeepers, clerical positions, human resources and secretaries.
As the government and society as a whole increasingly turn to technology to support their daily activity, IT managers are in high-demand. All departments are hiring heavily for IT managers, especially the Department of Defense, Department of Treasury, Department of Army and Navy and Department of Homeland Security.
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