Public Sector Jobs and Careers
Many people who feel they want to 'make a difference' opt to work in the public sector. Doing so means that you are employed, directly or indirectly, by the government and your salary comes from public funds. There is a huge range of careers available, in institutions such as health, education, the armed forces, emergency services, as well as local government and central government offices and special projects.
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There are positives and negatives to working in the public sector, many of which are substantial. Bureaucracy is one of the major stumbling blocks for a lot of people, with the amount of paperwork and lack of speed being frustrating. On the other hand, with so many jobs available, it's relatively easy to progress in your career through hard work and promotion.
The Civil Service
One of the most well-known branches of the public service is the civil service, the administrative support for the government at central and local level. The civil service helps the government to develop policy and put it into action, as well as to run the different branches of the public services under the governmental departments. These include the Ministry of Business Innovation and Skills, Culture Media and Sport, Energy and Climate Change, etc.
If you are interested in exploring Civil Service jobs, see: Civil Service jobs gateway. Vacancies are searchable, starting with department and then with job category - there are 49 of these. Internships are also listed.
Gaduates may be eligible for the Civil Service Fast Stream graduate programme, which aims to develop future leaders through talent management. Those who gain admission begin their employment with a series of placements or postings, moving between projects and work areas to build up rich experience within a very short period of time. There are also secondments throughout the wider public sector, Europe or the charitable, business or industry sectors.
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The UK is divided into local government areas based on 'shire' counties, London boroughs, Metropolitan areas and Unitary authorities. These local councils are responsible for the provision of day-to-day services at a local level, including environmental protection, recycling and rubbish collection, traffic and parking control, and facilities such as community and sports centres.
The local government careers' website lists jobs and provides guidance as to selecting a career, inviting you to select from the following categories. Detailed careers information is listed on each of the pages.
- Building your community (architecture, building and construction, facilities maintenance, finance, housing, surveying).
- Caring for your community (care of children and young people, care of elderly people, health, other social care, policy and review, social work).
- Educating your community (advice and support, information, pre-school, school - non-teaching, school transport, teaching).
- Entertaining your community (facilities/operations, front line staff, leisure/sports development).
- Protecting your community (emergency services, environmental care & conservation, environmental health, highways and maintenance, planning and licensing, trading standards, waste management).
- Supporting your community (administration, democratic services, development, finance, front line staff, human resources, information technology, legal, marketing, policy, research and review).
The site also provides a comprehensive list of local councils as well as the means to submit online applications for government jobs. Local government careers website - Local Government Jobs
National Health Service
The UK's public health service is enormous, with over one million employees. Only the English NHS is officially called the National Health Service, the others being NHS Scotland and NHS Wales. Health and Social Care in Northern Ireland is called the HSC.
Hospitals in the NHS are managed by NHS trusts and are run by a trust board. Primary care is provided in the local community via local GPs, NHS walk-in centres, dentists, pharmacists and opticians. There are almost 250 hospitals, mental health and ambulance trusts in England, 51 primary care trust clusters (PCTs) and a growing number of clinical commissioning groups (groups of GP practices).
As the largest single employer in Europe, the NHS in England employs doctors, nurses and medical staff, plus staff in administration, cleaning, maintenance, catering and security posts. The NHS careers' website lists over 300 different careers, providing extensive information on the nature of the work, how to get started and prospects. It also lists job opportunities.
The NHS Careers site - www.healthcareers.nhs.uk
Department for Education
There is always going to be a need for teachers, right across the student age range and throughout the UK. In England, the Department for Education's Teaching Agency is responsible for initial teacher training. On the website, you'll find information on how to become a teacher, as well as the support programme available for those who enter training.
The website also tells you what it's like to be a teacher and the different subject areas you can focus on, whether you're aiming to teach at nursery or university level.
Department for Education on becoming a teacher - getintoteaching.education.gov.uk
The emergency services are the ambulance service, the fire brigade and the police force. Each service has front-line personnel, plus administration and support staff. The work can be varied and demanding at times, and a sensitive approach is needed when dealing with some situations.
Information on careers in the Ambulance Service is via the NHS website - healthcareers.nhs.uk/explore-roles/ambulance-service-team
Information on the Police Force is obtainable via the Home Office website - Joining the Police
Details of joining the Fire Service - www.fireservice.co.uk/recruitment/
In the UK, the armed forces comprise the British Army, the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy. Each has its own website, where information about careers can be found.
Information on careers in the Royal Air Force
Information on careers in the Royal Navy
Information on careers in the British Army
As can be seen, there is far more to working in the public sector than sitting at a desk, pushing pieces of paper. It's important that you first evaluate your skills and personal qualities, as well as your interests, before choosing some career areas for further investigation. If you are prepared to move for the right job, so much the better.
In all of the above sectors, support roles such as marketing and IT are growing - technological advance is affecting the public sector just as much as business and commerce. In professions such as these, there is likely to be a choice of departments you can work in.
As an undergraduate, consider gaining a work placement in the department or sector of your choice. It's always valuable to gain some insight into exactly how things work, as the public sector is probably subject to more erroneous preconceptions than any other area.
Alternatively, arrange to visit or shadow somebody within your chosen work area. Publicly funded offices have many employees who are highly motivated about their work - although there are others who may be less open.
The websites listed in this article present a huge amount of information about careers. Take your time to read these and consider which employment would really suit you.