Working in public services encompasses a huge range of different roles, but it’s essentially all about trying to improve the wellbeing of the general public. Those who work in the public sector work directly for the government, which means they usually have a fairly stable and regular working life. The sector is divided into four sections, which are: tax collection, law making (politics), law enforcement (police) and service delivery (such as Medicare, Centrelink, Department of Environment and heaps of others). Because the government is such a huge institution, public servants work within a massive operating team.
Will it suit me?
The public sector needs people with all kinds of interests and skills, such as language, numeracy, science, ethics and administration. It’s a sector with a reputation for being extremely structured, and is sometimes criticized for strict approach to bureaucracy. Within government institutions, there’s a set structure and procedure for everything, and public servants are expected to adhere the guidelines. In return, workers are rewarded with great job security, holidays and a range of employment benefits.
What can I do?
Community liason officer, councilor, senator, youth worker, community support worker, welfare officer, electoral services officer, family support officer, fire-fighter, police officer, prison guard, local government administrator, local government clerk, politician, political campaigner, political strategist, sociologist, case worker, job provider officer, administrator, development manager, tax agent, tax collector, council worker, town planner, scientific researcher, environmental health officer, environmental protection officer, fire prevention specialist, grants officer, garbage collector, intelligence analyst, planning officer, paramedic, public housing officer, youth group leader, youth justice officer, legal aid representative etc.
How can I get there?
There are literally so many different fields within the public sector that it’s hard to talk about the education pathways in general terms. For some roles, such as senator, legal aid representative or town planner, you’ll almost certainly need a university degree. For others, such as council worker, administrator or job provider, you might receive training on the job. It’s worth looking specifically at what kind of public service role you might be seeking and go from there.
Is it a good industry?
The public sector boasts some of the best working conditions around. That means the administration is really on point when it comes to sick pay, holiday pay, maternity leave, superannuation schemes and working conditions. The tradeoff is that there is a lot of bureaucracy, paperwork and sometimes a lack of flexibility when it comes to working conditions. Basically, if you play by the rules, the government will look after you pretty well.
One positive aspect of the public service is that you’re working directly for the government, so there are opportunities to make an impact on changing policies for the better. On the flipside, public servants have to answer to whatever political party wins the election, so if you don’t agree with the big decisions made by government of the day, things could get a bit awkward at work.