The public sector is very broad and consists of: central and local government; civil service; public administration; the armed forces (Army, Navy, RAF); emergency services (fire service, police service, ambulance service); security and intelligence services (police force, prison service, MI5, MI6, GCHQ).
There is increasing overlap between the public and private sector as more work is outsourced to private companies due to cuts in public sector spending. The public sector is, however, a significant graduate recruiter offering graduate training schemes in most areas and the opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of others, either through policy work or supporting the safety and wellbeing of the community.
Public sector organisations, particularly in civil service and administration, are often very large and can therefore offer a diverse range of opportunities and career paths with strong scope for progression.
Where do I start?
Within the public sector you could be looking at a wide range of occupations. Prospects has a useful list of job profiles each containing relevant information about key responsibilities, skill requirements, starting salaries, entry requirements, career prospects with links to major employers and current graduate vacancies.
Jobs roles in this sector include:
- Arts administrator
- Chartered public finance accountant
- Civil service administrator
- Civil service fast streamer
- Corporate treasurer
- Diplomatic services operational officer
- Education administrator
- Emergency planning/management officer
- Environmental health practitioner
- Equality and diversity officer
- Facilities manager
- Government social research officer
- Health and safety adviser
- Health and safety inspector
- Health service manager
- Intelligence analyst
- Local government officer
- Museum/gallery exhibitions officer
- Office manager
- Politicians assistant
- Public affairs consultant
- Public librarian
- Senior tax professional/Tax inspector
- Social worker
- Town planner
- Trading standards officer
As part of your job-hunting strategy you will need to keep up to date on developments in this sector and keep track of any vacancies that are coming up. Below are some key resources to help you research opportunities available. The knowledge gained through your research may help you to target your applications and will help when preparing for interviews.
- Prospects - The Public Services overview provides a guide to jobs in this area with articles, news and features, as well as practical information on finding jobs.
- Prospects - A guide to Law Enforcement and Security job roles, entry and progression, future trends and useful resources.
- The Guardian - Guardian news for Public Sector careers.
- PSE- The online site for the Public Sector Executive magazine for local authorities, the civil service and government bodies providing news, blogs and comments.
- Government Announcements - Access to all the latest government anouncements.
The public sector is both competitive and broad which combines to make work experience a central part of your career planning. There are many opportunities available which will help you to identify which job roles would best suit your interests and skills as well as making you stand out from the crowd as a proactive and rounded applicant. Undertaking work experience is also invaluable in developing expertise and the all-important transferrable skills, which will help you demonstrate your ability and commitment for your chosen area of work.
Some areas to consider when looking for work experience in this sector are:
- Parliament - There are four areas that offer work experience placements and internships to students, these are: Department of Committee and Chamber Services (DCCS); Department of Facilities; Department of HR and Change (DHRC); Department of Innovation Services.
- Working for a Member of Parliament (MP) - Working as a researcher or administrator for an MP can give you excellent exposure to how campaigns, legislation and government itself works in the UK as well as giving you the opportunity to begin building a network of contacts.
- Local Government - Both political and non-political work experience positions are available within local government, particularly in the current climate of cuts to the sector. Contact the HR department to find out about short-term project research, internships or work-shadowing opportunities.
Finding experience will take time and effort; employers receive many CVs every week so you will have to work hard to stand out from the crowd. You can find out more about how to create a targeted CV through the Careers and Employability website.
The key to success is to prepare thoroughly, do your research and organise your experience in good time. Think about small and medium size companies as well as large organisations as private sector experience can prove very valuable due to the increasing overlap and outsourcing between the two sectors. Please be aware that some of the opportunities overseas may well have a cost involved so it is important that details are checked carefully.
It is also worth considering the voluntary sector for work experience; the Careers and Employability Service offers current students and graduates access to a Virtual Volunteering Bank which provides local opportunities to undertake alongside your studies. Similarly you can access these opportunities through the paper-based bank located in the Careers and Employability Centre.
If you wish to instigate voluntary work experince during the vacation periods please refer to the 'External sites' on the voluntary work experience section of our website.
Tips to build experience:
- Explore the various areas within the public sector before you apply for work experience; knowing what you want to specialise in will help you focus your research and ensure you gain the relevant skills.
- Get involved in relevant University or external groups, this is a good way of demonstrating your motivation and interest in this area of work.
- Be proactive and make direct contact with organisations that interest you and apply speculatively; send a targeted CV and a covering letter focused on why you are interested in them and why they should be interested in you.
- Create a LinkedIn profile to network with sector employers - see our Networking and Social Media section for further guidance.
Finding a job
There are many different areas within the public sector and work can be varied. You could get involved in central or local government in an administration, research or management role, law enforcement, security services, emergency services or healthcare so some thought as to which area(s) you are particularly interested in will help you to target your job search.
The range of employers who recruit in these areas includes:
Local Government departments:
- Environmental health
- Social services
- Town planning
- Trading Standards
Civil Service departments, agencies or public bodies:
- Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO)
- Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ)
- Government Economic Service (GES)
- Government Legal Service (GLS)
- Government Operational Research Office (GORS)
- Government Social Research Office (GSR)
- Government Statistical Service (GSS)
- HM Revenues and Customs (HMRC)
- HM Treasury
- The Police Force
- The Prison Service
- The Secret Intelligence Service (MI6)
- The Security Service (MI5)
Below is a list of useful websites to help you start your job search
Local and Central Government, Civil Service and Public Administration
- MyPurpleDoor - Access the Careers and Employability Service's online Jobsboard to search the latest vacancies, save jobs and set up vacancy alerts.
- jobsgopublic - You can set up a candidate profile, keep track of your applications and create email alerts.
- Civil Service Fast Stream - The Civil Service Fast Stream is an accelerated training and development graduate programme for people who have the potential to become future leaders in the Civil Service.
- Civil Service Jobs - The Civil Service job site provides a searchable listing of all the civil service opportunities available.
- Parliament - Information, advice and details of current vacancies in parliament including working for an MP, the House of Commons and the House of Lords.
- jobs.ac.uk - UK and International jobs in academic, science, research and administrative employment including a category for politics and government.
- publicsectorjobs - UK job search and recruitment for jobs in the public sector.
- Government Organisations - Lists central government departments, executive agencies and non-departmental public bodies.
- Local Councils - Find principal local councils throughout the UK. Browse the A to Z lists, or browse by region or county. Includes county, city, borough and district councils and unitary authorities.
Armed Forces, Emergency and Security Services
- Army - Army recruitment
- Royal Navy - Navy recruitment
- RAF - RAF recruitment
- Fire Service - Fire-fighter recruitment
- NHS Careers - Paramedic recruitment
- Police Recruitment - Police Officer recruitment
- Justice - Prison Officer recruitment
Tips for finding a job
- Keep up to date with public sector news and trends by following the professional bodies on Twitter, this information might help you identify opportunities to network and tap into the hidden job market.
- Keep your online job search flexible as some employers might use different titles to describe the same job role.
- If you are keen to focus on a specific area within the public sector then check out the private sector equivalent too as you can gain good experience and insight.
- Most organisations have a Twitter and/or Facebook account, register with them as this is often a place where new opportunities are posted, and where you can keep in touch with their current activities.
Need more help and information?
How can the Careers and Employability Service help you?
The Careers and Employability Service offers support to students throughout their studies and provision for graduates up to five years after graduation, with advice and guidance on:
- Career options
- Further study
- CV and Covering Letters
- Application forms
- Job search
- And more......
Please visit our services for you section for more details about our support and services.
The Careers and Employability Service has an online Jobsboard advertising a variety of graduate jobs across different sectors and locations. We also have a dedicated in-house Graduate Recruitment Consultancy that delivers a personalised matching job service.
Remember if you are not on campus you can still access our services via telephone or Google Hangouts appointments, please contact us to discuss your needs.