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Careers in the public sector include anything which is funded by public money. For this reason, the opportunities are incredibly broad. You could be working as a civil servant, an ambulance driver or a teacher.

Many join this sector because it has traditionally offered more stable employment and generous benefits packages. It also puts employees at the front line of changes to policy, governance and communities or help shape these in the future.

Challenges and opportunities

Many roles can be extremely rewarding but also quite challenging without having the financial rewards that the private sector may have. Therefore, your motivations to enter a profession should be more than financial. Read some profiles so you are aware of the reality of the situation and how you might be able to cope with the related stress.

Due to the national and sometimes international nature of the organisations within the public sector, these positions can provide flexibility in location. This can be a big advantage as our lives become more mobile.

Differences between the public and private sector usually come from the differences in size and how decisions are made. Public sector organisations will have very different processes and procedures.

13 out of 100 of The Times Top 100 Graduate Employers 2011 were public sector organisations. This shows that the public sector remains a popular option for graduates. However, this does mean graduate schemes are highly competitive. There are opportunities outside these programmes such as within the armed forces or social work.

Some professions will require a specialised degree subject such as nursing but others will accept any degree subject. And remember if you do decide to go down a specialised route or have a career change, it’s possible to get a loan or funding in order to return to university.


  • Healthcare & Social work
    Beyond medicine and dentistry, there is a wealth of opportunities in management and other business related professions as well as research and engineering.
  • Civil Service
    National or local government bodies, as well as quangos and intelligence services are some of the options available here.
  • Emergency Services
    If you want to be on the front line than perhaps working for the police, fire and ambulance services would be a good option.
  • Armed Forces & Defence
    The MOD offer a range of positions within the Royal Navy, RAF, The Army as well as engineering positions within the Dstl or affiliated private companies.
  • Teaching
    Whether you teach nursery, primary, secondary, college or university, teaching can offer a rewarding career.
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