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If you enjoy working with people and like the idea of contributing to government, national or international agendas then the public sector could be a good place for you.

Roles within the public sector are very varied, they can offer excitement such as working with the police or ambulance services, or you can contribute to eradicating world poverty or curing diseases.

Sub-sectors in the public sector

There are more or less five subsectors within the public sector. These include:

  • Healthcare and social work
  • Civil service
  • Emergency services
  • Armed forces and defence
  • Teaching.

Obviously within each of these are a whole range of different roles which require different skill sets and qualifications. Some of these organisations are the largest employers in the UK so it is quite likely that you could be working in the public sector at some point in your career.

The benefit of such a wide variety is the opportunities on offer, not only for career progression but location and type of work environment. There is definitely something for everyone.


Starting salaries are good and as you progress up the ladder they remain competitive with the private sector. You usually don’t find the really large pay packages which are reserved for a very small % of the population and the private sector. Salary progression does vary quite a bit from subsector to subsector though.

The additional benefits are often very good, especially the pension schemes. Therefore when thinking about the wage you hope to have, take these other advantages into account.

Travel opportunities and work environment

Most of the skills you learn in public sector professions can be used abroad and in fact some countries encourage emigration of certain professions.

Travel opportunities are possible particularly in the civil service where you could be based abroad for extended periods of time. Other roles may require you to travel to clients or projects across the UK or abroad.

Some work environments can be very stressful such as within the fire service or in an ER. You should only choose these professions if you can cope with high pressure environments. For other professions, you may be involved with other’s lives and the problems they may have on a front line or management level.

Having said all that, most people join the public sector because they enjoy working with people and helping them and the job satisfaction that this brings.

Short and long-term prospects

Short and long-term prospects can be good. There are some jobs which are more dangerous than others so this will have to be a consideration.

If you have no formal qualifications, you may find it more difficult to progress. However, many organisations are very good about offering on-the-job training.

A lot of the professions will offer a well-structured plan for career progression but then it’s up to you to put the time and effort in to demonstrate you are capable and want to take on a more senior role.

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