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Public Service Career is not For Everyone

However, there is great satisfaction in serving society while making a living.

By Horace A. Blake

Government is under fire in terms of the excessive criticism that there is too much government. There has never been more call for downsizing and cutting back the bulk of the public workforce. This has progressed into a political wedge issue.


In our everyday life, public administration touches every facet of how we exist from the building of roads to the transportation of food to our neighborhood grocery store. Today’s public administrators are very educated and well-trained professionals. As pointed out by Government and Public Administration, persons preparing for careers in public administration should be able to demonstrate skills as outlined in the Pathway Knowledge and Skills Chart. The areas are based on academic foundation, communication, problem solving and critical thinking, information technology applications, safety health and environmental, leadership and teamwork, ethics and legal responsibilities,  employability and career development as well as a variety of technical skills.

The many public service jobs that exist are at either municipalities, counties, states or the federal government. Other public service jobs are available in the nonprofit sector along with nongovernment organization opportunities that continue to be global in scope. Further, stated careers in public administration analyze information, oversee expenditures, manage people and resources, supervise forensic investigations, prosecute white-collar crimes, administer homeland security and anti-terrorism initiatives and more recently rigorously prosecute cybercrime and copyrights infringements occurring globally.


There is a myth that public service employment is mostly low paying wages and salaries and that the motivation to accept such positions is based on the opportunity to forgo the high salaries of the private sector for good benefits available in the public sector. However, as the increasing specialization of the twenty first century takes on new meaning, the knowledge needed to address managing public institutions requires taking a page from market-based institutions. According to Donald E. Klinger and John Nalbandian, Public Personnel Management: Contexts and Strategies, the traditional employment contract between public employees and the public has fundamentally been affected by market-based values in two critical respects such as a dynamic environment and the demand for quality professionals. In the article “Public Administration Jobs,” Greg Scott Neuman wrote that employment in the field of public administration varied and encompassed many human resources, human services and administrative positions. These jobs vary from auditors, city managers, consumer safety inspectors, customs inspectors, industrial relations specialists, and labor relations to mediation. Many of these jobs pay very well depending on the region of the U.S. and the proven track record and experience of the candidate. For example, there are public administrators, such as City of Dallas manager, where the compensation is very lucrative to the tune of $400,000.

Some of the key positions in local public administration that is at the core of desired skill sets are:

  • Economic development director whose responsibility is to increase growth through economic development.
  • Human resources director which occupies the same responsibilities that would exist in the private sector and is responsible for development and retaining the human resources of the organization through a variety of policies and implied benefits between employees and management.
  • Public affairs director takes on a very important role as being the voice of the organization in deciding how and what information is ready for press releases as well as administering outreach activities and raising funds for a variety of social and collaborative initiatives.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the great bulk of public or government employment can be found at the local level therefore steadily harnessing more than half of all public administration jobs. Despite the frequent outcry to cut back on government at the state and local level, the increasing demand of consumers for homeland related protection and security, as well as needed social services brings to the forefront the dichotomous nature of politics and administration. Here elected officials have to balance keeping taxes low while providing the promised goods and services that had gotten them elected to office.


Many who desire to be public administrators could enter this field from a variety of educational and core training. In order to make your way to entering the public administration job market requires at least two years of graduate study in regional and urban planning or at best the equivalent work experience. The most popular education would be a Masters of Public Administration, Doctor of Public Administration, Masters of Business Administration, Masters of Public Policy and Administration or Masters of Public Health, which could also bridge training in emergency management. Police and fire development and training are in need of talented leaders to plan and administer policies and effective programs as these are civil service positions. As John J. Keifer pointed out in the article, “Emergency Management, Homeland Security and Public Administration,” the skills forged in the crucible of crises are well suited to a broad range of public management situations and career paths other than that of emergency manager for homeland security. Further stated is that an appropriate career path for an emergency manager is to move ‘upwards’ to positions of more responsibility such as a city manager or even a county administrator. In examination of the career cluster versus knowledge and skill demonstrate a proficiency in needed science and knowledge.


Globally there continues to be a multitude of societal and political strife on many fronts; thus paving the way for well experienced public administrators to take charge and influence change. Careers in public administration encompass a wide range of interests and abilities making available a great deal of professional and personal satisfaction. Therefore, being open to travel and relocation is a plus in taking advantage of any available positions. As our society becomes more mobile, the opportunities will continue to increase as many regions continue to solicit brightest public administration professionals to lead the way.

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The American Society for Public Administration is the largest and most prominent professional association for public administration. It is dedicated to advancing the art, science, teaching and practice of public and non-profit administration.

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