Civil Service Employment

Working for the Government

Civil service workers
Civil service workers in a government building. Hill Street Studios / Blend Images / Getty Images

Please Note: The information in this article pertains to government employment in the United States.

Civil Service Defined

What does it mean when someone says he or she is a civil service employee or a civil servant? It means that person works for a government agency. Civil service encompasses employment in Federal, state, and local government agencies. Each is responsible for its own employment system.

This means that each state takes care of its own personnel needs, as does each city within those states. Local municipalities such as villages, townships and towns, school districts, and special districts often have their own employment systems as well. Each of these governmental units—Federal, state, and local—is independent and engages in different hiring practices. Because of this, it would be impossible to go into detail here about working for specific states or municipalities. Therefore, any specific information given here will pertain only to US government jobs.

Pros and Cons of Public Employment

Believed by many to be among the most secure work environments, jobs in government are highly sought after. Excellent retirement and health benefits are what attract many people to these jobs. Not all governments, though, are generous in the benefits they offer. In addition, government agencies have faced some of the same problems that the private sector has faced in recent years.

Downsizing is one of these problems.

Salaries in the public sector are often competitive with those in the private sector. If you add benefits to these salaries, they often come out ahead. Wages increase with your time spent in a particular government agency. In the Federal employment system, these increases in salary are called steps.

Unfortunately, civil service employees have a reputation for being lazy. Though there may be a few bad apples in the bunch, as there are in most bunches, civil service workers are no more likely to be poor workers than private sector employees. Most government workers are ambitious and hard working.

Types of Jobs

Jobs are as varied in government as they are in the private sector. Every occupation imaginable can be performed in a civil service environment. As a matter of fact many jobs are almost limited to governmental agencies. For example, the majority of teachers, librarians, and public safety professionals work in the public sector.

Searching for a Civil Service Job

The Federal government has made it relatively simple to search for a job within their system. The US Office of Personnel Management developed USAJOBS. USAJOBS is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Job seekers can view job vacancies, submit applications and get the facts about federal employment.

Unfortunately, there isn't an "official" centralized location like this where you can find state and local jobs all listed in one place. However, there are several Web sites that list local government jobs. Those sites are included in the resources below.


Government Careers
Expert Michael Roberts provides you with all the information you need about government jobs.

Careers in Government
Public sector jobs and information about government employment.

Federal Jobs Digest
Free job listings and other information.

Government Jobs
More resources from Alison Doyle, your Expert to Job Searching.

State and local jobs arranged by job category.

Public Service Employees Network
In addition to job listings for all 50 states and major US cities, this comprehensive site features career and job information and civil service test resources.

US Government Salaries and Wages
Includes links to the General Schedule (GS), Law Officer Pay Schedule, and the Federal Wage System.

US Office of Personnel Management
The official site of the federal government's human resources agency.

Very informative.

The US Office of Personnel Management's official job listing resource.

Articles on Other Career Choices