What Are Public Service Jobs (And Are They Right For You)? - Money Under 30 (2023)

Working at a job you love isn’t always possible.

On average, we graduate with over $37,000 in student loan debt, according to 2016 data. It’s hard to sit and wait for that perfect job when you have that kind of debt to pay down.

But there just might be a solutionto take care of both of those problems.

Working in the public sectoroften allows you to do a job you love, and in some cases (as discussed below) allows you to forgive some of yourstudent loans.

What’s Ahead:

So what are public service jobs?

Some examples of public service jobsinclude workwith government organizations, family service agencies, or 501(c)(3) nonprofits. You get deep insight into diverse fields like diplomacy, public safety, and education.

You make connections that could lead to a career. And, of course, you’re doing meaningful work that helps the people around you.

You can stay in public service for several years, or take a contracted position for a year or two. We’ve listed a few common options here, and added answers to frequently asked questions about public service jobs.

This post primarily focuses on programs based in the United States. If you’re from a country outside the US, there are plenty of public service jobs around the world. Check your country’s specific programs and regulations.

The public sector

These fields are some of the most well-trod routes to public service. Good news—there’s almost always a need, which means regular hiring.

Start here if you already have some idea which field you’d like to work in. You should also be prepared to make a multiple-year commitment.

Public safety

Health services, emergency management, disaster response, firefighting…these jobs and more are in the realm of public safety. As you might imagine, some public safety positions come with long hours and require performance under pressure.

But the field reports high job satisfaction, with good medical benefits and livable salaries.Check out Government Jobs to see the positions available, and the training required for each.


Teaching in a public school, including a university, is considered public service.

Most education jobs (with some exceptions like Teach for America, covered below) will require a teaching certification and possibly a master’s degree.Your undergraduate major doesn’t have to be education-related—schools seek teachers with well-rounded knowledge bases and passion for their subjects.

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You’ll student teach and partner with experienced educators. The National Education Association (NEA) has good info for those ready to job hunt and those just starting out.

According to the NEA, a new teacher’s salary starts at about $40,000. With more experience and education, you can earn more.

Government and diplomacy

You don’t have to be a political science major or live in Washington, D.C to work in this sector. Federal, local, and state governments need workers in many fields all over the world.

Foreign service careers offer tracks such as:

  • Information technology (IT)
  • English language education
  • Engineering
  • Medical and health
  • Administration and office management

There are plenty more, those are just a few examples.One of the greatest benefits of the government sector is the ability get to work abroad.

Whether your interest is law enforcement or environmental activism, there’s a place for you in the Department of State’s registry of jobs.

Nonprofit administration

No matter what issue you’re passionate about, there’s a nonprofit organization that’s just as passionate. And every nonprofit needs skilled administrators – accountants, marketing experts, event planners, graphic designers, you name it.

Sites like Common Good list nonprofit office jobs with varied skill requirements. Grant writing or fundraising is a frequent need, if you want to put your college persuasive writing skills to good use.

Public service programs

Volunteer organizations often serve as gateway programs for new grads investigating career options.

Some programs, like Americorps, provide subsidized housing or help you find housing within your budget. You’ll alsobe given a living stipend in most cases.

Start here if you’re interested in public service but unsure whether to commit to a career. The programs below may only require one to two years of service.

Peace Corps

You’ve probably heard of the Peace Corps—the organization that sends volunteers abroad to serve in global communities.

The application’s extensive and the stipend is only what you’ll need to live on. But the experience can broaden your horizons pretty significantly.

Often, volunteers take charge on projects and develop strong leadership skills.

Medical and dental care are covered while you’re in the Corps, but you’re responsible for student loans (though you can defer). When your service time is up, the Peace Corps has transition programs and financing in place to help you launch into your career’s next step.


Americorps programs involve service in the United States. Many volunteers start out through Americorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America), a division of Americorps that supports communities overcoming poverty. The NCCC (National Civilian Community Corps) works with nonprofits and local government leaders.

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The broad range of focus areas, from environmental stewardship to veteran service, allows you to choose from multiple jobs and locations. After you’ve completed your term, you get an education award equal to the value of a Pell Grant (which changes annually).

Teach for America

The well-known teacher training program lets aspiring educators teach in a struggling school for two years.

If you’ve never taught before, don’t worry—you’ll get ongoing training. Though the program picks your placement based on need, you pick your preferences.

You’re eligible for loan forbearance during your time teaching, and you may qualify for Stafford and Perkins loan forgiveness programs.

Natural Resources Conservation Service

Interested in agriculture and environmental preservation?

The National Resources Conservation Service’s Pathways Program has a division designed for recent grads. They also offer an internship if you’re still in school.

Whether you’d like to explore forestry, biology, civil engineering, or another field, the Pathways Program provides on-the-job training.

You’ll serve either one or two years, and you may be able to move into a permanent position after that. The focus is pretty heavy on career development, so sign up if you’re serious about the environment.

Policy and education fellowships

Do you enjoy research? Are you thinking about graduate school?

If long applications don’t intimidate you, consider a fellowship that lets you learn while you work.

Fellowship programs in nonprofit fields tend to be competitive. Some require a certain GPA or a little experience under your belt; most are open to new grads.

Idealist has a catalog of fellowships in the public sector.

The requirements vary widely; so do the benefits.

Usually you’ll get at least a stipend or living allowance. You may need to supplement the stipend with part-time work.

Frequently asked questions

How do you know if public service is right for you?

Do you want the job for the job’s sake?

An Americorps position that helps you move to a new city may be an easy way to live in a place where you’ve always dreamed of living. But don’t take a public service job just for the relocation and other perks.

You’ll do your best and most rewarding work in a position that actually interests you.


Consider your life situation, goals, and priorities before embarking on an application. If you have a significant other and plan to start a family soon, for instance, you may not want a travel-heavy commitment like foreign service or the Peace Corps.

Is it easy to find a job?

Not always.

Teach for America has grown more competitive in recent years, and the Peace Corps frequently turns applicants down.

Like any job, public service programs seek the best, most qualified candidates to fill spots.

Apply to multiple opportunities, and emphasize any related experience or future goals the service can help you fulfill. Show how you’ll be a standout performer.

What will the workload be like?

That depends on the job.

An office position for a nonprofit may have stable 9-5 hours, but when big projects come along, you may be expected to pitch in for evenings and weekends.

A public safety position could have night shifts and on-call hours, where you could be needed any time of the day or night. And in a stipended position with a set salary, you may not receive overtime pay for extra hours.

How much will you earn?

Steady government jobs are likely to pay the most, including retirement benefits, health care and other perks. The salaries can get as high as six figures, though you probably won’t be earning that right away.

Volunteer programs usually don’t pay more than a living wage.

Americorps provides a “modest living allowance”—enough to cover basic needs, but probably not enough to save for retirement. The amount may also depend on where your volunteer placement is; if the cost of living’s higher in your city, you’ll get a little more.

Will you get student loan benefits or forgiveness?

Sometimes—but not immediately.

You may get a temporary deferment or forbearance if you’re in a program with a fixed stipend, but you’ll need to make other arrangements after the volunteer program ends.

Fortunately, the government has an initiative to help you.

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program applies to public sector or nonprofit workers who work full-time for a qualifying organization. You’ll need to make 120 consecutive loan payments (at a rate of one payment a month, this takes about ten years).

After that, the remaining balance is forgiven.

This forgiveness only applies to direct loans. Perkins and Stafford loans aren’t considered direct loans unless you combine them into a Direct Consolidation Loan.

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Peace Corps or Americorps volunteers can get the interest on their loans paid during their time of service.

Perkins Loan holders in the Peace Corps are eligible to get up to 70% of their Perkins Loans forgiven.

There’s also the option of an Income-Contingent Repayment Plan for loan holders with low income.

Are there opportunities for career advancement?

If you’re in a volunteer assignment with a fixed end date, you might wonder what’s coming next.

Network with your volunteer placement and use any transitional resources your program has put in place. With plenty of experience and responsibility behind you, you’re a valuable job candidate!

Many short-term volunteers end up working for their placements afterward at a higher salary. Government and diplomatic organizations may hire internally for promotions and leadership positions, as well.

Other public service workers go on to graduate school in public affairs or related fields. For high-level policy jobs, a graduate education may be a prerequisite.


Working in the public sector offers many benefits: a sense of purpose, the opportunity to learn and grow, and a means of making a difference in the world.

Read more:

  • These Are The 6 Most Common Paths To Student Loan Forgiveness
  • How To Prepare For A Job Search While Still In College

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What is the best public service job? ›

15 best-paying government jobs
  • Compliance officer.
  • Civil engineer.
  • Auditor.
  • Mechanical engineer.
  • Mathematician.
  • Political affairs officer.
  • Certified registered nurse anesthetist.
  • Physician.
15 Feb 2021

What are the public services? ›

A public service is something such as health care, transport, or the removal of waste which is organized by the government or an official body in order to benefit all the people in a particular society or community. The money is used by local authorities to pay for public services. ...

What is an example of public service? ›

Public services include health care, waste removal and transportation, and are systems and solutions that can benefit various groups of individuals. The government may offer these services itself or offer funding to a private organization to provide them to community members.

What jobs are public sector? ›

Working in the public sector
  • Arts administrator.
  • Chartered public finance accountant.
  • Civil Service administrator.
  • Civil Service Fast Streamer.
  • Company secretary.
  • Corporate treasurer.
  • Diplomatic service officer.
  • Education administrator.

Are public service jobs good? ›

Many public sector jobs provide excellent opportunities to gain experience and build useful new skills. In a government job, there are frequently challenges and complexities that vary from those that you would see in the private sector, such as complex stakeholder management.

Why are public service jobs good? ›

The main advantage of these occupations is competitive wages. With a job at a government agency, you can earn a high salary and contribute to a better America with your civil service. In addition, you will have the opportunity to get promoted in most fields.

What is public service main purpose? ›

Public services make the state visible to its citizens, often forming the principal tangible link between governments and their people.

Why do you want to join public service? ›

Many people choose to work in public sector because they want to make their world by helping people. Public sector employees report feeling like the work they're doing is for the benefit of humankind, not just for commercial profit-making reasons.

What are the three public services? ›

Water supply, electricity supply, health services, education and transport are some important public services.

What are public services in one sentence? ›

Public services means what the people need for their needs like water, electricity, cloths, shelter, food, etc..,things from govt..are public services.

What does it mean to work in public service? ›

B) Public service job The term “public service job” means— (i) a full-time job in emergency management, government (excluding time served as a member of Congress), military service, public safety, law enforcement, public health (including nurses, nurse practitioners, nurses in a clinical setting, and full-time ...

What is a public job? ›

Public employment means employment by a State, county, or municipal agency, but shall not include elected office, or employment in law enforcement, corrections, the judiciary, in a position related to homeland security or emergency management, or any position that has access to sensitive information that could threaten ...

What are the benefits of public sector? ›

5 Benefits of Working in the Public Sector
  • You can make a difference in your community. When public services are done right, they can make a real impact on individuals and communities. ...
  • Improved work/life balance. ...
  • Boost your resume. ...
  • Staff training. ...
  • Job Security.

What do you do in public services? ›

People in these occupations administrate government programmes and services, work in the justice system, and ensure regulatory compliance.

Are government jobs worth it? ›

Government jobs tend to be stable and offer excellent benefits. Unfortunately, salary and earnings are often capped for government workers regardless of how well you perform. Federal jobs often require security clearance, and this process can take several months up to a year.

Are government jobs best? ›

Indian Government jobs have long been considered the most secure and comfortable jobs. They offer individuals a sense of job security which is not found in the private sector. Moreover, these jobs also come with several other benefits which make them more attractive as compared to private-sector jobs.

Are public jobs better than private? ›

Government jobs often provide comprehensive benefits packages than jobs in the private sector do, but benefits vary for each company. These packages include excellent healthcare plans, good retirement plans, consistent raises, vacation time, sick leave and paid holidays.

How public services help you to make your life better? ›

Public services are a means of supporting the people who hail from the low income groups. These services also help to build relationships among people and different regions. Through the provision of public services, major economic activities that are involved in production, distribution, marketing and etc.

What are public services short answer? ›

In a democratic government, the government provides certain basic facilities to the public known as the public services. Public service is a service intended to serve all members of a community.

How many types of public service are there? ›

Altogether there are 27 main categories of public services which are classified into license, land, revenue, accounts, registration, administration, training, finance, engineering, project development, building, marketing, treasury, education, planning, quantity survey, operation, social, medical, public relations, ...

What are the five importance of public service? ›

It creates employment opportunities. It performs delegated /legislative functions. It provides essential services at cheaper rates. It acts as governmental agent to the general public.

What skills are needed for public service? ›

What Skills Do You Need for Public Services and Administration?
  • Communication. ...
  • Influence. ...
  • Respect for Hierarchy. ...
  • Resilience. ...
  • Ability to Work Collaboratively. ...
  • Leadership. ...
  • Empathy. ...
  • Honesty.

What is public service course? ›

About Public Services. Our Public Services courses provide you with the skills, experience and knowledge that will enable you to develop a career in the fire service, police, prison service, civilian roles in the uniformed services or armed forces to name a few.

Why should we use public services carefully Class 3? ›

We should not harm or destroy the facilities like bus, train, banks, schools, hospitals, gardens, post offices etc. These are given for our use so we should also respect it and use it carefully.

What are the types of public? ›

There are following different types of publics:
  • Financial Publics. These are the people that affect a company's funding. ...
  • Media publics. ...
  • Government publics. ...
  • Citizen-action publics. ...
  • Local publics. ...
  • General publics. ...
  • Internal publics.
15 Aug 2021

Are public service jobs government jobs? ›

Government Servants

Public service jobs are abundant in city, state, tribal and federal agencies. Dedicated government workers ensure that the public enjoys clean drinking water, ensuring that streets are safe to drive on, streets, garbage removal, waste disposal, sewage and utilities.

What are the duties and responsibilities of public officials and employees? ›

Public officials and employees shall at all times be accountable to the people and shall discharge their duties with utmost responsibility, integrity, competence, and loyalty, act with patriotism and justice, lead modest lives, and uphold public interest over personal interest.

How do you become a public service? ›

Start by Volunteering. Volunteering in a field you think you'd like to make a career out of is one of the best ways to determine if it's right for you. Volunteering can also help you get hired, as public service employers tend to prefer hiring individuals with volunteer experience in their specific agency or field.

What does public service mean to you interview question? ›

What does public service mean to you? For me, public service means doing your best to make a difference to people's lives and create a better society. It means that every day you're able to know that you're working for others whether through implementing legislation or resolving issues.

What is the highest paying public job? ›

Top 100 Federal Occupations in 2021

In 2021, the number one most well-paid job was "Medical Officer," with an average yearly pay of $255,213. The runner-up job, "Securities Compliance Examining," follows with an average of $205,652, which is a 19.42% decrease.

Who is the highest paid public employee? ›

Anthony S. Fauci

What are the top 10 government jobs? ›

Top 10 Highest Paying Government Jobs in India
  • Indian Administrative Services [IAS]
  • Indian Foreign Services [IFS]
  • Indian Police Services [IPS]
  • Indian Engineering Services [IES]
  • Public Sector Companies [PSUs]
  • Indian Forest Services.
  • RBI Grade B.
  • SEBI Grade A.
21 Aug 2022

What is the highest paying job in the service? ›

Highest-paying Military Career Jobs
  • Air Crew Officers. ...
  • Aircraft Launch and Recovery Officers. ...
  • Armored Assault Vehicle Officers. ...
  • Artillery and Missile Officers. ...
  • Command and Control Center Officers. ...
  • Infantry Officers. ...
  • Special Forces Officers. ...
  • Military Officer Special and Tactical Operations Leaders.

What is the 1st highest paying job? ›

1. Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Chief Executive Officer is one of the highest paying jobs in the world. The average salary of a CEO in India is around Rs.

What is the highest pay in the world? ›

So, for those who say startups are the way, here are the world's highest-paid employees. Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, received $265 million in 2020. This included a base salary of $3 million, stock awards of $250 million, and perks around $1 million. That's around 1,970 crore rupees.

How can I get a good government job? ›

How to Get a Government Job?
  1. Figure out the particular field of work in the government sector: ...
  2. Maintain a positive attitude: ...
  3. Have an optimistic mentality: ...
  4. Start looking for a suitable job using job searching tools: ...
  5. Research well about the department of work: ...
  6. Look out for any news: ...
  7. Prepare yourself in advance:

How much do public servants raise? ›

In October 2021, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced as part of the Spending Review 2021 that the public sector would return to normal pay setting process, with effect from the 2022/23 remit year. This year, departments are able to make average pay awards up to 2%.

Who gets paid the highest salary? ›

Highest Paying Occupations
Pediatric surgeonsThis wage is equal to or greater than $208,000 per year
Orthopedic surgeons, except pediatricThis wage is equal to or greater than $208,000 per year
Airline pilots, copilots, and flight engineers$202,180 per year
Nurse anesthetists$195,610 per year
16 more rows
8 Sept 2022

Are public company salaries public? ›

The SEC mandates all public companies to disclose how much they are paying their executives, how this amount is derived, and who is involved in determining pay.

Which job is best for Girl 12th pass? ›

12th pass female jobs in India
  • Handwriting Expert (Part time/full time) Gifts By Rashi - Indore, Madhya Pradesh. ...
  • Data Entry Operator ( FEMALE) ...
  • Language Interpreter. ...
  • Office Assistant. ...
  • Data Entry Operator (Female Required) ...
  • International Call Center Executive (Surat) ...
  • Retail Partner.

Are government jobs stressful? ›

Public Sector Undertakings

The biggest reasons why people lean towards this job is due to its amazing salary structure, fixed work hours, job security and the fact that it is not very stressful.

What are the 4 jobs of government? ›

Terms in this set (4)
  • Protect. ...
  • Keep Order. ...
  • Help Citizens. ...
  • Make Laws. ...

How many hours do military work? ›

Comparing Military Pay and Benefits to Civilian Jobs
Work hoursVary. Occasionally work weekends. You are on call 24 hours, 7 days a week.
Opportunities for advancementExcellent! You are challenged by your leaders and peers. The choice is yours if you would like to advance or not.
8 more rows

What is the top 10 highest paying job? ›

Top 10 Highest-Paid Jobs in the U.S.
  1. Oral and maxillofacial surgeons. ...
  2. Anesthesiologists. ...
  3. Surgeons. ...
  4. Obstetricians and Gynecologists. ...
  5. Orthodontists. ...
  6. Psychiatrists. ...
  7. Family Medicine Physicians. ...
  8. Physicians (All, Except Pediatric)
20 Jul 2022

How much does Army pay a year? ›

How Much Do Army Soldier Jobs Pay per Month?
Annual SalaryWeekly Pay
Top Earners$40,000$769
75th Percentile$40,000$769
25th Percentile$21,000$403


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