If you want to help people and have a hand in changing things in your community or in the greater world, a career in public service may be just what you’re looking for. Public service doesn’t have to mean being a firefighter, a police officer, or a social worker. There are a vast number of other jobs in governmental and nonprofit organizations that offer rewarding career paths in public service.
The good news is that there’s no specific undergrad major you need to go into public service. It’s an option you can keep open while you’re in college and still exploring your choices. The knowledge and skills you gain studying political science, sociology, economics, languages, history, environmental affairs, or other subjects can all come into play when you begin your service.
To progress into higher-level jobs, though, you’ll benefit from getting a master’s in public administration, which will prepare you to take on added responsibilities and let your voice be heard in senior management positions whether in your local, regional or state government or in a nonprofit organization.
Here are some of the top public service careers you might enjoy:
Whether or not you have future aspirations to become a legislator yourself, you’d be in the thick of things as a legislative assistant to a U.S. senator, member of Congress, state senate or assembly member or other elected official. You’d research issues, follow the progress of legislation and track the positions of other legislators on pending votes. You’d also communicate with constituents, assisting them as necessary and reporting their interests and concerns to the legislator and relevant staff.
If critical thinking is your forte, a job as a policy analyst might be a perfect fit. You’d be involved in studying public policies and analyzing the methods and potential impacts of implementing them. This kind of work calls for strong research and writing skills. You also need skills in devising sound theses and in building persuasive cases. As a policy analyst, you may work for a governmental agency, an NGO, or even on the staff of a political party or candidate.
In the council-manager form of city government, the most common across the United States, the city manager is essentially the municipality’s chief executive. In this position, you’d advise the council. You also carry out its directives, oversee all city staff, administer regulations and processes, issue reports on policy, budget, and other matters. City managers serve as the main point of contact between elected officials and members of the public.
As an urban planner, you’d be involved with developing land use plans that help create, expand, or revitalize communities. As an area grows or changes, you’d analyze and help manage the related economic, social, and environmental issues. You’d collaborate with public officials, developers, special interest groups and the public to identify community needs for commercial, residential, educational and recreational development. You might coordinate and oversee projects as well.
Social and Community Service Manager
As a manager of social and community services, you might work directly with a specific population like children, the elderly, the ill, or the homeless. Or, you might work to identify problems and gaps in services for those populations. You may also research and design programs to address those issues. You might also write grant proposals and oversee staff of other professionals like social workers, counselors, probation officers child advocates, and the like.
Your primary role as a hospital administrator would be to set policy, plan and oversee health care services, design and manage the facility’s budget, implement new technology and be chiefly responsible for raising capital funds. You’d work with medical and non-medical staff. You would also sometimes interact with patients and represent the hospital’s interests with its trustees or directors.
Nonprofit Executive Director
Like the CEO of a corporation, the executive director of a nonprofit organization is appointed by a board of directors to oversees all aspects of daily operations as well as strategic planning for the future. Unlike a corporate CEO, though, a primary responsibility of a nonprofit’s executive director is to advocate for its mission. You also direct the raising of funds that support it.
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