Government jobs can provide a sense of financial and job security as well as honor in serving the public. Understanding the different kinds of jobs you can achieve in each sector can help you decide on what government industry (local, state or federal) you want to pursue. In this article, we discuss the benefits of working for the government, the different types of government jobs and a list of top government jobs in the local, state and federal sectors.
Why work for the government?
You might have considered working for the government at the local, state or federal level. Here are five compelling reasons why working for the government might appeal to you:
1. Generous compensation
The U.S. Office of Personnel Management estimates the average federal worker's annual salary to be above $79,000. The minimum hourly wage was also raised from $7.25 to $10.10 in 2014 for all new government contracts. Many federal government positions with salaries are also part of the Federal Wage System, which means employees are mandated raises or "step increases" at least once every three years. Due to these statistics, mandates and hourly wage increases, government jobs tend to pay more generously than non-government jobs.
2. Better benefits with government jobs
Most government jobs come with health and dental insurance, and many offer low-cost life insurance. You may also find more retirement pensions in government jobs.
3. Working to better the public
Employees in every sector of government work for the good of the people. Government jobs are created with the objective of making life better for the people that encompass the government. Choosing a career in any sector of government can be extremely rewarding when you know you are working to improve the community or nation.
4. Governments are always hiring
As long as a government exists, they will be hiring. If funding diminishes in one sector, another sector can be growing. Different from a private company, governments will exist in society forever, and you can find a job in one area of the government or another.
5. Job security
Government jobs provide a sense of security because of the eligibility for permanent appointment in many sectors and government industries. Many federal jobs offer permanent appointment after three years of consistent work. Many federal, state and local agencies also consist of ongoing programs that can last indefinitely.
Types of government jobs
You can find a government job in a variety of industries in every sector. Whether you choose to work in the local, state or federal sector, there are jobs in almost any major industry you decide to pursue. Here are some popular types of government jobs:
Law, law enforcement and security
You can find a job in law enforcement or national security in any sector of government. Although it is a demanding job, a law enforcement career can be rewarding as you keep your community or nation safe. You can also pursue a government career in law with a legal degree as an attorney, judge or paralegal.
Medicine, social work and education
Public health and health policy are essential to governments of all levels, and working in a medical or educational field within the government can prove to be rewarding as you work to keep the public healthy.
Science and engineering
Science and engineering fields have a variety of sub-fields and specialties that you can pursue. There are agencies, departments and institutions within every sector of government that are looking for science and engineering majors that have specialized in one or more areas of study. You can find jobs in civil engineering, electronic engineering and mechanical engineering or work in agriculture, environmental studies, astronomy and biology.
International relations and foreign language
The federal government is always in need of fluent multilingual speakers for international relations. You may find a government career as a linguist, analyst, officer or intelligence specialist.
Business and technology
One of the most critical areas of government is the business and technology field. Governments need business specialists to manage economics, finance departments, human resources and accounting. As technology continues to advance, governments will be more in need of programmers, information technologists and computer science specialists.
Governments need administrative workers to help keep their government organized and progressing. Whether you work as a database administrator, administrative assistant or office clerk, these sometimes overlooked jobs can be just as rewarding as other government fields.
Related: A Guide to Civil Service Jobs
Local government jobs
If working for your city, county or local community interests you, here are a few local government jobs you should consider:
National average salary: $15.99 per hour
Primary duties: A treasurer can work at either the city or county level of local government and is either elected by the voting public or appointed by the city manager or city council. A treasurer's duties include managing cash flow and revenue, banking on behalf of the agency, overseeing pension investment management, issuing and repaying debt, creating financial reports and disbursing municipal funds.
National average salary: $44,868 per year
Primary duties: A firefighter can work at either the city or county level of local government and ensures the safety of the public. Primary duties include putting out fires, finding and rescuing victims of emergency situations, driving fire trucks, preparing emergency incident reports, treating injured or sick people, maintaining equipment and providing public education on fire safety.
National average salary: $51,476 per year
Primary duties: Police officers work for the city to keep the community safe. Primary duties include protecting people and their property, responding to emergency calls, patrolling neighborhoods, controlling traffic, preparing and submitting incident reports, testifying in court, delivering warrants, arresting criminals and violators of the law and providing crime prevention education to the public.
National average salary: $71,847 per year
Primary duties: Land surveyors work for cities or counties to ensure proper measurements are taken for a variety of reasons. A land surveyor will prepare sketches and maps, verify data and calculations of complex site measurements, accurately record survey results, conduct descriptions of property boundaries, analyze survey records and land titles and research legal documents for clarification.
National average salary: $93,125 per year
Primary duties: Database administrators are responsible for maintaining local government databases, securely storing data, evaluating and managing database software purchases, modifying existing database software, maintaining and improving database performance, informing other local government workers and management of database changes and ensuring the security of government and public data.
Read more: Learn About Being a Database Administrator
State government jobs
Working for the state can provide you with similar work to local governments but with concerns and challenges related to the federal sector. Here are a few state government jobs in various industries:
National average salary: $14.77 per hour
Primary duties: A records clerk working for a state government holds the responsibilities of performing data entry; completing forms; processing applications; updating file information; archiving files; destroying files; helping the public to retrieve information; processing and scanning data into a digital database; converting forms, reports and receipts into electronic format; faxing files and extracting file information from computers.
National average salary: $44,950 per year
Primary duties: Social services assistants and assistant social workers work for the state. They help keep families updated, provide support to social workers, analyze and assess care plans, interview new clients, create treatment plans, recommend community services, manage social service information, provide consultations, determine eligibility for services, help clients complete paperwork and apply for assistance programs, monitor progress and facilitate group activities.
National average salary: $57,015 per year
Primary duties: The primary duties of an elementary school teacher include teaching a class of students, effectively implementing curriculum, creating a positive learning environment, discussing education-related issues with students and parents, attending staff meetings, administering exams, providing progress reports, distributing and grading assignments, creating discipline policies and supervising students and student teachers.
National average salary: $72,504 per year
Primary duties: Purchasing managers and agents help state governments purchase products, services and other assets. Primary duties include evaluating suppliers based on quality and price, learning about various products and services, analyzing financial reports and proposals, negotiating contracts, maintaining strict purchasing records, managing staff, determining corrective actions for unacceptable goods or services, monitoring and evaluating current contracts and reviewing fiscal records.
National average salary: $82,505 per year
Primary duties: A civil engineer helps a state government with designing, operating and maintaining practical construction projects, including buildings, roads, bridges and tunnels. Primary duties include submitting permit applications; complying with local, state and federal regulations; overseeing soil testing and foundation strength; providing cost estimates for projects; designing engineering systems using software; surveying and overseeing operations; supervising and communicating with crews and staff; testing building materials and managing the repair and maintenance of public infrastructure.
Read more: Learn About Being a Civil Engineer
Federal government jobs
The federal government has the broadest range of jobs and industries. Here are a few federal government jobs that you can pursue:
1. Mail carrier
National average salary: $18.95 per hour
Primary duties: A mail carrier works for the federal government within a local precinct. Primary duties include delivering mail and packages to residences and businesses, creating or maintaining routes, retrieving and returning mail to the post office, ensuring signatures for deliveries when required, leaving notices for undeliverable packages, providing postal forms when requested, assisting individuals with heavy packages and operating mail carrier vehicles.
National average salary: $50,319 per year
Primary duties: A linguist working for the federal government can work directly with people as a peer translator or in an office setting as a document translator. Primary duties of a federal government linguist include completing language translations and interpretations, transcribing audio or text, analyzing foreign documents, aiding in foreign or international relations, communicating and collaborating with other linguists and providing translation and interpretation services when requested.
National average salary: $98,942 per year
Primary duties: An FBI special agent works in the criminal justice department at the federal government level. Primary duties include investigating suspected criminals or terrorists, making arrests, executing search warrants, working undercover when needed, identifying and monitoring organized crime groups, questioning suspects and witnesses, tracking stolen property, gathering evidence of criminal activities and investigating public corruption.
National average salary: $99,020 per year
Primary duties: An economist requires exceptional mathematics, finance and communication skills to explain economic data to the public. An economist's duties include analyzing financial, historical and economic data, following market trends, advising the federal government about economic decisions, understanding the economic impact of regulations and laws, creating economic models and forecasts, creating and presenting technical reports and contributing to economic journals and publications.
Related: 18 Top Economics Degree Jobs
National average salary: $100,788 per year
Primary duties: Aeronautical engineers work with a team to design aircraft, satellites, missiles and spacecraft for the federal government. Primary duties include designing, manufacturing and testing aerospace creations, assessing project proposals, understanding and communicating environmental challenges, maintaining engineering principles in correspondence with government requirements, maintaining quality standards, inspecting damaged products and developing new aviation or defense system technologies.