Public sector

Working in the services

Fancy a career working for the civil or emergency services? Perhaps working for a local authority or in transport, education, housing or a not for profit organisation is on your possible jobs list? Working in such sectors can be exciting, challenging and rewarding, with the sort of opportunities and experiences found in no other type of work. 


Salaries are competitive and often in line with private sector salaries. Benefits often include good pensions, thorough and extensive training, excellent holiday entitlement – six weeks a year is common – and the opportunity to acquire further qualifications. Many organisations do not generally operate a long hours culture and there’s the opportunity for flexitime, part time and jobshares. 

Career progression

Depending on the role and service, career progression can be swift, with relatively quick promotion. Performance is closely monitored and initiative, success and the achievement of specific goals are rewarded.

Here we look at careers in the Armed Forces, Civil Services and Police.

Civil Service Civil servants are employed across central and local government and can work for any number of departments including the Ministry of Defence, Foreign and Commonwealth office or HM revenue and Customs. The Civil Service’s Fast Stream starting salaries usually range between around £25, 000 and £27,000. It currently takes around four to five years to earn a promotion, where you may earn more than £45,000. You’ll also receive a mixture of formal training courses and on-the-job learning. Further study and qualifications may also be possible, particularly if your work for a department that recruits people with technical backgrounds.

Armed Forces and Police (also see Uniformed Services)

Few office jobs can offer the experiences that the Armed Forces or the Police brings, along with the chance to make a real difference to both people’s lives and the interests of the UK. Make a mistake in an office job and your firm may lose money, but make a mistake in the armed forces or Police and lives may be at risk. 

In the army, there is also an incredible number of support, managerial, administrative and technical roles that are needed to make sure the soldiers, sailors and airmen and women can all do their jobs properly too. Colonel Paul Farrar OBE, from the Army Recruiting Group, says: ‘There is a wide variety of jobs to choose from in either commissioned or non-commissioned ranks, spanning 140-plus trade groups and over 1,000 different job types.’

While solid academic qualifications are important, military and police recruiters will be looking for candidates with strong personal skills and the practical ability to get the job in hand done properly and professionally.

For officer, support and administrative positions, the armed forces will accept all degree subjects, however certain degrees are needed for specialist or technical jobs, often within healthcare, science and engineering.

Similarly the police will accept any degree. There are no formal education requirements at all to join as an officer, but candidates still have to pass written tests. Police staff – those in admin or support jobs – may need a degree or qualification relevant to their roles, such as IT or accountancy.

Recruiters are looking for well-rounded personalities with commitment, motivation and aptitude as well as management and leadership potential. Resourcefulness, decisiveness, responsibility and the ability to give or follow orders are all important. 

Strong analytical abilities are crucial to think through problems that at first may seem insurmountable, as is the need to work well within a team and communicate effectively.

All three services, as well as the police, have an incredible number of different job disciplines, roles and professions needed to support and help the soldiers, sailors, aircrew and police officers. These include specialists within accountancy, information technology, legal services, human resources, recruitment, logistics, catering, healthcare, animal trainers and veterinary care, marketing and press liaison, vehicle fleet management and building management to name just a few.

Many service men and women stay in the armed forces for their entire career, but there is also the option after serving an initial number of years to leave and join jobs in the public or private sector. Employers are keen to recruit ex-military staff because skills picked up in the forces are acknowledged as a stepping stone to many other opportunities, especially those in management.

Recruiters in this sector:

CASE - Council for Advancement and Support of Education

The Council for Advancement and Support of Education is a professional association serving educational institutions and the advancement professionals

Highways England

The country never stops, so neither do we. We’re responsible for operating, maintaining and improving all 4,300 miles of England’s motorways and major roads, and we're aiming high for the future.

HM Revenue & Customs

With around 60,000 employees, more than £627 billion revenue and around 45 million customers, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is a major government department with serious responsibilities.

Metropolitan Police Service

The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) is the territorial police force responsible for law enforcement in Greater London.


Ofcom is the independent regulator and competition authority for the UK communications industries.

Office for National Statistics

ONS are the UK's largest independent producer of official statistics and its recognised National Statistical Institute.

Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust

Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust (RCHT) provides acute hospital and specialist services across Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.

Teach First

Teach First is an independent charity aimed at addressing one of the UK's most damaging social issues.

Transport for London

Every day all Londoners rely on us. But our success depends on our people. We are united to fulfil our purpose and create a better city for everyone. For you, this means endless opportunities to make a positive change and have an impact on shaping lives and our great city.

Welsh Government - Academi Wales

Academi Wales is the centre for excellence in leadership and management for public services in Wales.