Career Development

Considering the public service? Some things to know first

By: Dale Simpson

Are you interested in a life of public service, working for the government?

The public service sector in Australia plays a key role in delivering important services and programs for its people. From education and healthcare to immigration, trade, law enforcement, and social services; there are so many fields within the public sector that offer fulfilling career opportunities. These roles require individuals to think outside the box, using their brainpower to solve tough problems and make decisions that have a direct impact on society. It's an exciting challenge for anyone looking to serve their community and make a difference.

Working in the public sector means being part of a larger mission to serve your community and make a positive impact on society. This can be incredibly fulfilling and rewarding for individuals who are passionate about making a difference in the world. Public sector careers often involve working closely with government officials, community leaders, and other stakeholders to address important social issues and improve the lives of others.


Exploring the Public Sector

Considering a career in the public sector can open up various opportunities for personal and professional growth but there are also slightly different things to consider than when working in the private sector.

1 The renowned bureaucracy and red tape

Navigating bureaucracy and red tape can be a challenge for employees in the public sector. Due to the size and complexity of many government organisations, there may be numerous levels of approval required for even small tasks. This can lead to delays in decision-making and implementing changes, which can be frustrating for employees who are eager to make a difference.

However, it's important to note that bureaucracy and red tape are not always negative aspects of the public sector. They can also serve as important checks and balances to ensure fairness, transparency, and accountability in government actions. Bureaucracy is primarily about duty of care - as funds for work done is provided by the community you serve.


2 Advancement opportunities

While the public sector can offer job stability, there may also be limitations on career advancement. Due to the hierarchical structure of many government organisations, individuals may have to wait longer for promotions or may face longer tenure requirements before being eligible for certain positions.

However, this can also be seen as a positive aspect for some people who value job certainty and a steady career path. It's also important to note that there are opportunities for advancement within the public sector, such as through training programs and leadership development initiatives.


3 Political Influences

One unique aspect of working in the public sector is the potential for political influence. As government employees, individuals may have to navigate and adapt to changes in political climate that can greatly impact their roles and job security.

For example, a change in administration or new policies implemented by politicians may directly affect the funding and resources allocated to certain government departments or programs. This can result in job cuts, reorganisation of roles, or changes in job duties and responsibilities.

Moreover, working for a government organisation often means adhering to strict regulations and policies set by the governing body. This can limit employees' autonomy and decision-making capabilities. However, it also ensures that public funds are used responsibly and ethically.

Overall, political influence is a significant factor to consider when working in the public sector. Employees must be adaptable and able to navigate through changes while still fulfilling their roles effectively.

But what about the benefits of a career in the public sector?


Generous benefits and compensation

In addition to job stability, careers in the public sector often come with attractive benefits packages and competitive salaries. These can include health insurance, retirement plans, and paid time off, among others. Many public sector roles also offer opportunities for advancement and career growth, allowing individuals to increase their earning potential over time.


The Australian Public Service (APS) offers a variety of benefits packages for its employees. These can include:

These plans help ensure financial stability in retirement. The APS also offers:

The public sector is often perceived as having a better work-life balance compared to private sector jobs. This is due to factors such as more structured work hours, generous vacation and sick leave policies, and opportunities for flexible schedules.

Work life-personal life balance

Many public sector organisations prioritise work-life personal life balance for their employees. This can include flexible schedules, remote work options, and generous parental leave policies. By promoting a healthy work-life balance, employees are able to maintain a better sense of overall well-being and avoid burnout.

Training and development opportunities

The public sector also offers extensive training and development opportunities for employees to enhance their skills and knowledge. This can include professional development programs, leadership training, and tuition reimbursement for higher education. These opportunities not only benefit the individual employee but also contribute to the overall effectiveness and success of the organisation.

Inclusive and diverse workplaces

Diversity and inclusivity are key values in the public sector, as it strives to represent and serve a diverse community. In fact The public sector often leads in this space and sets the benchmark for others.

Public sector organisations have policies in place to promote diversity and inclusion, creating a welcoming and inclusive workplace for all employees. This contributes to innovative thinking, better problem-solving, and a more positive work environment.

Career stability and job security

Public sector jobs are generally considered to be very stable compared to private sector roles. Government agencies and organisations often have long-term funding and are less susceptible to economic fluctuations, resulting in greater job security for employees. This can provide individuals with a sense of stability and peace of mind in their careers. Public sector jobs also tend to have more protections in place, such as collective bargaining agreements and civil service laws. These measures aim to prevent arbitrary termination or discrimination based on political or personal factors.

However, it is important to note that job security in the public sector is not guaranteed. Changes in political climate, budget constraints, and shifts in policy priorities can all impact government employees' job security. Therefore, public sector employees must stay informed and be prepared to adapt to potential changes in their job status.

Leadership opportunities

In the public sector, there are opportunities for career advancement and progression into leadership roles. With a focus on promoting from within, employees have the chance to take on more responsibility and lead teams or departments. This not only provides personal growth and development but also contributes to a strong leadership pipeline within the organisation.

Rewarding work that makes a difference

Public sector employees often have a strong sense of purpose and fulfillment in their work. They are directly involved in serving the community and making a positive impact on society. This can be highly rewarding and satisfying, as employees feel like they are making a difference and contributing to the greater good.


Navigating Your Public Sector Career Path


If you are interested in pursuing a career in the public sector, it is important to understand and navigate its unique pace of change. This may require developing skills in adapting to changing environments while also maintaining a focus on long-term goals.

One way to do this is by seeking out mentorship opportunities from more experienced public sector who can provide insights and guidance on navigating the challenges and opportunities within the sector. Additionally, networking events and professional development courses can also help individuals stay up to date on current trends and innovative practices within the public sector.


Choosing the right role - how to match personal skills and values with the right public sector job

When considering a career in the public sector, it is important to not only evaluate your skills and experience but also your personal values and interests. The public sector encompasses a wide range of roles and responsibilities, from policy-making to program management to direct service delivery. It is crucial to choose a role that aligns with your strengths and passions in order to find fulfillment and success in your career.

Understanding the different levels of government and their roles

The public sector is not a monolithic entity, rather it is composed of various levels of government, including federal, state/provincial, and local/municipal. Each level has its own unique responsibilities and priorities, so it is important to research and understand these differences when considering job opportunities. This can also provide insight into potential career trajectories and opportunities for advancement within the public sector.


Application processes

Applying for a job in the public sector often requires a different approach than applying for a private sector position. Government agencies may have specific application processes, including online platforms or forms, that applicants must navigate. It is important to familiarise yourself with these processes and ensure that you follow all instructions carefully.



If you are interested in pursuing a career in the public sector, here are some additional Australian resources and reading materials that can help guide your decision-making process:

Making a decision about your career is an important personal choice that should be based on your individual interests, skills, and values. Take the time to explore different options and gather information from reliable sources before making a decision.


Have you worked in the public sector before? We would love to hear about your experiences and insights. Share with us your thoughts on the benefits and challenges of working in this field. Your contribution can help others who are considering a career in the public sector gain a better understanding of what it entails.


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