If the thought of becoming President is the only thing that comes to mind when you think about seeking a job in the government, you need to expand your thinking. As you’ll probably see, jobs in the government sector extend way beyond the political ones. Whatever sector you start out in, you’ll have the potential to rack up a retirement pension, as well as moving up into more challenging roles with more responsibility, a bigger public profile -- and yes, even the option to run for public office.
Here are a few options to get started working in government.
While it takes a significant investment in your education -- in the U.S., at least seven years between your undergraduate degree and law school -- the result can be a salary that’s much higher than the average worker, and the prospect of working later as a judge or elected official. Lawyers work as public defenders and prosecutors, but they also represent nearly every branch and office of government.
Military officers in the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard are the leaders of their organizations, and their paychecks come from the federal government. Even if you’re not ready to invest in the bachelor’s degree that’s usually a prerequisite to becoming an officer, enlisting in the military is a good way to prove your commitment to your country and your desire to help.
Foreign Service Officer
People also work for the government abroad, representing the country’s interests abroad in Embassies and consulates. As a foreign service officer, you might be tasked with helping citizens living abroad, establishing diplomacy with other countries or assisting in crisis situations in the region where you’re stationed.
Crime shows like CSI abound -- all featuring smart detectives and investigators who get to the bottom of the case. If you have an interest in unpacking details and working in forensics, seeking work as a government investigator might be for you. Some investigators start out as city employes working on the local police force before moving up to state or federal positions.
Social workers help children and families in crisis. While it can be a difficult job that requires you to investigate claims of child abuse or neglect, it can also be a rewarding one in which you see families improve their lives. Jobs are typically available at the city, state and federal level.
Engineers are the professionals responsible for planning public works projects, developing dams and highways and ensuring large buildings are build safely and effectively. Some work for the military, while others work for city, county or state governments.
Working alongside engineers during those building or public works projects are the architects who draw out the plans. Like engineers, they also work for local, state or the federal government, and sometimes the military.
Researchers help the federal government research new drugs that prevent disease, as well as researching disease outbreaks and solutions that protect public health. In government, they work for the military as well as the federal health and human services department.
From the county treasurers who manage funds and billing to the senators and members of Congress who represent large areas on the national stage, becoming an elected official typically requires you to have some type of other career first. Thus, the path to becoming a state senator might involve working as a lawyer, engineer or military officer, where you can demonstrate your character and your commitment to serving public interests.
With all of these large government organizations comes the need for someone to manage the networks upon which they work and to protect those networks from hacking or corruption. That falls to computer scientists, who work for every branch of government as well as in intelligence and for the military.