Guide to Public Service Information & Resources for a Successful Career Helping Others

Working in public service represents an opportunity to serve others. However, public service is a broad term that encompasses a complex and multilayered range of public interests. Find out what public service is and learn more about the kinds of opportunities available to those looking to make a difference.

Meet the Experts

Tim McManus Vice President

Partnership for Public Service

Will Schulz Deputy Director

Arizona Division of Emergency Management (ADEM)

A broad field that covers an array of occupations, public service offers individuals an opportunity to make an impact. Those interested in this field are motivated by their desire to serve others and their communities. created the following guide on public service careers to help prospective employees explore the different types of career paths available; learn about employment opportunities, internships, and volunteer work; get insight from public service experts; and find a list of additional resources for navigating the public service sector.

Exploring Public Service Careers

Public service can be defined as any service rendered for the benefit of public interest. Broadly speaking, the sector is comprised of:

  • Government (local, state, and federal)

  • Non-government organizations (NGOs)

  • Nonprofits (public and private)

  • Education (K-12 and universities)

The table below outlines career opportunities in several of the major public service areas of employment.


Top Career

Median Salary

Job Outlook


Criminal Justice Paralegal $48,350 17%
Cyber Security Information Security Analyst $88,890 36.5%
Homeland Security Logistician $73,870 22%
Emergency Management Emergency Management Directors $64,360 8.3%
EMT/Paramedic Emergency Management Technician (EMT) $31,700 23%
Forestry Foresters $57,980 6.1%
Public Administration Urban and Regional Planner $66,940 21.4%

Individuals in interested in public service can explore the major areas described below and learn about some of the different career paths available.

Emergency Management

Emergency management deals with the process of preparing for, responding to, and recovering from an emergency, such as earthquakes, fires, storms, hazardous materials incidents, and civil disturbances. Professional roles are varied in the field, ranging from working in environmental protection to risk analysis, emergency response to information systems.

  • Emergency Management Director
    Median Salary: $64,360
    Job Growth: 8%

    Emergency management directors plan, coordinate, and implement procedures for preventing, dealing with, and recovering from emergencies such as natural disasters or terrorist attacks. They coordinate with nonprofit organizations, healthcare providers; the general public; and local, state, and federal agencies to develop effective strategies for various emergency scenarios, create training programs for staff, manage staff in times of emergency, and coordinate recovery activities after an event.

  • Emergency Medical Technician
    Median Salary: $31,700
    Job Growth: 23.1%

    Emergency medical technicians (EMT) are responsible for treating patients in medical emergency situations. They assess a patient’ condition, provide on-the-scene care and during transport to the hospital. Advanced technicians are known as paramedics and provide comprehensive care, including administering medication, monitoring heart function, and interpreting EKGs.

  • Dispatcher
    Median Salary: $37,410
    Job Growth: 8%

    Dispatchers are employed in the protective services, working for the local government in law enforcement and fire departments. They are responsible for answering emergency and non-emergency calls for the public and coordinating first responders accordingly. They must monitor the situation, relay information to responding units, and provide support and guidance to individuals placing the call.

Emergency Management Resources
Emergency Management

Emergency Management is a publication aimed at public safety and emergency management professionals and covers trends and issues dealing with areas such as disaster preparedness, infrastructure protection, and training.

Federal Emergency Management Agency

FEMA manages and coordinates the federal government’s national emergency management system, including preparation, prevention, mitigation, response, and recovery.

National Emergency Management Association

The National Emergency Management Association is a nonprofit organization is the professional membership organization for emergency management directors and professionals across the country.

Public Education

Public education is the umbrella term for any tuition-free and publicly funded school that resides within a governed school system. The public education system in the United States is expansive, with nearly 50 million students attending public elementary and secondary schools in the fall of 2014. Career paths are varied, presenting opportunities areas such as teaching, administration, technology, curriculum development, and support services.

  • Elementary School Teacher
    Median Salary: $54,120
    Job Growth: 12.3%

    Elementary school teachers work in both private and public elementary schools throughout the country’ K-12 system. They teach grades K-6 and are responsible for a diverse range of tasks, such as developing lesson plans, conducting student assessments, managing classrooms, teach lessons to students, and coordinating learning progress with the student’ parents.

  • School Principal
    Median Salary: $89,540
    Job Growth: 15%

    School principals are the chief administrators of elementary, middle, and secondary schools throughout the country’ K-12 educational system. In that position, they are responsible for managing the day-to-day operations of the school, supervise staff, coordinate curriculum, and ensure a safe and secure learning environment for staff, students, families, and the community.

  • School Social Worker
    Median Salary: $42,120
    Job Growth: 15.1%

    School social workers are employed throughout the country’ K-12 public and private school system. They study and address social, environmental, and emotional issues that may hamper or affect a student’ ability to learn. Through counseling meetings with students, working with teachers and school staff, and consulting with parent and family members, social school workers identify and develop plans to help students deal with behavioral, emotional, or learning problems.

Public Education Resources
National Education Association

The National Education Association is a membership organization for public education professionals that has more than 3 million members and serves communities throughout the country.


Scholastic is an education publication that provides resources and educational materials for teachers, schools, and children.

US Department of Education

The US Department of Education is the federal agency tasked with establishing and administering education policies and coordinating federal funding of the country’ public education and postsecondary educational systems.

Public Health

Public health is concerned with improving health at both the local and global levels. A diverse field, public health covers multiple disciplines, from medicine to public policy. Major public health areas include global health and epidemics, environmental health, community health, children’ health, health policy, and biostatistics and informatics.

  • Epidemiologist
    Median Salary:$67,420
    Job Growth: 10.2%

    Epidemiologists study disease in relationship to social, cultural, and economic factors, including location, age, gender, and race. In their role, epidemiologists conduct evidence-based research to develop solutions, interventions, and preventative measures to address health issues, such as infectious diseases or environmental hazards, at the local, state, national, and global levels.

  • Registered Nurse
    Median Salary:$66,640
    Job Growth: 19.4%

    Registered nurses can be found throughout the health care system in the United States, working in settings such as nursing homes, hospitals, home health care, occupational therapy offices, physician’ offices, schools, and the military. Nurses are responsible for coordinating and managing patient care in collaboration with a physician, provide a variety of hands-on patient care, and offer counsel and advice to both patients and their families.

  • Health Educator
    Median Salary:$50,430
    Job Growth: 19%

    Health educators develop and coordinate healthy living strategies that are implemented at the local, community, or state level. In their role, health educators conduct health assessments, connect community members to health services and resources, supervise health education programs, and advocate for policies that promote public health.

Public Health Resources
American Public Health Association

The American Public Health Association is a nonprofit organization that works in multiple areas of public health, including federal and public policy, professional development and training, and industry publications.

Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health

The Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health is a membership organization that promotes education, research, and advocacy among educational programs accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health.

Society for Public Health Education

The Society for Public Health is a professional association that has approximately 4,000 health education and student members across the world.

Public Interest Law Services

Public interest law is a practice of law that supports areas of public concern, such as environmental protection, discrimination, human rights, immigration, consumer protection, and women’ issues. Public service practice occurs in multiple settings, including nonprofit legal services, public defense offices, labor unions, local and state government offices, and private public interest law firms.

  • Lawyer
    Median Salary:$114,970
    Job Growth: 9.8%

    Lawyers are employed in a variety of legal settings, such as government agencies, private law firms, and corporate law offices. They are responsible for advising and representing clients regarding legal issues. Lawyers may specialize their practice in different areas such as tax law, environmental law, criminal law, prosecution or defense, legal aid, litigation, family law, and intellectual property.

  • Paralegal
    Median Salary:$48,350
    Job Growth: 16.7%

    Paralegals are employed throughout the legal system in the United States, with a majority employed in law offices. Paralegals, also known as legal assistants, are able to conduct tasks similar in nature to lawyers, except those that are considered to be the practice of law such as representing clients in court or providing legal advice. Commonly, paralegals coordinate case management, conduct client interviews, handle legal research, assist with drafting legal pleadings, attend trials, and analyze legal documents.

  • Hearing Officer
    Median Salary: $87,980
    Job Growth: 1%

    Hearing officers are judges-also known as administrative judges-that supervise and oversee legal hearings in courts. They traditionally work for the government, handling cases for government agencies. In that capacity, they are responsible for ruling on dispute resolutions between government agencies or between government agencies and the public.

Public Interest Law Services Resources
Equal Justice Works

Equal Justice Works is a nonprofit organization founded in 1986 focused on furthering the reach of public interest law through fellowship programs, advocacy, and professional development programs.

National Legal Aid and Defender Association

The National Legal Aid and Defender Association is a nonprofit association that provides legal defense support and services to individuals who cannot afford legal counsel.


PSJD is an online hub that provides a database of public interest job openings and career-building resources for law students and practicing lawyers.

Public Safety

These types of careers are dedicated to the protection, mitigation, and response to issues that threaten the well-being of the general public, including crime, natural disasters, property damage, and fire. Common public safety organizations include fire departments, law enforcement agencies, correctional facilities, emergency medical services, and emergency management agencies.

  • Police Officer
    Median Salary:$56,770
    Job Growth: 5.9%

    Police officers are protective service professionals responsible for public safety, apprehending criminals, conducting criminal investigations, and responding to emergency situations. They typically conduct daily patrols, issue traffic tickets, assist accident victims, and handle emergency calls. A diverse occupation, other roles include working in transit police, state police, or at the county level as a sheriff.

  • Correctional Officer
    Median Salary:$39,780
    Job Growth: 4.9%

    Correctional officers work in prison and jail security at the local, state, and federal level, with some officers working for private correctional companies. They are responsible for overseeing prisoners at correctional facilities, enforcing rules and regulations of those facilities, supervising inmate conduct and activities, assist in inmate rehabilitation, and perform searches for contraband.

  • Firefighter
    Median Salary:$45,970
    Job Growth: 6.6%

    Firefighters are employed by state and federal governments and respond to emergency situations, such as fires or car accidents. They manage firefighting equipment, use that equipment to extinguish fires, treat injured people at the scene of an emergency, and participate in continual physical training and professional development.

Public Safety Resources
International Fire Service Training Association

Established in 1934, the International Fire Service Association produces fire training materials and partners with universities and other organizations to conduct research in fire science.

Municipal Research and Services Center

A nonprofit organization, the Municipal Research and Services Center supports local governments through various programs and knowledge sharing, including the areas of criminal justice, corrections, emergency services, fire protection, and law enforcement.

United States Department of Justice

The United States Department of Justice is the federal agency responsible for protecting the public interests safety through agencies such as the Bureau of Justice Assistance, Federal Bureau of Prisons, and Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Early Childhood Education

This part of public service is a form of education that focuses on teaching children under the ages of eight, but is most commonly associated with pre-kindergarten instruction. Instruction in these programs deals with the positive social and cognitive development of young children and is offered in a variety of settings, such as day care centers, preschools, nursery schools, public schools, early childhood education centers, and even home-based.

  • Preschool Teachers
    Median Salary:$28,120
    Job Growth: 17.4%

    Preschool teachers work in both public and private schools, childcare centers, early learning facilities, nonprofit organizations. They plan, coordinate, and implement early learning programs for pre-K children, organize activities, supervise child development, and work with families to address

  • Kindergarten Teachers
    Median Salary:$50,600
    Job Growth: 13%

    Kindergarten teachers are employed in K-12 public and private schools, as well as early childhood education centers throughout the United States. Responsible for introducing students to the world of learning, kindergarten teachers not only develop educational curriculum and manage classroom instruction, but create and implement activities that help young children grow emotionally and socially.

  • Childcare Worker
    Median Salary:$19,730
    Job Growth: 14%

    Childcare workers supervise and provide care for children when their parents or guardians are unavailable. They may assume roles as family childcare providers, offering services in their own home or at the home of the child. Other childcare workers may be employed at public schools or at childcare/early learning centers. Responsibilities vary by position, but they traditionally prepare meals, organize activities, develop daily care schedules, monitor a child’ progress and development, and oversee the safety of the children in their care.

Early Childhood Education Resources
Child Care Aware of America

Child Care Aware of America works with Child Care Resources and Referral Agencies and community partners to advance the quality and availability of early learning and child programs for children.

National Institute for Early Education Research

The National Institute for Early Education Research conducts independent research and partners with local, state and national policy makers to establish and implement best practices in early childhood education.

T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood National Center

The T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood National Center is a leadership organization that develops and implements early childhood learning programs across the country.

Public and School Library Services

Public and school libraries are access points for individuals in the community and students to access information, learn, and participate in educational programs. According to the American Library Association, there are more than 400,000 librarians and support staff workers across the country managing and supporting library systems.

  • Librarian
    Median Salary:$56,170
    Job Growth:

    Librarians work in libraries in a variety of settings, such as colleges and universities; government agencies; and elementary, middle, and high schools. Their job duties include more than putting books on the shelf-as informational experts, librarians help patrons conduct research, develop new indexing systems, plant community programs, manage library budgets, and manage library staff. A diverse occupation, librarians may work in technical services, schools, special collections, and academic libraries.

  • Librarian Technician
    Median Salary: $31,680
    Job Growth: 12%

    Librarian technicians assist in the daily operations of a library, performing a range of administrative and service tasks. Working under the supervision of a librarian, librarian technicians handle responsibilities such as sorting and re-shelving books, registering new library users, cataloguing materials, and helping to plan special programs.

  • Archivist
    Median Salary:$49,120
    Job Growth: 11%

    Archivists are specialists who are trained to handle valuable documents that have historical significance and other related materials. They work in a variety of public service settings including government organizations, museums, universities, and similar places that maintain and preserve sensitive or important records. Archivists may also coordinate educational activities, appraise historical documents, conduct research, or authenticate archival materials.

Public and School Library Services Resources
American Librarian Association

The American Library Association was founded in 1876 and the country’ oldest library association that provides information, professional development, and advocacy services for its members. is sponsored by the American Library Association and is an informational hub that promotes careers in libraries.

Special Libraries Association

The Special Libraries Association is a nonprofit organization with 7,000 members across the world that provides networking opportunities, professional development services, and advocacy support for its members.

Public Service for Individuals with Disabilities and the Elderly

The mission of organizations and groups working in public interest for those with disabilities and the elderly is to promote their health, well-being, and safety. Example programs and areas of care include family caregiver support, adult protective services, meals for seniors, senior community services, disability discrimination, and vocational training. Multiple career avenues exist in these areas, spanning from working in a department of rehabilitation to a youth employment opportunity program.

  • Home Health Aide
    Median Salary:$21,380
    Job Growth: 48.5%

    Home health aides work for a variety of health care providers, including home health care agencies and residential care facilities. Working under the supervision of a registered nurse or physician, home health aides offer various care services, such as changing wound dressings, administering medications, and shopping for groceries, to individuals in their homes.

  • Social and Community Service Manager
    Median Salary:$62,740
    Job Growth: 21%

    Social and community service managers develop, implement and coordinate social service programs. In their role, they may handle diverse responsibilities such as managing fundraising activities, creating community training programs, preparing public relations materials, directing staff, or working with local legislatures on policies and legislation.

  • Special Education Teacher
    Median Salary: $55,890
    Job Growth: 6.3%

    Special education teachers work in private and public school settings throughout the K-12 educational system. They coordinate and collaborate with teachers, parents, and counselors to create individualized educational programs for students dealing with learning, emotional, physical, or mental disabilities.

Administration on Aging

The Administration on Aging is the federal agency that oversees the Older Americans Act and ensures the well-being of the elderly and aging individuals by funding and promoting services and programs throughout the country.

American Association of People with Disabilities

The American Association of People with Disabilities is a disability rights organization that promotes disability advocacy and works in areas such as education, employment, health care, and housing for individuals with disabilities. is a federal government website that is an informational hub regarding government-sponsored disability programs, laws and policies.

Military Service

Military service revolves around an individual’ participation in the United States Armed Forces, which consists of five military branches: Navy, Marine Corps, Army, Coast Guard, and Air Force. This complex system consists of individuals serving in various roles, both military specific and civilian in-nature. The Bureau of Labor Statistics divides military careers into different categories but does not track employment growth or salaries. Salaries in the military are determined by several factors including the servicemember’ rank, duty assignment, location, service time, and branch of service. The current 2015 military pay chart includes a breakout by rank and grade. Example career areas include the following:

  • Administrative Personnel

    work largely in support areas such as accounting, finance, logistics, and maintenance, helping to manage files and data on spending, personnel, and equipment.

  • Combat Specialty Personnel

    are trained members of combat units, such as infantry, artillery, and Special Forces.

  • Healthcare Personnel

    are responsible for providing healthcare services to servicemembers, their families, and veterans. The roles are varied, ranging from medicine to nursing, laboratory services to counseling.

  • Protective Service Personnel

    enforce military laws and regulations and respond to emergencies. Example career paths include military police, firefighting, and security.

  • Transportation Personnel

    are tasked with the organization and movement of military personnel and equipment. They are typically classified by transportation class, such as aircrew (aircraft equipment), cargo (military supplies), and vehicle (military vehicles).

Military Service Resources
Military OneSource

Military OneSource is a program funded by the Department of Defense that provides information for armed forces servicemembers and their families, access to resources, counseling services, face-to-face support and other services, such as tax help. is an online publication that provides news coverage on different military issues, including health care, benefits, education and training, financial services, and transitioning to civilian life.

US Department of Veterans Affairs

The Department of Veterans Affairs is the federal agency responsible for managing the country’ benefit system for veterans and their families.

Public Service Internships

Internships in public service are not just about padding a resume, but gaining real-world experience in career areas that make a difference. Internships can be found in every area of public service, from working on foreign affairs for the US Department of State to serving alongside conservation professionals from the US Department of Forestry. Internships are typically available to high school students, undergraduates, graduate students, and recent college graduates. Generally, internships fall into one of two categories:

Work-study internships

In work-study internships, interns receive pay in exchange for their service. Traditionally, interns are only allowed to work full-time during the summer and part-time during the academic year.

Academic credit internships

Academic credit internships are designed to provide students with work-related experience in their academic area of study. Typically, universities partner with public service agencies and organizations to offer these positions.

No singular listing of public service internship opportunities exist, but students can do the following steps to find such opportunities:

Visit public service websites

Local, state, and federal agencies typically list internship opportunities on their websites. For example, includes a list of federal public service internships, along with federal job openings.


Meet with faculty or career advisor

College students should work with their faculty advisor or career services office to locate local public service internship openings.



Internship opportunities can also be found at local service events, association meetings, and public service bulletins. Students seeking internships should not be afraid to contact professionals or organizations in their area of interest to ask about openings.


PS Internship Resources

City Hall Fellows

City Hall Fellows created a 12-month fellowship program that connects post-college, pre-graduate school students with real-world, local government career opportunities.

International City/County Management Association

Through its network of members, the ICMA has a searchable database of local government internship openings, and also sponsors an 8-week internship program called the Local Government Management Internship.

UC Berkeley Public Service Center

The Public Service Internship program through the University of California-Berkeley connects students to internship openings with civic groups, nonprofit organizations and government agencies.

USA Jobs

USAJobs provides a comprehensive listing of public service internships in various government offices throughout the United States.

US Department of State Student Internship Program

The US Department of State offers two internship programs, Pathways Program (paid) and US Department of State Student Internship Program (unpaid). These internships allow students to gain experience working in foreign affairs and policy opportunities.

US Office of Personnel Management Internship Program

The Office of Personnel Management sponsors an internship program for students at the high school, college, and graduate level to participate to work in federal careers while still in school.

US Patent and Trademark Office

The US Patent and Trademark Office offers two internship programs designed specifically for veterans: The Veteran Internship Program (VIP) and Operation Warfighter Program (OWF).

White House Internship Program

The White House Internship Program allows young leaders (at least 18) to work alongside White House staffers in a variety of professional experience areas.

The Washington Center

The Washington Center partners with more than 500 organizations to sponsor internship programs in both public service fields and the federal government.

Washington Internship Institute

The Washington Institute offers internship programs in a variety of public services areas in nonprofit organizations, government offices, and for-profit businesses.

Volunteer Opportunities in Public Service

Volunteering is an opportunity to serve others, to serve the community, to address a social issue. Beyond making a social impact, finding the right volunteering organization can help prospective public service professionals develop new skills, network, and advance their career. Before embarking into a volunteer position, prospective candidates should take time to understand if their personal traits match commonly desired characteristics of PS volunteers:

  • Passionate about the cause
  • Energetic personality
  • Dedicated
  • Selfless
  • Flexible
  • Creative

There are numerous public service volunteer opportunities available across nearly every public service field. The sheer breadth and diversity of volunteer openings means it is important to match your needs to the cause, organization, and position itself. Here are five questions to think about when starting to research volunteer positions.

  • 1.

    How much time can you commit?

  • 2.

    What causes are important?

  • 3.

    What types of populations do you want to work with?

  • 4.

    Do you want to work with a team or independently?

  • 5.

    What type of responsibilities do you want?

Volunteer opportunities can be found through a variety of groups, such as local nonprofits, federal agencies, and national non-government organizations. Starting with national websites such as is a great way to generate ideas of the types of organizations offering opportunities and narrowing down the type of positions to pursue.

Resources for Volunteering


Founded in 1994, AmeriCorps has enlisted more than 900,000 volunteers to provide services to nonprofit agencies, schools, public organizations, community programs, and faith-based groups across the United States.

Citizen Corps

Citizen Corps was created after 9/11 as a resource to coordinate volunteering activities revolving around public safety and emergency management preparation and response.

Joining Forces

Created in 2011, Joining Forces presents volunteer and service opportunities to support military service members, veterans, and their families.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Volunteers can find environmentally oriented opportunities through the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, working with National Ocean Service, National Weather Service, Sea Grant, and the office’ Fisheries Service.

Peace Corps

The Peace Corps is an international service organization that sends volunteers to serve in grassroots projects across the world in areas of pressing need.


SeniorCorps is a national volunteering program that connects citizens ages 55 and older to local volunteering opportunities through programs such as Senior Companions and Foster Grandparents.

United States Election Assistance Commission

Volunteers interested in working in politics, the United States Election Assistance Commission offers various volunteering openings, including working as a poll worker.

US Department of Veterans Affairs

The Department of Veterans Affairs offers multiple volunteering programs, such as United We Serve and National Salute to Veteran Patients, that serve the country’ veterans and their families,

USDA National Resources Conservation Service

The National Resource Conservation Service sponsors the Earth Team Volunteer program that connects volunteers with conservation professionals in a variety of service areas. is a central hub where volunteers can local federal government volunteer opportunities in public land agencies throughout the country.

Public Service & Loan Forgiveness

In some circumstances, student loan borrowers who pursue a career in public service may be able to have their loans discharged or forgiven. The Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program is the largest forgiveness program available to students. It was created to encourage students to enter and remain in public service occupations after graduation. The premise of PSLF is to forgive the remaining balance on a student loan after the student has met employment and payment requirements. All basic requirements are broken down below.

Only non-defaulted Direct Loans are eligible for forgiveness. These include:

Direct Subsidized Loans

Direct Unsubsidized Loans

Direct PLUS Loans

Direct Consolidation Loans

Borrowers must meet the following eligibility requirements to qualify for PSLF:

  • Loans must not be in default
  • Must be a full-time employee of a public service organization while making the required payments
  • Must be a full-time employee of a public service organization while asking for loan forgiveness
  • Must be a full-time employee of a public service organization at the time the loan balance is forgiven

In order to apply, borrowers must be employed full-time (at least 30 hours per week) by a public service organization (in any capacity) or serve in a full-time Peace Corps or AmeriCorps position to be eligible. Qualifying public service organizations are defined as the following:

A government agency or organization at the local, state, federal, or tribal level

A public child or family service agency

A tribal university or college

A nonprofit organization with 501(c)(3) designation from the Internal Revenue Service

A private nonprofit organization that provides at least one of the following public services:

  • Military service
  • Public interest law services
  • Emergency management
  • Early childhood education
  • Public service for individuals with disabilities and the elderly
  • Public health
  • Public education
  • Public library services
  • School library or other school-based services

To qualify for forgiveness, borrowers must make 120 monthly payments after October 1, 2007 while meeting PSLF employment requirements. Only loans with qualifying repayment plans are eligible for the program. That includes:

Income-Based Repayment Plan (IBR)

10-year Standard Repayment Plan

Income-Contingent Repayment Plan (ICR)

Pay As You Earn Plan

It is important to note that-in general-borrowers who are making monthly reduced payments through IBR, ICR or Pay As You Earn Plans will have a remaining balance to be forgiven after making the 120 payments on the loan.

The current application is still under development and borrowers will become eligible for loan forgiveness in October 2017. Prospective applicants need to submit the PSLF application after making their 120th qualifying loan and be working for a qualified public service organization at the time. Tracking public employment is a central component of the application process and applicants can use the PSLF Certification form from the Department of Education to track their progress.

Expert Insight:Building a Successful Public Service Career

For those interested in a career in public service, getting started can be the hardest part of the process. Finding the right field, employer, and occupation can be challenging. spoke to two public service experts for useful insights and recommendations when thinking about a future career in public service.


with Will Schulz, Deputy Director
Arizona Division of Emergency Management (ADEM)
Why should someone pursue a career in public service?

Public service provides many of the opportunities of the private sector (e.g. travel, professional development, etc.) but adds an element of truly doing something on a daily basis that improves the community, provides critical support to citizens, or protects citizens from harm. Public service is community-oriented, and is a great option for those who derive joy and satisfaction from serving their neighbor.

What are the major benefits of a career in emergency management?

Disasters are inevitable regardless of where you live. Someone who works in emergency management is directly responsible for helping citizens and government officials prepare for, mitigate, respond to, and recover from the effects of both natural and man-made disasters. When these disasters strike, citizens depend on the government to organize the response and recovery efforts, as well as to provide critical information that will help them prevent damage to life and property. A career in emergency management puts you on the front lines of these efforts.

Why should someone consider a career in emergency management?

In emergency management, no two days are ever alike. An emergency manager is constantly solving new problems and working with a variety of subject-matter experts to continually improve the preparedness and resiliency of their community. They are planners one day, instructors the next, and leaders on a third day.

It provides an opportunity to provide real, tangible impact on the lives of citizens, and is always interesting and evolving.

It is also a good blend of theoretical and practical, and provides the opportunity to both strategize and be hands on in the field.

Where can someone find career opportunities in emergency management?

Emergency management careers can be found at all levels of government, from local to tribal to federal, and also branch out into both the volunteer and private industry. Career paths are varied. For example, ADEM has a director of the division of emergency management and 30 other full-time positions. They include individuals working in grants management, communications (mobile communications), radio systems, tribal relations, marketing, hazard and threat analysis, and public information.


with Tim McManus, Vice President
Partnership for Public Service
What advice do you have to help someone determine if public service is right for him or her?

Try it! Gain some exposure to federal service in some way. One of the best ways to do that for students is to pursue an internship opportunity. Both paid and unpaid internships are available with virtually every agency. And, while paid internships have the more likely potential to lead to conversion to full-time employment, it’ the experience the matters if you’re still trying to figure it out.

In addition to getting direct exposure and experience to federal service, talk to others who have served or are serving in government. A great place to start to connect with others is your career services and alumni offices.

Ask them who has had a federal internship or works in government and talk with them about their experiences.

What are the major benefits of working in public service?

There are many benefits to working for the federal service. In addition to having an incredible opportunity to make a difference, you’ll enjoy great benefits and competitive pay; interesting and challenging work; tremendous professional development and advancement opportunities; and opportunities for greater work/life balance. And, remember, there are jobs for virtually every background across the country and around the world. In fact, 84 percent of federal jobs are outside the metropolitan Washington, DC area.

How can you find and prepare for a career in public service?

Like any job search, first and foremost, understand what matters most to you in a job. Is it salary or the type of work? Location or vacation?,

The opportunities in federal service are many. Knowing what you’re looking for will help you narrow your search and find the right fit. is the official search engine for federal jobs. Nearly all government job openings are posted on this site and each job announcement includes details about duties, minimum qualifications, basic benefits, and application instructions. USAJOBS also provides information on how to apply.

Additionally, spend time on customizing your resume for each and every job you plan to submit an application. Your resume should speak specifically to the needs of each position and each agency. Pay particular attention to the knowledge, skills, and abilities outlined in the position description. During this process also be prepared for delays. Unfortunately, often times the federal hiring process takes time. Finally, realize that making a difference takes time. Once in government, the process of creating lasting results can be slow in the making but have huge rewards.

What advice do you have for someone unsure of where to start?

If you are not clear on what you want to do, you’ll probably get lost in a mesh of agency websites and swallowed by the black hole of open job announcements. Researching your options is essential. Here are some tips:

  • Review the description of federal agencies at

  • Visit the websites of individual agencies to understand their work, missions, and types of career paths available

  • Before you start your journey of applying for federal jobs, take time to carefully review the job descriptions of positions that are of interest to you

  • Visit for other useful tips and resources on potential opportunities

How can someone get started in a federal career?

There are a number of entry points for individuals seeking to enter federal service. For students and recent graduates, one of the best ways to enter federal government is through one of the Pathways Programs. Comprised of the Internship Program, Recent Graduates Program, and Presidential Management Fellows (PMF) Program, the Pathways Programs provide meaningful training, mentoring, and career-development opportunities to students and recent graduates, and all could potentially lead to full-time positions.

If you’re a returned Peace Corps volunteer or AmeriCorps VISTA member, agencies have the ability to be non-competitively hire you. Other special hiring programs also allow for hiring without going through the full competitive hiring process, including people with disabilities. Finally, agencies have the ability to quickly hire talent in certain hard-to-fill occupations. With so many options available the key is to simply start somewhere, gain exposure, and decide if government service is right for you

Are there specific skills or educational training prospective applicants should possess?

There are government jobs in virtually every field of study so your academic major is only one consideration. Most federal government jobs also require individuals to possess solid written and oral communication skills, collaboration/teamwork skills, and critical thinking/problem-solving skills.

What fields should prospective public service professionals consider?

There are jobs for every type of person with every type of background in the federal government.

Some of the most hard-to-fill positions in government now are within the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields, including tremendous job opportunities in the area of public health.

In fiscal year 2013 alone, more than 26 percent of new hires to the government were in medical and public health positions. Additionally, cybersecurity is a field of increasingly greater demand. Similarly, while all federal agencies have some level of new talent need, nearly 80 percent of all new hires in 2013 were hired by defense and security-related agencies, and one in three new hires were with the Department of Veterans Affairs.

How to Advance Your Public Service Career

Once you have found the right public service job, the journey isn’t over. Both formal and informal career development experiences are available to advance in one’ chosen field, and Tim McManus and Will Schulz shared their thoughts on how public service officials can advance in their careers.

  • Take advantage of any and all training professional development opportunities, particularly online training programs
  • Seek out certification programs specific to an occupation
  • Spend time with a nonprofit or educational institution to experience different operational and management styles
  • Read industry-specific journals and publications
  • Identify and work with a mentor to learn new skills and gain new experience
  • Explore opportunities for meaningful assignments within your organization
  • Spend time networking and talking with colleagues to share lessons and experiences
  • Participate in volunteer opportunities

PS Career Resources & Job Search Tools

For individuals interested in learning more about public service careers or looking for networking opportunities, the resources below are a great place to start.


GovLoop is an independent online community that serves government workers and stakeholders at the local, state, and federal level. The site provides free online training for public sector professionals, networking opportunities, a job board, and community forums in topics ranging from human resources to technology, careers to budgeting. is a website dedicated to connecting those who want to do good with employment, internship, and volunteer opportunities in a range of public service areas.

International City/County Management Association

The International City/County Management Association (ICMA) is a membership-based organization that focuses on building better communities by improving and advancing local governance. For aspiring and current public service workers, the ICMA offers a career network that includes tips and resources, a job board for local and state government positions, professional development opportunities, and a job center for employee recruiters.

National Association of Police Organizations

Launched in 1978, the National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO) represents more than 241,000 law enforcement officers and more than 1,000 police associations and units. Through legislative and political action, professional education, and research, the NAPO supports the rights and interests of the country’ law enforcement officers.

Nonprofit Career Network

The Nonprofit Career Network is a resource site that connects employees and employers in the nonprofit sector.

Opportunities in Public Affairs

Opportunities in Public Affairs is an online portal that has a database of employment opportunities in legislative affairs, public policy, public relations and communications, research, and journalism.

Partnership for Public Service

A nonprofit, nonpartisan organization located in Washington, DC, the Partnership for Public Service provides professional development and leadership training programs for civil service employees.


PSJD is an online site that serves as a place for law students and lawyers to find public interest job openings, along with professional development resources. The result of a collaborative effort of more than 200 American and Canadian law schools, PSJD is a free resource for legal professionals seeking public service careers.

Sponsored by the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs and Administration (NASPAA), American Society for Public Administration (ASPA), and Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management (AAPAM), is a website that provides a database of professional employment opportunities in the public sector and information about public service careers.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy

The Chronicle of Philanthropy is a newspaper and online publication that covers what’ happening in the nonprofit world. It is targeted at individuals interested and working in philanthropy and includes a resources section and job list for those interested in finding employment in the field.

USA Jobs is the federal government’s free online job board that provides access to thousands of job postings across various federal agencies and organizations. Through individual job searches, users can learn about different job opportunities, the employer, location, and salary range.