Career Pathway: Government

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, pathways in the public administration career cluster are expected to grow 6% for administrative services and 17% for social and community services through 2029. Public administrators hold a wide variety of job titles across a number of different sectors and industries. Their roles involve general purpose government services at the federal, state, and local levels, managing relationships that impact international politics, law, economics, security, diplomacy, and fostering civic engagement through nonprofits that reach beyond borders. Those who support these efforts have advanced knowledge and skills that are needed for high-level public administration and international relations roles within a public sector organization. If you enjoy addressing social issues and want to have an impact on the lives of others, then a public sector career is for you. 

What can I do with government skills?

Types of organizations where you may work:

  • County courts, water and waste management, law enforcement agencies, tourism and recreation agencies, local school districts, libraries, health and human services, fish and wildlife services, state house. 

With a local and/or state government focus, you can may work in the following professions:

  • Community relations director
  • Police commissioner
  • Board of education 
  • Local transportation board member
  • City manager 
  • Parks and recreation director
  • Urban planning and development director
  • Compliance officer 
  • Land surveyor 
  • Database administrator 
  • Purchasing manager 
  • Budget analyst 
  • Health and human services administrator
  • Foreign affairs specialist 

Types of organizations where you may work:

  • U.S. Department of State, Center for Strategic and International Studies, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Department of Defense, InScope International, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), U.S. House of Representatives.

With a federal government focus, you may work in the following professions:

  • Policy advisor
  • Legislative Aid
  • Intelligence analyst 
  • Foreign service officer 
  • Economist
  • Policy researcher 
  • Labor relations manager 
  • Communications specialist 
  • Health systems administrator
  • Emergency management director
  • Environmental protection specialist 
  • Civil rights analyst  
  • Mediator
  • Tax examiner

Types of organizations where you may work:

  • United Nations (UN), Amnesty International, CARE, Oxfam, Mercy Corps, World Wildlife Federation (WWF), World Bank, Human Rights Watch, International Rescue Committee.

With an international and/or non-governmental organization focus, you may work in the following professions:

  • Program monitor 
  • Liaison officer 
  • Program manager 
  • Evaluation specialist
  • Country director 
  • Business and human rights legal researcher 
  • Field coordinator 
  • Advocacy consultant 
  • Relief deployment manager
  • Economic affairs officer 
  • Program officer 
  • Policy advisor 
  • Social impact analyst 

Types of organizations where you may work:

  • Foundations and philanthropic organizations, higher education institutions, research institutions, think tanks, and advocacy groups.

With an nonprofit organization focus, you may work in the following professions:

  • Community relations coordinator 
  • Compliance coordinator 
  • Member services director 
  • Grant administrator 
  • Executive director 
  • Associate director 
  • Policy analyst
  • Development coordinator 
  • Case manager 
  • Volunteer coordinator 
  • Donor relations manager 
  • Student affairs administrator
  • Community organizer 
  • Public relations manager 
  • Program manager 
  • Special initiatives director

How can I acquire government skills and turn them into a career?

In-demand skills

Your ability to land a specific role rests on your experience and educational background, as well as your proficiency in the skills below.

Field-specific skills

  • Budgeting
  • Project management
  • Public health and safety
  • Strategic planning
  • Policy analysis and development
  • Threat analysis
  • Cross-cultural management
  • Data analysis
  • Financial reporting
  • Quality assurance and control
  • Staff management
  • Systems analysis
  • Cybersecurity

Transferable skills & qualities

  • Interpersonal communication
  • Critical thinking
  • Attention to detail
  • Problem solving
  • Social perceptiveness
  • Presentation delivery
  • Time management
  • Organization
  • Oral/Written communication
  • Negotiation ability
  • Service orientation
  • Staff management

Fellowships

Pro tip:
Fellowships help candidates enhance their skills and deepen their knowledge by serving in high-impact local, state, federal, or international governmental capacities or other related organizations. There are no “required” fellowships for a government career path; any requirements for a specific role are listed accordingly on job postings.

This list is composed of fellowships that some employers may view favorably in candidates:

Advocacy Project Fellowship:
Areas of study — International affairs: general peace and conflict resolution
Demographics — Graduate students
Citizenship — Any

Charles G. Koch Summer Fellow Program:
Areas of study — Public policy and administration 
Demographics — Graduate students, undergraduates, young professionals
Citizenship — Any

Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Public Service Scholarships:
Areas of study — International affairs: general public policy and administration 
Demographics — Multicultural students
Citizenship — United States

Congressional Hispanic Caucus Public Policy Fellowship:
Areas of study — International affairs: general public policy and administration
Demographics — Multicultural students
Citizenship — United States

Edmund S. Muskie Graduate Fellowship Program:
Areas of study — International affairs: general international law, public or intercultural communication, public policy, and administration
Demographics — Graduate students
Citizenship — Europe and Central Asia

Fulbright Programs:
Areas of study — International affairs: general international business, trade and finance, international law, peace and conflict resolution, public policy, and administration security studies
Demographics — Young professionals/ graduate students
Citizenship — United States

Rumsfeld Foundation Graduate Fellowship Program:
Areas of study — International affairs: general public policy and administration
Demographics — Graduate students
Citizenship — United States

Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowships:
Areas of study — International affairs: general public policy and administration
Demographics — Graduate students, strongly encourages multicultural candidates
Citizenship — United States

Twitter Public Policy Fellowship:
Areas of study — Public policy and administration, international affairs, general
Demographics — Graduate students, strongly encourages multicultural candidates
Citizenship — United States

What could my career look like with a government skill set?

Note: This is a basic guide to kick-start exploration, not a complete list of all paths. See specific job descriptions for more details. To determine specific roles and responsibilities for each public sector, click on this checklist to see how you match up!

Local & state government

As Tip O’Neill stated, “all politics is local.” Local governments typically laser focus on challenges that affect a specific town, city, or district. On the other hand, state governments, on the other hand, focus on programs and policies that impact state citizens, visitors, and businesses within a given state. Both levels of government directly shape education, budgets, community relations, economic development, healthcare administration, policy analysis, emergency management, communications, IT efficiencies, and many other critical areas.

Federal government

The federal government addresses challenges of national importance, including border security, international relations, transportation, tax and budgeting, national defense, environmental protection, public safety and health, and federal government accountability. This is only a sampling of the many areas in which the federal government is involved. Below are several federal government organizations that might interest you (source). 

International & non-governmental organizations

The most effective international administrators possess a combination of subject-matter expertise in areas such as law and foreign policy, and functional abilities in areas like project and program management (source). A background in public administration and nonprofit management may help secure a position at a  non-governmental or other international organization. Globally, you’ll find many organizations that focus on diplomacy, humanitarian aid, economic and sustainable growth, etc. Below is a sampling of organizations and positions  oriented toward an international affairs career. 

Nonprofit organizations

Nonprofit organizations need highly-skilled professionals to accomplish their goals. Many  aspects of managing and supporting nonprofit organizations involve overseeing complex budgets, developing strategic fundraising plans, and motivating teams. Additionally, nonprofit work often connects people who want to make a social difference. Below is a sampling of organizations and positions oriented toward a nonprofit career. 

What are my next steps?

Watch a session:

Watch a relevant session on our Events page to learn more about the industry and other professionals’ experiences within it.


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