Moving Up the Career Ladder as a Public Servant

public servant

Choosing a career in public service opens up a wealth of opportunities for career growth, expansion and upward mobility. Rather than locking people into one career for the rest of their lives, jobs in public institutions actually promote and encourage career growth as public servants move up the career ladder within an institution.

Each sector of public service has its own career paths to explore.

Public Education
When most people think of public education, they think of classroom teachers. Certainly, classroom teachers make up the bulk of employees in education. But, education also offers several opportunities for career growth you may not have considered.

These include:

  • Curriculum specialists who work at the school and district level;
  • Data and systems analysts who work to analyze student data and use the data to inform instructional and curricular decisions;
  • Technology coordinators;
  • Department heads;
  • Athletic directors;
  • And school principals.

At the top of the career ladder in K-12 education sit human resources directors, chief financial officers, curriculum directors, assistant superintendents and superintendents. These top level managers are the equivalent of a company CEO or president, leading large, multi-faceted organizations and reporting to a school board.

The education ladder also includes positions at the state and national level with departments of education, teacher unions and professional organizations.

As you climb the career ladder in public education, you may need to seek out additional education and licensure to advance your skills and meet certain requirements.

City Management
It takes a large pool of people to make a city run. Cities employ people across a wide range of professions from clerical workers to engineers and everything in between.

The career ladder in city government mirrors that of other organizations. Front line employees who show leadership skills earn promotions to supervisory positions. Those positions can lead to middle management and then to director level positions where you assume responsibility for entire divisions such as a water bureau, transportation or parks and recreation.

Climbing the career ladder in city governance may also require additional education such as bachelor’s and advanced degrees in public health or management.

Public Health
Another sector of public service includes jobs with public health. Public health positions exist at many levels of government for people who have earned an MPH degree online including the city, county, state and local level.

Some agencies that oversee different aspects of public health include the:

  • Social Security Administration;
  • Department of Veterans’ Affairs;
  • Centers for Disease Control;
  • National Institutes of Health;
  • And city and county health departments.

These organizations also have career ladders for you to climb including, management, as a researcher, as a practitioner, or creating and setting public health policy.

You can also climb the career ladder through the many publications these organizations produce to help educate and protect the community from public health concerns.

We may not always think of politicians as public servants, but in fact, they are. The public elects these officials to serve the public good. You can also work in the political sphere without having been elected, working with elected politicians to support them as advisors, in communications, and in support roles.

The career ladder in politics often begins with a city office and as you gain skills and increase your contacts, you climb the ladder into state government and eventually federal government. This could include working with your state representatives or senators in Congress or at a large, national agency.

The career ladder for public servants doesn’t stop with the first job. You can grow professionally and make a name for yourself while also serving the public good.


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