A Guide to Careers in Government

Staff members working for the government

A career in government is an attractive option for those professionals who are interested in serving their community, state and country. Government work can offer job security, good benefits, opportunities for professional advancement and a sense of worth in each and every possible field. Government work can become career work, offering stability through consistency that benefits those who desire a strong work-life balance.

In This Article:

Benefits of Working for the Government

Working for the government in many sectors tends to be a typical 8 am - 5 pm schedule, five days a week, with weekends and holidays off (almost always guaranteed all federal holidays off), as well as good-to-great benefits such as health insurance, retirement and regular paid time off.

Tuition reimbursement is an occasional benefit, too, that, if offered, is one of the most financially lucrative benefits of working for the government. Additionally, government agencies often provide training programs and opportunities for professional development which allows employees the power to improve themselves within their current organization, while also setting themselves up for vertical improvement.

Some government work is very exciting and competitive, providing those who have strong ambitions an outlet that can be quite fulfilling. While all government work is important work, some careers in government are simply more invigorating than others. These jobs can be high-stress but high-reward and may not be ideal for all potential employees as the general benefits of pay, insurance, tuition reimbursement, etc., are quite similar to other positions.

However, even with the potentially longer work hours (including weekends that can make work-life balance at times more difficult to achieve), the benefits of working for the government in these positions can include:

  • Shared experiences and accomplishments with co-workers
  • The satisfaction of meeting demands much greater than that which is found in other work
  • Experience that can help open doors to career growth
  • Exposure to a variety of different fields
  • Opportunities to specialize your career

Top 10 Careers in Government

Now that you know a few answers to why work for the government?, here is a top-10 list of careers in government that provide varying degrees of security and stability with competitiveness capable of fulfilling one’s professional aspirations. 

  1. Law Enforcement: Not just a position filled by those who go on the neighborhood beat, nearly every county in America has a law enforcement agency. States employ troopers, each with similar jobs, but each with varying types of cases they investigate that can meet the desires of applicants.

    The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), too, is the nation’s top law enforcement agency who investigates federal crimes which reach beyond that of a single state. Each of these jobs include means of professional development that help to not only raise one’s status within the organization, but their pay as well. Detectives, special agents, criminal investigators and the different levels of chiefs are all steps above the common police officer. Although generally higher on the pay scale as well, they each are highly competitive, require additional hours of work per week, and bring about different levels of stress.
  2. Education: We are all perpetual students, so why not lead a class? Every stage of life offers new opportunities to learn about a plethora of subjects which range from learning about one’s self and one’s faith, to the world of sciences that encompass all aspects of the human existence. When particularly fascinated in a specific subject, the opportunity to share that passion with eager listeners is something rarely found in other fields.

    Many states, including Arizona, are desperate for eager and passionate leaders to facilitate learning in the classroom; thus, there is little chance that if a qualified person applies, they won’t find a job. From there, the world of education is endless. The methods and styles of teaching are as unique as the prints on an individual’s finger. Over time, student-leaders will discover their unique teaching style; develop an understanding for how student-learners themselves absorb information; and enter a world that brings joyfulness and opportunity.
  3. Healthcare: Aside from doctors, surgeons, specialists and nurses, each who play a vital and everyday role in the health and comfort of their patients, positions such as therapy assistance, technicians and medical assistants, allow for a person to enter the medical field without the extra years of schooling and the debt that may come as a result of an advanced degree.

    Public health, too, has grown to become one of the most important fields of medicine following the outbreak of COVID-19. Preventing infectious diseases either through vaccinations or public recommendations is key to staving off the next such pandemic. The federal government in particular offers positions in medicine, especially in field research. Do you find a specific avenue of medicine particularly fascinating? Specialize in that field through research and end up on the cutting edge of both science and technology, saving lives, while never having to diagnose a patient.
  4. Government Administration: Administration in government can take many forms. In the United States, it generally refers to those staffed within the “fourth branch” of government — the bureaucratic state. These are the individuals who, more than any other group, are the cogs who make our federal government run.

    On orders by the President as directed by Congress, government administration runs the gambit of jobs that begin with part-time employees filing documents in local offices, to political professionals working in D.C.-based environments. Each state and even most cities have similar jobs (albeit much fewer than on the federal side) all with similarities in job requirements, pay and expectations. Government administration jobs are for those who truly want to be on the ground floor working directly with the people.
  5. Military: There is no higher level of affection for a country than to risk one’s life for one’s countrymen. There is no last full measure of devotion than laying down one’s life. The military is not for everybody. But for those who are looking to find structure, meaning, adventure, and are willing and eager to enter a life of service to others, all while receiving benefits unlike any other area of governmental work, enlistment is an option that in and of itself does not necessarily make one’s career.

    Military service can further open up a spectrum of secondary work based on the job assignments by one of the branches. From the more common positions in communications, to technical jobs in IT, there is an abundance of secondary professional possibilities. For those who enlist at a young age, enter the officer corps and become a lifelong soldier, retirement can come a lot sooner than you think. In these cases, many veterans will choose to retire from the service and receive their retirement benefits, only to become employed with private companies who work with a military branch, specifically to financially “double-dip.” These professionals can thus earn a considerable combined salary, built on their years of sacrifice and service while in active duty.
  6. Foreign Service Officer (FSO): When proud to be an American but interested in living abroad immersed in another culture, foreign service is a rare opportunity to do just that, while also holding a job that is crucial to national security. Whether working up the ranks to diplomat or maintaining a position behind the scenes, the foreign service is an extension of the American political and diplomatic arm that is extremely important and requires the skills of some of our nation’s most intelligent and dedicated citizens.

    Not all FSO’s will work directly with foreign diplomats (and not all diplomatic work is dealing with foreign governments). Those who work in American consulates will further assist their countrymen directly, particularly those with issues while abroad themselves. These jobs may be less flashy, but the opportunity for life abroad, coupled with the security of an American citizenship, is one that, for many, is difficult to pass up.
  7. Intelligence Analyst: Similar to a career in education, the role of an intelligence analyst is best filled by someone who is eager to learn and will never stop doing so. They must be skilled in sharing learned information in both oral and written form, not only categorically correctly, but succinctly and without bias. This may sound like a professor, because in a way it is.

    These government workers, however, are not sharing learned information with a group of people who may or may not want to do anything professionally with the information presented. Intelligence analysts are regularly tasked (often daily) with briefing those who make the most important decisions made in government — from military leadership to the bureaucratic and elected officials. When finding a job in a decision-making capacity just isn’t possible, being one of the people who informs those who do make the final call can be just as exciting and rewarding.
  8. Environmental/Astronomical Scientists: While neither is necessarily lucrative nor flashy, both environmental and astronomical scientists get to spend much of their time studying the two universes around us — that of the atmosphere with and around us, and the expanse beyond. They are tasked with answering previously unanswerable questions while asking a brand-new set.

    Very few fields beyond these can give a professional the opportunity to spend time moving beyond scientific horizons, all while serving their country. Skills required in both fields are often mathematical in nature. Thus, for those who ever wondered where their high school and college math might take them, if they were good at it and enjoyed the problem-solving process, achieving a position in either of these sciences would make those teachers very proud.
  9. Postal Service: Granted, only a federal position, a postal service employee does not have to go far from home to hold a position in the government. In fact, they often stay in their very own neighborhood. Delivering mail is one of the United States’ oldest government positions. It is also one of the most important — even in the digital age.

    Much of the time is spent alone, but for those who prefer such a lifestyle, it’s bliss. Despite the United States Postal Service being an independent agency, the benefits received by the employees are that of a full-fledged government employee, and worth every penny. A very good salary; regular time off; good insurance options — the position of a postal worker isn’t going to break scientific or political grounds, but it is a job that is just as important.
  10. Attorney: Every level of government has legal representation. These attorneys have to be some of the sharpest in their field because the implications of misrepresentation can result in catastrophic failures within government, negatively affecting every citizen.

    The position is not necessarily anything dramatically different from those lawyers in the private sector who specialize in one particular area of case law. Government attorneys simply focus on that area of law which most directly covers the actions of government itself. Whether it is the question of the legality of a law based on the federal or state constitutions or city charters, or the defense of a government against legal attack by the private sector or another government entity itself, the daily lives of many citizens rest on the capable shoulders of government attorneys, arguably the most impactful on a societal scale of any other.

Careers in government are vast and varied. Whether you enjoy teaching, public health, advocacy, politics, law enforcement or are just looking for a steady income with good benefits and work-life balance, working for the government offers many opportunities to meet your career goals.

Get started by earning a degree in government from Grand Canyon University (GCU). The College of Humanities and Social Sciences offers many government degree emphases based on your interest, including the Bachelor of Arts in Government with an Emphasis in State and Local Public Policy. Fill out the form on this page to take your next step.

Approved by faculty for the College of Humanities and Social Sciences on April 30, 2023.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.