Why Is Public Service Important?

Nonprofit management degree students volunteering in community project

When thinking about their futures, many high school students decide that they want to pursue a career path that will enable them to make a positive difference in the world. Even adults who are already in the workforce, yet are dissatisfied with their current job, may decide to return to school in order to pursue a more fulfilling and meaningful career. If either of these situations resonates with your own experience, you might consider earning a degree that would enable you to pursue a career in public service.

What is public service? And why is public service important? This career guide explains what current students and working professionals need to know.

What Is Public Service?

Public services can refer to any type of service available to the public in any given community and backed by the local, state or federal government. These services are funded in part or in full by taxpayer dollars. Let us consider a fictitious individual, Diego, in the following example.

After work, Diego hops on a bus to go to the library. He checks out a few books, and then gets on the subway to go home. He discovers that his home is engulfed in flames, and the shock causes him to have a heart attack. Diego is rushed to the hospital in an ambulance while firefighters douse the flames.

Diego has used multiple public services in a single day. He has ridden public transportation twice, borrowed books from a publicly funded library, had his house fire put out by publicly funded firefighters and was taken to the hospital by a public ambulance corps funded by both user fees and taxpayer dollars.

This example demonstrates the critical importance that public services play in daily life and the significant reliance of individuals on those services. It’s often taken for granted that a firetruck will be dispatched when needed or that a police officer will respond promptly to reports of an altercation. Yet, without the intricate infrastructure of public services, these things wouldn’t be possible.

What Is the Relationship of Nonprofits and Public Services?

According to the Urban Institution, government agencies provided nearly one out of every three dollars that charitable organizations received in 2010.1 In other words, nonprofit organizations are significantly dependent on government funding in addition to donations made by members of the public and charitable foundations. Because nonprofit organizations provide a large portion of public services in the country, and because they often receive taxpayer dollars, they can be included in the umbrella definition of public service agencies.

Why Is Public Service Important?

There is a long list of reasons why public service is important, and these reasons can vary greatly depending on which specific public services are being considered. In general, however, a professional might decide to pursue a career in public service for the following reasons:

  • To help save lives – Such as by becoming a firefighter, emergency medical technician, police officer or Red Cross worker
  • To improve quality of life – To include ensuring that communities have access to clean drinking water and quality healthcare
  • To work toward societal change – Such as by shaping the policies that combat systemic racism (e.g. housing discrimination)
  • To give the next generation better opportunities – By becoming a teacher or by leading a community outreach nonprofit that implements after-school enrichment opportunities

What Types of Jobs Are Available in Public Service?

There are so many career opportunities available for aspiring public servants. Some of the possibilities include the following:

  • Grant writer – A grant writer working for a nonprofit organization develops grant applications that are sent to foundations, government agencies and trusts in order to secure funding for the nonprofit’s mission.
  • Development director – A development director works closely with grant writers to develop, implement and oversee the strategies for raising the funds that are necessary for a nonprofit to carry out its mission.
  • Outreach coordinator – An outreach coordinator may work for a nonprofit or a local government agency. They develop, implement and coordinate community service programs.
  • Social worker – Social workers may work for public, private or nonprofit organizations. They seek to advocate for and empower marginalized populations, and to protect vulnerable individuals from abuse and neglect.
  • Nonprofit administrator – A nonprofit administrator is responsible for overseeing the daily operations of an entire nonprofit or one or more of its departments, such as the finance, human resources or facilities management.

Earn a Nonprofit Management Degree

A master's degree can enable graduates to pursue senior-level positions within nonprofit organizations and other public service organizations.

There are several degree possibilities, but perhaps the most relevant is a Master of Public Administration (MPA) with an nonprofit emphasis. An MPA in nonprofit management is a well-rounded degree program that prepares learners to tackle modern challenges ranging from resource allocation to human resources concerns.

You can enhance your career qualifications and prepare to pursue a meaningful career in public service when you enroll at Grand Canyon University. GCU’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences is pleased to offer the Master of Public Administration with an Emphasis in Nonprofit Management degree program, which empowers learners to understand and develop innovative solutions for modern, real-world challenges. Click on Request Info at the top of your screen to learn more about joining our robust learning community online or on campus.

 Retrieved from:

1Urban Institute, Nonprofits and governments: a mutually dependent relationship in May 2022


Approved by Faculty Member in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences on Sept. 19, 2022.

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.