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Careers Paths in Government/Policy

Government careers offer the opportunity to significantly impact issues that affect people and the communities they live in. The range of opportunities is significant since one can find almost any private sector job in the various levels of government. Furthermore, government also offers truly unique careers from representing US citizens abroad to developing policies that shape our nation’s schools to managing local emergencies.

The first step in considering a government career is to determine at what level you wish to make an impact. Federal government jobs address national, overarching subjects that affect all communities, including protecting the environment, national defense, and international trade. State government addresses issues that impact state citizens, visitors to the state, and those wishing to do business with the state. Local government works on issues that are under their jurisdiction, specifically those that impact surrounding neighborhoods. Each level of government offers unique challenges and rewards.

The next step is to do a thoughtful evaluation of one’s interests and skills. What is most important to you in a job? What skills do you have? What topics excite you? This analysis will help you to shape what is important to you, which will ultimately determine which agencies or departments may be a good fit. 

Through all of this careful thought and investigation you may find that you want to work on government-related issues, but you do not want to work for the government. You may be interested in policies that affect the US domestically or how it interacts internationally. Policy research is a dynamic field where such policies are investigated, analyzed, and used to influence the government. Opportunities in policy research are more plentiful for those with advanced degrees (Master’s and PhDs), but jobs do exist for bachelor’s level candidates. Employers are often called Think Tanks and represent a wide range of issues that can be politically centered.

Examples of Entry Level Positions

Federal

  • Environmental Protection Specialist
  • Special Agent (FBI)
  • Management & Program Analyst
  • Open Source Officer
  • Paralegal Specialist
  • Correspondence Specialist/Tour Coordinator (Senate)

State Government

  • Environmental Protection Specialist I
  • Human Resources Representative
  • Human Services Caseworker
  • Information Systems Analyst
  • Paralegal Assistant

Local Government

  • Special Events Coordinator
  • Cultural Affairs Coordinator
  • Program Analyst
  • Assistant Project Director
  • Assistant Director of Mental Health Center

Policy Research

  • Research Assistant
  • Programmer/Analyst
  • Information Specialist

Examples of Employers

Federal

  • Central Intelligence Agency
  • State Department
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • White House
  • Senate
  • Department of Education
  • Environmental Protections Agency

State Government

  • Office of the Governor
  • Children and Family Services
  • Environmental protection agency
  • Central Management Services
  • Board of Education

Local Government

  • Mayor’s Office
  • Business Affairs and Consumer Protection
  • Cultural Affairs and Special Events
  • Emergency Management and Communications
  • Family and Support Services
  • Finance
  • Chicago Park District
  • State’s Attorney
  • Public Health

Think Tanks

  • Aspen Institute
  • Brookings Institution
  • Institute for Defense Analyses
  • RAND Corporation
  • Urban Institute

Skills Needed

  • Administrative
  • Communication
  • Foreign Language
  • Multitasking
  • Leadership
  • Prioritizing