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Public Sector & Defence careers

Stereotypes & misconceptions: What you might have already heard.

You might have heard that public sector and defence careers involve jeering or sneering in parliament. You might have heard that working for the government involves drinking martinis, romancing international beauties and bamboozling Russian spies with your sharp wit and your big gun.

You might have heard that a career in this sector will require you to wear body armour, or maybe you’ve heard that careers in the public sector involve lots of paperwork, office work, meetings and greetings. You’ve probably even heard that a governmental position will require you to try and speak a foreign language through a mouthful of the ambassador’s posh, nutty chocolates.

To be honest, you’ve probably heard a lot about public sector and defence careers; some of it might be true and some of it might be false. So before you make the decision to get into this sector, you should firstly discover what it’s really all about.

What is it really all about then? Tell me the truth.

Public sector and defence careers are all about working for the government. So many different careers are available within this huge area of work, including: police officers, members of the armed forces, civil servants, nurses, and many more.

Everything we do is influenced in some way by the people who work in public sector and defence: when we take out the recycling, when we pay tax, when we show our passport at the airport or when we drive down a road, someone’s hard work is pushing it all along smoothly.

Careers within this sector can be pursued within a broad range of organisations, with central government offices, local councils, the NHS, and executive governmental agencies to name just a few.

Working as part of the Civil Service can be one of the most exciting and rewarding ways of working within central government departments. The most popular (and most competitive) entry route is through the Civil Service Fast Stream programme. This is where some of the country’s most talented graduates are recruited to get them well on the way to becoming the future leaders of the various Civil Service departments.

Sounds great, tell me more!

Civil Service employees help the government to manage and administrate public services, and to develop and implement its policies. These guys are employed within central government departments, including the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Ministry of Defence.

Astonishingly, nearly 530,000 civil servants are currently employed in the UK, either within executive agencies, non-departmental government bodies, or Whitehall departments. Don’t worry though! Careers within the Civil Service are not only available in London.

In fact, almost three-quarters of civil servants work outside of the ‘Big Smoke’ and its surrounding areas. The workforce delivers public services all across the UK, with a plethora of jobs playing their part, including project managers, analysts, administrative staff and even coastguards.

Careers specifically within local councils are responsible, as you can imagine, for local services, such as recycling, traffic control and community centres. Working in this environment allows people to play a more direct and active role within a very specific area. Often these employees actually live in the same council that they are providing services to, and this allows people to develop a direct connection with the valuable work they are doing.

The NHS is the largest employer in Europe and the fifth largest in the world (over one million employees), and understandably employs many people for tons of diverse roles, including administrative, IT and other support roles, as well as doctors, nurses and other medical staff.

Many careers in the public sector are a million miles away from your typical nine-to-five office job. Careers in the armed forces, police forces, or emergency services can be some of the most exciting, dangerous and hands-on jobs in the world. They require specialist technical and physical training, and have such a huge influence on people’s lives in the UK and across the world.

So, while you might not become the next James Bond, and you don’t fancy being a big don in parliament, don’t fear: there are countless opportunities all throughout the country in the public services and defence sector.

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Steven T - Freedom of Information Officer

Steven T is a Freedom of Information Officer at the Scottish Parliament - "There's an awful lot of media scrutiny of the parliament and we get an awful lot of requests from journalists... who are looking for a good story, usually a negative story about the parliament... trying to deal with that aspect of things can be tricky." Steven says that since starting work at the Parliament "a whole lot of new sort of avenues have opened up to me in terms of career".