Civil Service

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Do you want to make a difference? Do you have great ideas that you love seeing through? If you want to work in a diverse environment impacting the country’s policymaking, a career in the civil service could be perfect for you.

Are you interested in a career in the civil service? Explore graduate opportunities in the public sector & government.

What do you do in the civil service?

The civil service is a public sector organisation that researches, develops and maintains policy in the UK. This could be changes to policy, bringing about new policy or removing policy that isn’t relevant to current society. Policy relates to all areas of how we behave in society from regulations about transport to how we treat the environment. Here are some of the tasks that you have when working in the civil service:

  • Meeting with colleagues to discuss policy changes.
  • Arranging focus groups with members of the public about their experience of policy and whether changes to it would positively or negatively impact them.
  • Researching the existing policy and the statistics of how it has impacted people in the country.
  • Coming up with new policy ideas to improve the lives of people who deal with the policy.

Civil service career path

Working in the civil service provides a standard career path that you could follow. Since you learn many transferable skills throughout your career, you may decide to move into another profession. For example, the organisation and planning skills that you use in the civil service could set you up well for a project management role. Equally, the understanding of governmental and state structure could help you move into local government. Here is the career path associated with the civil service:


Many people begin their career in the civil service through the Civil Service Fast Stream. This is a scheme that takes graduates and trains them in many areas of the civil service. Throughout the fast stream, you work in different departments, assisting in many different projects so you can become familiar with the many areas of civil service. This is a training role and requires assessment throughout your work to make sure you’re progressing and working well. You keep reflective logs to demonstrate the concrete impact that you’ve had as an employee. If you succeed in the assessments, you’re kept on in the civil service as a permanent employee in one of the departments you trained in.

Career progression

Once you’ve moved beyond the entry-level, training programme of the civil service fast track, you become a civil servant. In this role, you work on policy for one area that you specialise in. You can move around once you’ve secured a position, with the possibility of relocating or living abroad. Your job is researching policy, coming up with strategies for improvement and formulating plans for the structure of the policy.

Future career

With many years of experience and having developed many strategies for policy, you become a senior civil servant. As a senior member of the team, you’re given responsibility for new ideas and strategies within the department of the civil service that you work in. You oversee your colleagues’ work, making sure it’s to your standard and nothing is missing or has been overlooked.

Civil service salaries

The civil service offers you a steady, reliable job. Here are the salary levels that you could earn when working for the civil service:

  • In the fast stream or in an entry-level position, you earn between £20,000 and £30,000 per year.
  • As a mid-level civil servant, you earn an average of £45,000 per year.
  • As a senior civil servant, you earn an average of £70,000 per year.

Civil service qualifications and training


One way of getting into the civil service is through the fast track scheme. The fast track scheme works in a similar way to an apprenticeship where you learn how to do the job whilst doing it. In order to get into the fast track, you often need an undergraduate degree first. This can be in any subject you like because most degrees teach you transferable skills that will be useful in your career like how to write eloquently and how to communicate well. 

Another way of getting into the civil service is through a summer internship. These offer a great opportunity for you to learn how to work well in the civil service environment and help you begin to understand how to do the job. You can learn more about how to get into the civil service through the government’s civil service website.

Civil service skills

Along with a degree and good experience, having the right skills helps you secure a job in the civil service. You can gain these skills throughout your education and in your working life. Being able to demonstrate when you acquired them or how you’ve used them in another job or in education can make your application stand out. If you need a bit of help making your application shine above the rest, complete this Bright Network Academy course on application processes. Here are the skills you need to succeed as a civil servant:

  • Communication. Some of your job involves communicating with colleagues, members of the public and members of parliament. Being able to communicate eloquently and effectively is a huge bonus to your job performance. If you need some help brushing up on your communication skills, complete this Bright Network Academy module on adapting your communication style so you’re ready to communicate with anyone.
  • Organisation. Lots of your work, particularly in the first few years, involves organising yourself. This could be anything from managing your own workload to organising a focus group. Being organised and having your work under control is important, particularly when you’re being assessed whilst working in the fast track scheme.

Pros and cons of being in the civil service

Like any job, working in the civil service has positive and negative parts. These good and bad aspects can help you decide if the job aligns well with your working style and non-career related goals. Here is what you should consider before working in the civil service:


  • You can make a real difference working in the civil service and help to improve the lives of people living in the country.
  • You can earn a lot of money, especially in senior positions.
  • It is a pretty stable job with a secure pension and room for progression.


  • You may not get much control over which area you work in. This is especially relevant in the first few years of work if you’re in the fast track scheme because you move into a different department every 6 months. This can make work boring or less enjoyable if you’re not working on a project that you’re passionate about.
  • Since it’s under governmental control, you will have lots of rules and regulations which you need to stick to stringently or else you might face difficulties with your colleagues.
  • You might have long hours or a high workload with the job, especially in the first few years which can make work stressful.

Work-life balance

Working in the civil service provides a great deal of job security and scope for moving into different departments. This does come with a price that can throw your work-life balance off. Being a civil servant requires a lot of work and dedication. Additional working hours can make the job stressful which could impact your home life. Having good strategies for dealing with stress and making sure to prioritise your home life as well as work can make your job less stressful and your working life more enjoyable.

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