A picture containing person, building, outdoor, crowd Description automatically generated

Choosing what career path to pursue during or after your education can be difficult. Many considerations must go into making this decision, which will dictate the course of your life for at least the next few years. For many, their natural progression might involve taking an internship or graduate training program to help improve their chances of landing a job in the corporate sector.

However, not everyone is cut out for a corporate career in the private sector. There are many people whose natural inclinations and skills are more suited to a career in the public sector. Unfortunately, the situation of many public institutions, agencies, and non-profits has discouraged many from even considering a career as a public officer.

Using a public service or having to interact with a public institution may sometimes frustrate you. Often, this is because most public institutions are poorly managed, and many people seem to think there is very little they can do about it. Yet, there is a lot to be done in the public sector that will directly impact many people’s lives.

This article will consider why choosing a career in the public service is important, what skills you need as a public officer, what career paths to consider, and how you can prepare for a career in the public sector.

6 Ways public officers change lives

Public officers work for the government and citizens without any exceptions. As a public officer, your focus is on improving ordinary citizens’ lives. There are many ways in which public officers do this, but we will consider a few significant ways by which public officers change the life of the regular person.

  • Health

Aside from medical doctors and other officials in the healthcare delivery system, public officers have a more prominent role to play in the healthcare sector. They are directly in charge of implementing all the healthcare programs set out by the government, non-profits, private institutions, and many other stakeholders in the healthcare system.

Whether your community has access to an ambulance and standard emergency health services largely depends on the public officer. Hence as a public officer, your work will go a long way in ensuring that people live longer, healthier and happier lives.

  •  Safety

In collaboration with the government, the public officer is responsible for protecting people from the threats posed by crime, natural disasters, and terrorism. Since public safety is largely within the purview of the government, public officers play an even bigger role in this regard.

From law enforcement, disaster and emergency management to firefighting, public officers must be on top of their game. Anything below bar will compromise the lives and safety of the people they are supposed to serve and protect.

  • Administration and Policy

Policies and administrations are the backbone to any government. Administration and policy formulation cuts across every sector of the economy and every aspect of citizens’ lives.

Whether it’s a gender policy or a policy to foster inclusion of people living with disabilities, or policies on international relations and foreign interactions, public officers are at the center of it all.

  • Tax

Taxation is another important aspect of public life that public officials are responsible for. Taxation drives a huge part of government activities. As tax policymakers, tax collectors, tax compliance and enforcement officials, and tax managers, public officers are constantly impacting the lives of the people.

Effective management of the tax ecosystem by public officers translates to better amenities for the regular citizen and relief from the burden that bad taxation systems can impose.

  • Education

Education is at the center of our development as a society. Although there are many private players in the education system, education is still largely a public sector service. Some public officers dedicate their careers to helping college and university students decide their career paths and supporting them to get placements that can fast-track their careers.

  • Regulation

Regulation is another important way in which public officers change lives. It prevents the breakdown of society by keeping all players in check. Regulatory bodies are, of course, creators of law and are populated by public officials. Regulation across every industry might look different, but at the core is to prevent exploitation, and abuse, and to ensure the welfare of people.

Career paths to consider as a public officer

While your career path as a public officer can be largely influenced by your educational background, the public sector is also a sector that allows you to transition roles easily. This means that even if your current education does not directly support a career in the public sector, you can still transition by getting additional online education or training such as a master’s in public safety, master’s in public administration, master’s in public policy. As a public officer, you can consider working in the following roles:

  • Law Enforcement

Law enforcement can mean many different things and it’s not just limited to a career as a combatant or police officer. Traffic officials, school guards, prison officials, and marshals are all part of law enforcement.

  • Fire Services

Firefighting is another noble profession in the public sector that a public officer can consider., Firefighting is a risky skill that requires a lot of field training and additional specialized training, such as a master’s in public safety.

  • Emergency Management

While emergencies are inevitable, effectively managing emergencies can significantly reduce those affected and the extent of damage caused. If risk management is something that you find easy, then you might want to consider a role in emergency management.

  • Public Health Management

Public health and community health systems involve making quality healthcare available and accessible to the people who require them. Handling vaccinations, pandemic containment, and other public health aspects will keep you busy as a public officer.

  • Non-profit Management

Non-profit organizations are an important part of our society as they take on crucial responsibilities that many other people may overlook. Managing a non-profit, however, goes beyond passion as many people seem to think. It requires many technical skills that only a trained public officer can bring to the table.

  • Civil Service

Government agencies, parastatals, and institutions solely rely on the manpower of public officers to run. Civil servants are mostly statutory employers whose main responsibility lies in administration and execution.

  • Fundraising, Development, and Professional Advancement

Public institutions, especially those established for developmental and educational purposes, require public officers who are trained in fundraising and development strategies. Working in this category as a public officer will be  relatively easy for people looking to transition from a career in the private industry to the public sector.

  • Higher Education Management

Higher education management involves the development of many policies and strategies that will not only ensure that the primary mandate of quality education is fulfilled, but will also give room for inclusion, growth, and development. A career path as an education administrator has been fulfilling for many public officers.

What to expect as a public officer

From what has already been discussed, it is obvious that the role of a public officer is very important and must be taken seriously. If all these already fascinate you and you believe that a career as a public officer suits you, then you must also consider the things that would be expected of you as a public officer and what you can expect in return.

As many people erroneously imply, life as a public officer is not a sentence to penury. However, it is also not a bed of roses.

Many people would cite noble ideas and other selfless opinions when asked what their motivations for choosing a career in public service are. Unfortunately, they are disappointed upon getting into the industry only to realize that things are not always as they seem. So, what can you expect as a public officer?

  • You are going to face a lot of scrutiny

Life in a public office means that you will be subjected to much scrutiny and your actions will be judged using a higher standard. For example, if you work in a non-profit, you will not be expected to earn a decent salary. People will set expectations of you that will be very unrealistic.

  •  Your role may not always be popular

Sometimes, your job will require you to offend someone to get results or protect the greater good. As a law enforcement officer, you are, of course, not going to be friendly with many, and you shouldn’t even try. What you should be is a decent human being with integrity.

  • The people you serve will not always appreciate you

Another thing you would have to learn early on as a public officer is that the people you serve will not always appreciate or even see the need for your efforts. If you are one for external validation, then a career in the public sector will probably not be the best option for you.

  • You will

    not always get the results you desire

As a public officer, you need to recognize what your limitations are based on your job description. You need to focus on the things you can control and work on delivering the best results with the resources you have at your disposal.

How to prepare for life as a public officer

Now that you already know what to expect as a public officer, how do you manage these expectations and prepare for a fulfilling career in the public sector?

  • Do your research

You must do your research. Learn the specific requirements of the job you are looking to get into. Research what your earning potential is and what qualifications you would need to get.

  • Volunteer

The fastest way to build yourself as a public officer is by volunteering. Volunteer for projects, non-profit organizations, and other public tasks. You can even apply for internships in public institutions. Aside from building your skill set and resume, you are also learning what you like and do not like along the way.

  • Get the training you need

While soft skills are a huge part of a public service career, you also need to get the needed training and certifications for the specific career you want. For example, you might need to get a first degree in public administration or policy or an advanced degree such as a master’s in public safety. The good thing is that you can get all this training online.

  •  Network

Networking is also a great way to prepare for a career in the public sector. You need to meet with people who already work in the career you want to join. As someone who is looking to work in the non-profit sector, it would help if you attended events organized by non-profits in your local community.

  • Focus on your personal development

As a public officer, you are not just required to be a high-performing, productive worker. You will need to be a levelheaded and mature human being. You can only achieve this by focusing on your emotional and mental development.

Skills needed to become a public officer 

Becoming a public officer is not an easy task. It requires many skills and abilities that are not taught in school. In order to be successful, one must have strong communication skills, critical thinking skills, leadership skills, and more.

Strong communication skills are important for public officers because they often give speeches or deliver presentations. They also need to be able to answer questions from the public. Critical thinking skills are important because public officers need to be able to make decisions quickly and solve problems. Leadership skills are important because public officers often lead teams of people.

There are many other skills that public officers need, but these are some of the most important. If you have these skills, then you may be ready to become a public officer.

Conclusion

Public officers play a critical role in our society, and as such, they should expect to be held to high standards. In order to meet the expectations of the public, they must be willing to prepare themselves for the challenges that come with the job. This includes being knowledgeable about the law and knowing how to handle difficult situations. It is also important that public officers maintain a high level of integrity, and work diligently to serve the best interests of their constituents.