Public Sector Overview

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The public sector, made up of government agencies and state departments, is the state’s largest employer. It is, essentially, a network of bodies that enable the functioning and development of the country, everything from healthcare to transport, justice to heritage, and tourism to foreign affairs, to name just a few elements.

A career within the public service is very structured but it is also very diverse in terms of how it can develop. Key personnel are frequently in many varied departments, agencies, and offices throughout the country and overseas during their career. There is a large degree of public service inherent in a career within the public sector, and although you may well progress to a fiscally rewarding career, there is no small degree of professional satisfaction in knowing you have made a significant contribution to the country and its people through the course of your work.

Why work in the Public Sector?

There is a massive range of jobs available within the public sector, with the sheer volume of what’s on offer dispelling the traditional notion of a job within the civil and public sector being a staid career choice. Jobs are handled centrally through the Public Appointments Service (www.pas.ie) and the good news for job seekers is that there is a concerted recruitment drive at present within the public sector. It’s a great time to consider launching your career within this area. Obviously, by its nature, this arena is a strictly governed and highly regulated sector; there are set entry requirements, with aptitude and admission tests you must undergo, but for graduates and postgraduates, these tests should be well within your capabilities.

Jobs on offer

The public sector constantly has a diverse range of jobs on offer, with good scope for diversification and using your skills within other departments. There are obviously very large administrative functions within each element of the public service, which is what enables the service to be delivered. These typically consist of functions such as management, marketing, media and communication, administration, customer service, and customer contact and much more. Obviously, in defense or justice, there is a great deal of sensitive information to deal with. In healthcare there are a lot of stakeholders and external agencies to work with, in social welfare or revenue there are many different cases and regulations to keep track of. The work is multifaceted.

Of course, the remit of the public sector also interfaces with the European Union, so there is a vast array of roles available either within European institutions with offices in Ireland or as part of the centralised EU apparatus in Brussels, Strasbourg or elsewhere. A second language European language will, of course, be a huge asset in applying for such roles.

Wages

In terms of salaries within the public sector, they are generally very competitive, however, in some sectors, you could expect to earn more at a faster pace than in the public sector. There is normally a steady incremental system of generous increases and bonuses. However, any employment package needs to be looked at in larger terms than just financial compensation and in that sense a public sector job can very often have a better overall package on offer, particularly in terms of health benefits, insurance and work/life balance.

There is also a considerable element of job security in the public sector. While today’s graduates typically see themselves as likely changing career trajectory several times during the course of their working lives, the good thing about a public service career is that you can do this without actually leaving the service. This is due to the diversity of the various different elements of state organisations.

Scope for promotion

In line with stability and security, public sector jobs can evolve at a slower pace than their counterparts in the private sector. In some aspects, these rapidly-changing, work practices, and technology can be slightly slower to modernise. Part of the reason for this is imperative upon those managing the public service to be transparent and accountable when it comes to spending public money; with every budgetary decision made being entered into public record.

Skills required

In terms of skills, you will need to have a range of hard skills applicable to the public sector as a whole, these could be tech-based, technical skills, administrative skills or any transferable hard skills that would enable you to interface with the functioning of different departments or agencies. In terms of soft skills, you will be working as part of a large team most likely, no matter which part of the public service you end up working in, so communication skills, project management, and collaborative skills and ultimately leadership skills are all very important.


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