Careers in Public Sector, Politics and Government

 

In brief

The Public Sector and Government offer a wide range of opportunities, including influencing, creating, researching or delivering policy at local, national or intergovernmental level, or supporting the work of political organisations. Working in politics can involve lobbying, gathering information on policy, and administration to support political activity. People do not enter these sectors for financial reward, but are motivated by a desire to contribute to the public good or to promote a particular cause or set of values.

These are popular sectors with LSE graduates and you’ll find alumni working in roles all over the world. Some will have done a Master's qualification and most will have gained relevant experience through student volunteering, campaigning or internships.

Where can you work?

Public Sector & Government

The Prospects overview of the public sector provides further details.

  • Civil Service – in departments, agencies or public bodies such as the Diplomatic Service; HM Treasury; Government Economic Service; and security and intelligence services.
  • Defence, law enforcement and public protection – including the armed forces, police, health & safety, cyber-security and prisons. The Prospects overview of Law enforcement and security provides further details.
  • Health, social and community work – including organisations managing or delivering healthcare, social care or youth services.
  • Education – teaching in primary, secondary, further or higher education, or supporting the provision of education. To find out more, read our Careers in Education and Teaching profile.

Politics

Key employers are political parties, trade unions, charities and public affairs consultancies. Organisations involved in campaigning and activism also come into this sector.

Find the names of organisations interested in recruiting LSE students by searching the Organisations section on Career Hub. The industry search box includes: Defence and public protection; Education and teaching; Healthcare and wellbeing; International organisations; Politics and political communications, Public Policy; Public sector and government; and Research.

What’s changing in the sector?

Charity and private players are increasingly involved, both in delivering services and collaborating. Examples include, the NHS, which buys services from private health and social care providers and charities; government social research, which commissions work from private research organisations; and many government departments, which outsource work to commercial organisations such as Serco and Capita. Recent crises in the functioning of this market mean that more changes are likely.

Useful Websites

CareerHub – jobs board targeting LSE students, including events and networking opportunities.

Civil Service

Civil Service Fast Stream

Civil Service job search – most departments advertise their jobs here. Some also have their own job sites, e.g. DfID, DEFRA, FCO, HM Treasury, IPO, Ministry of Justice, HMRC, Forestry Commisssion, GAD.

Public sector recruitment sites

Jobsgopublic – focus on public and not for profit sectors.

EuroBrussels.com – jobs in Brussels, EU institutions and international organisations.

GraduateForward Jobs Board – public affairs and communications vacancies.

PR Week jobs

PubAffairs Jobs Board

W4MP Jobs – jobs working for MPs.

Lobbying and public affairs consultancies

Association of Professional Political Consultants

European Public Affairs Consultancies’ Association (EPACA)

Dods People – provides details of people and organisations active in politics and public affairs.

Pub Affairs Resource Centre

Subscription only jobsites

We subscribe to four specialist jobsites: Policy Jobs, Political Jobs, Human Rights Jobs, Ethical Jobs.

Scroll down to ‘Exclusive jobsites’ and follow the instructions. Each site lists job vacancies internationally, but with a focus on UK, USA, Canada and Europe.

Useful initiatives

Operation Black Vote - OBV's MP Shadowing Scheme gives black and ethnic minority people a chance to work shadow an MP.

Useful Information

Routes in

Introduction

This is a sector where there are many openings for new graduates. It’s important to understand employers’ requirements when you’re job searching. This also means knowing about specific selection processes, such as online tests for Civil Service Fast Stream, fitness tests for the Armed Forces, and training routes for social work and teaching. Most public sector jobs are advertised on specific websites. 

Developing and using networks of contacts will help you understand roles and requirements in more detail and might help you prepare for selection tasks. LinkedIn can help you to make relevant contacts.

If you’re looking to gain experience

Competition for posts in the political field is fierce and you'll need experience related to politics to develop the necessary skills and contacts. This experience is gained through:

  • voluntary work or internships, such as working for an MP, MSP or MEP, peer or a member of another political institution
  • an undergraduate internship with a public affairs consultancy
  • involvement with a trade union, think tank, employers' organisation or political party, e.g. as a political party agent or activist, involvement in student politics and/or holding office in a students' union
  • campaigning work for a charity or pressure group
  • a work placement (stage) within one of the European Union institutions.

 

If you’re early on in your career

There are structured graduate schemes for government roles, e.g. Civil Service Fast Stream, and also mainstream vacancies. You can apply for both.

Many of the larger political consultancies run graduate programmes lasting from three months to a year. Trainees are introduced to the main political processes and forms of communication and gain exposure to the wider aspects of public relations and communications. Entry-level graduates often conduct research for more experienced colleagues, which provides the opportunity to develop skills and learn about the work.

In other organisations, training is largely on the job. More experienced colleagues oversee your work and you might be offered short, external courses covering topics such as public affairs management, parliamentary procedure and policy making.

If you have more experience

In the public sector, more experienced hiring usually happens through advertised vacancies, specialist recruitment agencies and professional networks. Meeting LSE alumni who have established careers in the field will help answer questions relevant to your individual circumstances.

Public affairs consultants may move into in-house public affairs departments as public affairs managers or policy advisers. Some may move into full-time political roles. These moves may be permanent or may be used to further develop experience and contacts before returning to consultancy.

If you’re changing career

People often move around the sector using existing experience and qualifications. For moves that involve a change in role, it’s often necessary to take some stepping stones to gain relevant experience. This could involve volunteering or perhaps a more junior position.

Not sure what to do next?

We’re here to talk over your career plans with you. It doesn’t matter what stage you’re at, so don’t feel you have to have it all worked out. You can book a one-to-one appointment with a careers consultant on CareerHub.

Job roles

There are a huge number of different job roles in this sector. We’ve outlined some of the major ones with links to where you can find more information. If you can, try and talk to someone who’s doing the job you’re interested in, so you get a real flavour of what it’s like.

  • Civil servant – works in government departments, involved in operational delivery and policy development or implementation. The Prospects Civil service fast steamer and Civil service administrator job profiles provide further details.
  • Policy roles – in some areas you will be responsible for drafting policy, in others you’ll form the link between policy makers and groups who must adhere to policy. Responsibilities might include informing your organisations about policy or presenting your organisation’s case to government.
  • Political roles – within politics there are many different jobs. For example, a politician’s assistant provides administrative support; a political party agent supports and advises politicians within the context of their political party; and a politician represents people living in a constituency and contributes to regional and national policy and decision-making. The Prospects Politician's assistant job profile, TARGETjobs Political party agent job description, and Totaljobs Politician job description are useful resources.
  • Public affairs consultant and political communications – advises clients on political and public policy. Check out the Prospects Public affairs consultant job profile. Organisations advertising vacancies to LSE students and graduates include Lexington Communications, Hannover Communications, the Adam Smith Institute, and Brunswick Group. PR Week’s overview of a Press officer role might also be of interest.
  • Corporate functions (HR, IT, Operations, Communications and Finance) – all the organisations in this sector require central services to support their work. New graduates might sometimes move straight into one of these roles. More often, you’ll make a lateral move from an organisation where you have gained experience and training.  To find out more about these roles, read our Careers in Business profile.