What can you do with a degree in public service?
David Schachter, assistant dean of student affairs for New York University, in the US News and World Report article, “How to Make a Career in Public Service,” advises students considering making public service their career to look at the field this way: they can focus on an issue they care about, they can try to identify a role they would like to play, they can pinpoint the sort of organization they would most want to work for, or they can identify the system they would want to be a part of, such as our public schools or the correctional system.
With Professor Schachter’s advice in mind, consider the list of job descriptions below.
Do any of them feel like a good fit for you? Some of these are entry-level positions, for others, you may need a graduate degree to be qualified.
- Emergency management coordinator – When our nation experiences a large-scale emergency, whether it’s a tornado, a flood or a terrorist attack, an emergency management coordinator is needed to organize the facilities, resources and personnel that will respond to the crisis. In quieter times, they are responsible for creating preparedness and recovery plans, and understanding all the state and federal regulations that apply.
- City or county manager – City and county managers direct and coordinate all of the administrative processes that are needed for their jurisdiction to function. They usually operate under the direction of an elected board or council, and oversee hiring and firing decisions, repairs and maintenance, and state and federal compliance issues.
- Public administrator – As a top-tier civil servant, public administrators oversee and implement the policies and activities of the government for which they work – be it local, state, county or federal. Their areas of oversight can include legal, financial, educational and healthcare public concerns.
- Politician – In our country, politicians often get a bad name, but the field is full of dedicated, generous, public-minded people who step in to fill the numerous elected positions needed to keep our country running at every level, from the local school board, through state and local elected offices, all the way up through the presidency of the United States.
- Education administrator – School administrators oversee the administrative duties that keep our public schools running. These duties can include hiring and firing decisions, the planning of school events and overseeing the implementation of curriculum decisions that come down from the state or local school board.
- Nonprofit fundraising coordinator – Every nonprofit organization relies on the good will of their donors to keep their programs running. They need a fundraising coordinator to investigate fundraising opportunities, to target those most likely to donate, and to contact corporations who might be interested in funding the organization.
- Management consultant – Very few businesses, or nonprofit organizations, handle every administrative aspect of their organization flawlessly. A management consultant will look at those administrative processes and find ways to improve workflow, communications, asset allocations, public relations and expansion.
- Parks and recreation manager – Whether a city is deep within a wooded area, or in the heart of urban sprawl, it needs to offer its citizens opportunities to relax, recreate and exercise. The parks and recreation manager will oversee and coordinate the program’s available facilities, finances and personnel in a way that maximizes its outreach, providing the highest quality programs to the people it serves.
- Urban planner – Urban planners work with local officials, city residents, business owners, architects and engineers to plan or expand urban areas. They try to balance the needs of everyone involved to make city spaces that include private homes, businesses, affordable housing, city centers, and common areas for government, community activities and recreation. All of this is done with an eye toward making a city that is many different things: functional, efficient, affordable, even aesthetically pleasing. That’s quite a balancing act.
- Grant writer – Grant writers work for businesses of all types, including nonprofit agencies, universities, and hospitals. They research funding opportunities for the institution for which they work, and submit the needed documentation in the form of a grant proposal in the hopes of securing that funding to use for projects, program expansion plans and even hiring additional personnel.
- Legal advocate – A legal advocate usually works within a law office or the court system to assist victims of domestic violence. Their duties can include accompanying a victim to court, helping that victim obtain a restraining order if one is needed, making legal referrals, and explaining their rights and legal options to them.
- Volunteer coordinator – Most nonprofit organizations have a full-time staff of paid employees, but they also count on volunteers to lend a hand in accomplishing their goals. The volunteer coordinator finds people interested in helping the organization, screens them, finds the position where their talents are most needed and schedules their time.
- Operations analyst – An operations analyst studies the workings of a company or nonprofit organization and comes up with problem-solving approaches to help them streamline their project management, cash flow, client relationships, networking processes and hiring outreach.