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Government is a system established by a community, city, state, or country to develop laws, policies, and programs that work for the good of its citizens. The failings and strengths of the U.S. government as well as the desire to change things for the better, and the ability of government to enable this change is what attracts people to careers in city, state, and federal offices. The Foreign Service, the U.S. Congress, state legislatures, the political science departments of colleges and universities, and the media all attract thousands of professionals every year who are anxious to be involved in, or to comment upon, the decisions that affect the people of the country.
Local, state, and federal officials, such as governors, state legislators, and U.S. Congress members must be elected to their positions by campaigning and attracting voters. Political candidates running for office typically employ a staff that works for his or her election and presents a candidate's views to the public. The higher the office, the more workers are needed for the candidate to succeed. To fill many of these positions, candidates rely on volunteers whose activities are usually coordinated by a paid, full-time general office staff.
Once elected, government officials must then carry out the work of their office, working together with other elected officials as well as various government branches and departments. Most elected officials maintain a staff. In Washington, D.C., the staff that assists Congress is quite large. Each representative has an administrative assistant to run the office in Washington, and other assistants are hired to work in offices in the congressperson's home state.
Many of those workers involved in government are not elected. Lobbyists are frequently former government employees familiar with the offices and the staff they are lobbying. Think tanks perform research and develop reports on social, technological, business, or other problems and provide important information to lobbyists, members of the government, and government-related groups. The Foreign Service employs ambassadors, Foreign Service officers, and others who serve in U.S. embassies and consulates in countries around the world.
Beyond Washington, D.C., career opportunities are available in every state, county, and city government. City managers and urban planners, for example, gauge the needs of their cities and local communities and propose changes to government officials. Government careers are available to teachers, journalists, business executives, farmers, and anyone interested in having an impact on how Americans relate to each other and to the world.
Overall, the federal government employed approximately 2.8 million civilian workers, excluding the Postal Service, in 2012. Approximately 19 million people were employed by state and local governments in 2012; the majority, 8.8 million, worked in hospitals, with education (1 million) and law enforcement (900,000) as the second and third largest sectors.