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Public Sector Career Pathways For School Leavers

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Overview

If you’ve got an interest in how the country is run and want to learn how you could influence it, then a career in the public sector may be a great career fit for you. The industry employs around 5.5million people in the United Kingdom and offers a wide variety of roles within it. Jobs can be found in the police force, local government, hospitals, museums as well as the BBC.

The common trait for jobs in this sector is that they provide the public with services that keep the country running and benefit our society. There is a wide range of skills required for the sector and the career opportunities within it are hugely varied.

Benefits of working in the sector include a generous pension to look forward to once you retire, excellent training opportunities and quick progression routes. For some areas of the industry, there is also the opportunity to work flexibly, meaning hours can be tailored to help you have a better work and life balance.

As a general rule, the public sector is a secure industry to work in (despite often being affected by changing government policies!) which can make it an appealing career option for school leavers.

Jobs within the public sector generally to fit within:

  • Teaching and education

  • Public Services

  • Finance

  • Central and local government

  • Charities

  • Technology

  • Health and social care

  • Project Management

Currently, the Civil Service sector is a major source of employment for the UK. It involves the implementation of government policies across many areas, including healthcare, policing, transport and education. Roles include those that are based in the Diplomatic Service as well as the Houses of Parliament.

Skills

Due to the great variety of jobs in the Public Sector, candidates can match their skills to a role that will suit them most. Common skills required, however, include being able to communicate clearly and sensitively with many different types of people as well as being receptive to the public’s interests and needs.

Some of the skills that Public Sector recruiters might look for are:

- Ability to Work Under Pressure
- Communication
- Data Analysis
- Motivation
- Presentation Skills
- Research skills
- Teamwork
- Time Management

Progression opportunities

You should be in a position to apply for assistant level roles within the Public Sector after you complete your apprenticeship if this is the route you decide to go down.

Because many roles within the Public Sector are essential to the smooth running of daily life, career progression is clearly defined. Almost everyone working within the Public Sector will be able to see an opportunity for growth based upon bands or stages, allowing clear markers that should be achieved in order to be eligible for promotion. Of course, the specifics of this vary hugely across the sector, from teaching and healthcare to council worker to firefighter and police officer.

For some sectors, such as the Civil Service, employees are permitted five days a year to learn & develop as professionals. This might mean enrolling onto a short course, attending a workshop or participating in some internal training.

If you’ve completed an apprenticeship in this area, you could consider going on to university afterwards in order to increase your professional standing.

Earning potential

As an apprentice, you’ll earn a minimum of £3.70 per hour if you’re under 19 or in the first year of your apprenticeship, or the National Minimum Wage if you’re over 19. This works out at around £150 - £240 per week.

When starting out in the industry (even after your apprenticeship) your wage is likely to be modest, but due to the responsibilities placed upon you and the level of organisation and skill required you could see your salary increase quickly.

Average salaries for some common Public Sector jobs include:

  • Accountant: £36,493

  • Civil servant: £23,000

  • Solicitor: £37,766

  • Social worker: £27,732

  • Finance officer: £27,732

  • Fire fighter: £28,487

  • Police officer: £30,930

  • Army officer: £48,528

  • Soldier: £27,534

  • Communications officer: £24,119

  • Charity officer: £25,000

  • Youth worker:£20,344

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Qualification requirements & subjects to study

Studying subjects like humanities and/or social sciences can enable you to qualify for roles across Public Sector areas that need softer or less technical skills. For instance, communication, teamwork or diplomacy are all commonly desired skills within the industry.

To get a job in the Public Sector as a school leaver, it’s a good idea to undertake a vocational qualification in whichever specific part of the sector you’re interested in pursuing. A diploma, certificate or short course can give you the practical skills you need to get a job in your preferred area, whether that’s teaching, community work, the police force, healthcare, or any number of other things.

Professional organisations, as well as colleges, can provide these qualifications, or advise upon them.

Alternatively, you could look at apprenticeships in administration. Apprenticeships will see you studying and working for a company at the same time. You will work alongside experienced staff and will have one day off per week to study, usually at a local technical college or equivalent. This can be a great route for those who know what they want to do early and therefore don’t want to invest time and money to a University degree.

Of course, certain career areas of the sector (such as teaching) will require a specific subject to be studied. You’ll want to, therefore, investigate whether you want to study at the undergraduate level or with a training course in order to meet job application requirements.

The variety of jobs in this sector is huge, and for many – for example, those within social care – you will need to show your dedication by working with children or adult learners before you apply for job roles or training courses. Contact local schools, hospitals, council or other public-serving organisations and ask if you can spend some time volunteering or shadowing a member of staff – this will help with any job or training programme applications.

Industry Bodies

Civil Service Fast Stream
The UK Civil Service
UK Fire Service
College of Policing
The Police Service
The British Council
Foreign & Commonwealth Office
Get Into Teaching
NHS Health Careers
Chartered Institute of Environmental Health Officers
British Association of Social Workers
HM Customs and Excise
Chartered Institute of Housing
Inland Revenue
Association for Public Service Excellence

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