If you have a passion for helping others and want to work out in the community, a career in public service and administration could be a good fit for you. These careers put you in the right place to provide true help to people who need it most. Yet passion alone is not enough to make your career a success. There are specific skills you need to succeed as a public servant. From leadership skills to the ability to navigate a complex political landscape, learn more about the skills you need to fill an important role in your local community.

What Is Public Service & Administration?

Public service and administration refer to roles in the community that strive to help people, but typically not within the political realm. Public services careers involve working directly with the public to provide help and support to people facing a crisis or other serious issues. A major in public service and administration provides training in social, ethical, and philosophic perspectives that can help you be a better leader in government and nonprofit fields. This can open the door to a wide range of career paths, but all of those career paths have a primary focus on helping other people.

Examples of Public Service Careers

Whether you work as a police officer or a social worker, public service skills come into play in many career paths. Some common places people with this degree find work include:

  • Public safety careers: Whether in emergency services or criminal justice, public safety professionals need public service training to do their jobs well.
  • Natural resources careers: Park rangers, forestry professionals, and conservation agents can all benefit from public service training as well as training in their particular field.
  • Social welfare: Social workers, employment counselors, mental health care providers, and people who work in social welfare can get their start with a public service background.
  • Education: While teachers do need to have a degree in education, there are many counseling and administrative positions within this public service field that public service and administration graduates can fulfill. You could find work as a guidance counselor, school social worker, or resource professional.
  • Counseling: Counselors often work in the public sector. Substance abuse counselors, crisis line counselors, and counselors that work in social work offices can all benefit from learning public service skills.
  • Non-profit organizations: Non-profit organizations can benefit from public service and administration professionals to help oversee the work they perform.

These are just a few examples of public service careers that can put your skills and passion to work. If you love helping others, you will enjoy the perks of working as a public servant. But first, you need to gain the right skill set.

What Skills Do You Need for Public Services and Administration?

To work in public administration, you need solid people skills, and perhaps that is a given. Yet there are other public service skills that go beyond the generic “ability to work with people.” Some skills that will serve you well in this field include:

  1. Communication
    People working in the public service sector must be able to communicate, both in written and verbal form, with the people they serve and work with. This goes a bit deeper than other jobs because public service professionals must be able to communicate with people from all walks of life. Sometimes public servants help people in different cultural and economic groups, and they need to be able to communicate in a way that reaches their audience well.

  2. Influence
    The ability to influence people and their behavior is helpful in many public service roles. Whether you are negotiating with a criminal or trying to help a single mom back on her feet, you need to develop influence. How do you develop influence? First, you need expertise in a field, so you can put that knowledge to work to help people. Then, you need to learn to trust your intuition. You also need to learn the best way to interact with people to build trust and create a need for action.

  3. Respect for Hierarchy
    Within public service organizations, you will have a hierarchy that you need to follow. Respecting that hierarchy and submitting to the leadership that is above you, while taking a leadership role when it is given to you, is important in these fields. Learn to be a good follower and a good leader while working within the confines of an organization’s structure, and you will be well-prepared for the demands of your future career.

  4. Resilience
    Public service careers can be emotionally and physically challenging because you will often be working with people in crisis situations. While there is a great intrinsic reward in meeting the needs of people, there is also quite a bit of emotional reserve you will need to deal with challenging situations. You will need to learn resilience to help you cope with emotional challenges while taking care of the people in your care.

  5. Ability to Work Collaboratively
    Working with your team will get more done than working independently, especially when tackling big public service problems. Learning to include others in policymaking processes will help you get more done in these roles. This is in contrast to managerial positions where you will spend your time making policies and directing others to follow them. When you are working in the public sector, you will find that collaboration solutions that have everyone on board work far more effectively than a dictatorial approach.

  6. Leadership
    Most public service professionals are in leadership, at least to a point. Even someone who is on the lowest point of the hierarchy within the organization will be in leadership role relative to the people they serve. As such, you will need to develop solid leadership skills in order to excel in this role. Learn to be a leader people respect, admire, and want to follow.

  7. Empathy
    The people you serve in public service are often going through very challenging circumstances. A healthy dose of empathy, the ability to be sensitive to the experiences, thoughts, and feelings of others, is going to be vital as you serve these people. When you can feel where they are coming from, you will be better equipped to come up with solutions that will help them improve their situation.

  8. Honesty
    Working in public service requires earning the trust of other people, and you are only going to earn that if you have a healthy dose of honesty. If you are working in a role that lets you into client homes and personal spaces, that honesty will be even more vital. You will be held to a high standard by both your organization and your clients, so make sure you start developing this character trait now.

  9. Creativity
    Finding solutions to public and social problems is not easy, so you will need to learn to think creatively. Sometimes, the red tape and bureaucracy of the organizations public servants work for stand in stark contrast to the needs of the public and their clients. Often the best solutions are not going to be the most obvious, and outside-the-box thinking is vital to bridging the gap between clients and leadership or government entities.

  10. Critical Thinking
    Along with creativity, you are going to need critical thinking skills. The problems you face in your day-to-day work require you to make difficult decisions based on your observations and knowledge. You will need to develop critical thinking skills to see all of the details of these situations and make good choices.

  11. Patience
    Working with the public requires patience. Your clients face difficult circumstances, and you will often be working with people in crisis. If you allow yourself to get frustrated or deeply discouraged, you are going to struggle to get your work done. Patience is key to working with people through their problems.

  12. Political Awareness
    The political climate directly impacts all of your work when you are a public servant. You must develop the ability to be aware of what is going on politically, so you can know how it will affect your work. You need to understand how the political climate within and around your agency impacts your ability to serve the people you work with, and you also need to be able to get along with politicians and work alongside them, because they may be part of your daily work.

Get Started on Your Public Services and Administration Degree Today

If the world of public service is appealing to you, the right degree program can help you earn the skills you need to find success. Siena Heights University offers a public services administration degree program that provides leadership training to public servants. This online, blended program has 33 total credits, offering the chance to add some skills to your tool belt as you work to support the people you care for every day. Get prepared for public services careers with help from Siena.