Working for the government Essay

From accountants to zoologists, bakers to youth counselors, clerks toX-ray technicians, about 1 worker in 6 finds employment in government.The Federal Government is the Nation’s largest single employer.Even more people work for the various State governments. And localgovernments employ almost three times as many people as Stategovernments do. Altogether, government provides about 16 million jobs. These jobs demand an extraoridnary range of skills.

The State ofAlabama alone employs people in 1,200 different classifications. Someare as routine as operating a telephone switchboard; others are astechnical as maintaining a microwave relay system. Governments arepretty much the only employers for some occupations, such as magistrate,tax assessor, and game warden. For many others, such as teacher, policeofficer, firefighter, and social workers, they are the major employersby far. And if all the clerical workers they employ held hands to forma line, it would stretch from the Rockies to the Appalachians. You wouldn’t expect these thousands of employers all to hireworkers in the same occupations, pay them the same wages, and follow thesame recruiting practices.

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They don’t. Nevertheless, governmentemployment does have some shared characteristics. The first part ofthis article points them out. It describes the different levels ofgovernment, their total employment, past and possible future trends inemployment, average earnings and benefits for government employees,advantages and disadvantages of working for the government, varioushiring procedures followed, and places where you are most likely to findout about government jobs.

The second part of the article deals withmajor occupations, grouped by function. Levels of Government When thinking of government, most of us probably take a hint fromthe nightly news and picture the White House or the Capitol Building inWashington. An image of a little red schoolhouse would be moreappropriate. Education accounts for far more jobs than any othergovernment function, and it is largely the business of local government,more than half of whose employees work in elementary and secondaryeducation.

Other major functions of local governments are providingpolice and fire protection, hospitals, streets and highways, water, andtransit service. Employees of State governments are not quite asconcentrated by field as local government workers are, although 30percent are engaged in higher education. Functions employing at least 5percent of all State workers are hospitals, highways, corrections, andpublic welfare. The Federal Government’s major function–in termsof employees–is defense; the next largest group of employees work forthe Postal Service. These different levels of government complicate the employmentpicture. First, the Federal Government has one system–the CivilService system–for most employees and additional systems for the PostalService, the Foreign Service, the intelligence agencies, the Congress,and the courts.

Second, each State has one or more systems. Third,3,000 county, 19,000 municipal, and 16,000 town governments each followtheir own employment procedures. Fourth, 14,000 specialdistricts–which primarily provide hospital care and transitservices–do their own hiring. And finally, 15,000 schooldistricts–with more or less direction from the State–pretty much setthe employment practices for the elementary and secondary schools. But despite the existence of these many different systems, all isnot chaos. Many governments follow the same kinds of hiring procedures;and earnings, benefits, and even the disadvantages of governmentemployment are often roughly comparable. Having 60,000 potentialemployers also gives you that many more places to find a job. The Size of the Government Labor Force By any measure, government employment is very large.

About 2.9million civilians worked for the Federal Government in 1983; 3.8million, for the States; and 9.3 million, for local governments.Naturally, the size of the State and local government labor force varieswith the population, ranging from almost 1-1/2 million (plus 300,000Federal workers) in California to less than 30,000 (and about 4,000Federal workers) in Vermont. Besides population, many other factors determine the size of thegovernment labor force in a State. Some variation is due to differentneeds. Rural areas don’t need the same services that large citiesdo; and if the private sector traditionally provides hospitals orutilities, the State or local government does not have to.

But much ofthe variation is also due to the willingness and ability of the citizensto pay for government services. One way to look at government employment besides the total numberof people working is the number of State and local workers per 10,000citizens. The average is 465, but even here there is much variation,ranging from 814 in Alaska to 382 in Pennsylvania. Other States withhigh employment-to-population ratios are Wyoming, Nebraska, New Mexico,and New York; other States with low ratios include Kentucky, NewHampshire, Ohio, and Illinois.

The employment-population ratio also varies from function tofunction within a States. For example, the ratio for Georgia hospitalsis very high, but it’s a little below average in social insuranceadministration. Nevada has a low ratio in public welfare and a veryhigh one in social insurance administration. Federal employment also varies considerably from State to State.About 15 percent of the white-collar jobs are in the Washington area,giving Washington D.

C., Maryland, and Virginia the highest Federalemployment levels. The rest of the positions are spread throughout thecountry. At least a few postal workers, employees of the Departments ofAgriculture and the Interior, or workers for the Weather Service andFederal Aviation Administration are found in almost every county.Military bases, veterans’ hospitals, regional headquarters, andmail distribution centers result in larger concentrations of Federaljobs. States with a relatively high proportion of Federal jobs comparedto their population are Alaska, Hawaii, New Mexico, and Utah.

Thelowest ratios are found in Connecticut, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan,Minnesota, North Carolina, and Wisconsin. Government employment experienced rapid and sustained growth fromWorld War II to 1980. The growth was not at the Federal level, however,which has never regained its wartime peak, but at the State and locallevels, in which employment rose an average of 3 percent a year from1945 to 1980. At the Federal level during the 1970’s, defense andpostal employment declined while almost all other departments grew; morerecently, defense employment has risen. State and local governments inthe 1970’s cut back on highway and sanitation employment whileincreasing employment in most other areas.

For States, much of theincrease was for higher education, hospitals, public welfare, generalcontrol, health, and corrections. Local governments added workers inelementary and secondary education, higher education, hospitals, policeprotection, general control, public transit, health, and public welfare.Generally, the State government grew faster than local governments. In 1980, government employment reached a watershed.

The next year,the number of State and local government workers fell for the first timesince World War II. Some decline occurred in almost every functionexcept police protection. Education–which represents so much of thetotal–had the greatest loss in numbers; highway departments had thesharpest percentage drop. The total decline was 245,000, almost all ofwhich was at the State and local levels, which fell 1.8 percent. Despite the current decline–which is due somewhat to theresistance of taxpayers to increased government expenditures and evenmore to the shrinkage of the school-age population–the upward trend islikely to resume, though State and local employment is not projected togrow as fast as the rest of the economy in the near future.

Nevertheless, these employers will be hiring huge numbers ofworkers to replace those currently employed who go to work for privatefirms, retire, or leave the labor force for some other reason. Aturnover rate of about 10 percent is fairly common; given the size ofthe government labor force, that means that more than 1-1;/2 millionjobs would open up in government service each year. When you look for a job, of course, these national trends will beless important than local conditions and the supply of workers inparticular occupations.

For example, even though elementary school enrollments will generally rise, they will continue to decline in someplaces. On the other hand, even a local government that is cutting backmight add workers in some fields, such as the computer occupations. Earnings Earnings depend on the salary schedule of a particular governmentand, even more, on occupation.

Table 1 shows how much variation wasfound from one large city government to another for the same occupationin 1980, the most recent data available. Variation is also found withina single government. Forexample, electricians usually had a higher hourly wage thancarpenters, but in Philadelphia they did not. In general, States paybetter than cities, and the Federal Government pay better than theStates. Most of us, of course, are not ready to move to another city justfor a few more dollars.

So instead of comparing governments with eachother, it might be more meaningful to compare them with private sectoremployers in the same area. Again, as table 2 shows, there is widevariation by occupation. Baltimore, for example, paid typists theaverage for all clerical workers in private industry in the same areabut paid electricians less. Houston, on the other hand, paid typists alittle less than average and electricians a little more. The situationmay now be reversed–comparable information has not been published forthe period after September 1980. Many factors can contribute to this variation. For example,sometimes an “annual” salary is paid in less than 12 months,seemingly raising the monthly wage. In other cases, the salary does notinclude housing, meals, or other compensation that may be provided;hospital employees are most likely to receive such compensation.

Thedegree to which an occupation is unionized also affects salaries. In1980, more than 40 percent of all State employees were unionized.Unions were most common for highway workers, police departments, andhospital workers.

The two tables show that generalizing about the pay practices ofthousands of different employers is risky; but, after studyinggovernment versus private sector wages, Shawna Grosskopf concludes,”Roughly speaking, high-skill occupations are relatively underpaid in the public sector, and low-skill occupations are overpaid relative tothe private sector.” However, all these comparisons are far fromperfect because fringe benefits can make the total compensation of onejob higher than another even if the take-home pay is lower. In otherwords, a government job with relatively lower pay might still be moreattractive than another job for other reasons.

Benefits Despite the great numbers of employers and the many differentoccupations involved, many government employees enjoy comparable fringebenefits. The most common are paid vacation and sick leave, paidholidays, medical insurance, retirement plans, and tuition assistance.Comprehensive data are not available for local governments. However,the practices of the States and the Federal Government show the usualbenefits offered. New workers typically get 2 weeks of vacation and 12to 15 days of sick leave; the Federal Government and almost all theStates give additional vacation time to workers with more service; 26days a year is the maximum for Federal workers. The Federal Governmentgrants 9 paid holidays a year; most States grant more, and at least onegives 13. The entire cost of medical insurance is paid in 14 States; 21pay for life insurance.

The rest of the States and the FederalGovernment pay at least part of the cost of medical insurance and offersome kind of life insurance plan. Government pensions are oftenconsidered generous. Florida, Mississippi, and Oklahoma pay the entirecost of the pension. In the rest of the States and in the Federalservice the employer contributes to a pension fund and the worker pays afixed proportion of his or her earnings. Almost all the States and theFederal Government provide tuition assistance for college. The amountprovided and the kinds of courses that may be taken vary widely.

Other frequently mentioned benefits of government jobs are jobsecurity and advancement opportunities. Government employment is notguaranteed in bad times, as the teachers in many a shrinking schooldistrict can attest. Still, a government is less likely to be affectedby temporary economic setbacks than is a private company. This aspectof government employment is especially beneficial in occupations thatare prone to high unemployment, such as the construction crafts. As for advancement, government positions often have clearly definedcareer ladders.

Furthermore, in many government agencies, managerialpositions are usually held by people who once worked at lower levels ofthe organization. For example, school administrators are often formerteachers in the system; police sergeants and officers almost always comefrom the patrol ranks; and postal supervisors must be experiencedcarriers or clerks. But perhaps the major benefits of government employment areintangible, most importantly the opportunity to serve the public goodand have a direct impact on other people. As a social worker, teacher,police officer, or firefighter, you will be able to see how your workbenefits individuals and the community at large. Disadvantages Just as government service offers some solid advantages, it hassome disadvantages.

The degree to which they bother you is likely todepend on your own personality. One frustration of government work forsome is the inability to measure achievement in terms of profit andloss. The final goal of most private companies is to make money byoffering some good or service. The marketplace provides constantfeedback as to their success.

Government programs, however, can rarelydemonstrate a clear-cut success, and even the most successful programswill have critics. No matter how good the schools, no matter how safethe community, no matter how well kept the roads, some citizens willalways be found to say that the service should be better or cheaper orboth. Politics also has a major effect on government workers, sincepoliticians control the budget and make the final decisions. This canbe a disadvantage to those who always want to have the last word ontheir own work. Furthermore, the same organizational controls thatprovide job security can protect the job of someone you feel you shouldreplace. And the explicit promotion procedures can result inadvancement that is sure but slow.

Nor does the government offer theextremely high salaries and bonuses that a few very successful workersin the private sector make. Most of these drawbacks are not unique tothe government; they are shared by many large organizations. Andperhaps they all amount to saying nothing more than that people whoenjoy the risks and rewards of self-employment will find lesssatisfaction working for the government. They are worth considering,however, before you decide to build a government career. Hiring and Evaluating Procedures The thousands of different government employers in the countrynaturally use various hiring procedures, but usually they issue anannouncement of some kind indicating that workers are sought in oneoccupation or another. Three different kinds of announcements arecommon: * Open announcement. This means that applications are alwaysaccepted. Typically, this procedure is followed only for occupationswith steady turnover, especially in the clerical field.

* Announcement of an examination. This means that applications arebeing accepted for evaluation or for a test; only after the evaluationwill people be considered for actual job openings as they arise. * Position announcement. This means that applications are beingaccepted for a job that is currently available. In many cases, thepeople doing the hiring only consider applicants who have already beenevaluated as a result of an announcement of an examination. Governments often–but not always–have a standard procedure toevaluate job applicants. The procedure is often called an examination,although no test might be given.

The most frequently used evaluationprocedures are the following: * Written tests. Often multiple choice, samples of the tests areusually available from the government. Commercial publishers also cellbooks of sample tests for many occupations. * Performance tests.

Applicants for clerical and craft jobs mustoften show that they can operate the equipment or use the tools neededon the job. * Ratings of education, training, and experience. For many jobs,especially at the professional entry level, candidates are judged on thebasis of the appropriateness of their education and experience to theoccupation. An announcement that a government is accepting applicationsfor such an evaluation should indicate the kind of education andexperience sought. If you fill out such an application, it is yourresponsibility to make sure that your forms have all the neededinformation, even to the point of using the very words of the jobdescription where appropriate. How highly you are rated dependsexclusively on whether the evaluator can find the required qualificationdescribed on your application. * Interviews.

These are similar to the rating of education andexperience described above. Interviews are used for occupations inwhich workers have frequent contact with the public, including policeofficer, firefighter, and claims examiner. * All of the above. For some jobs, police recruits and firefighterrecruits, for example, all these diffierent evaluation procedures areused at different stages of the selection process. Besides the specific qualifications for the job, applicants mustusually meet some general requirements.

Citizenship is required foralmost all Federal jobs. State and local governments prefer to hireresidents as much as possible, but as a practical matter they will hireotherwise qualified people for hard-to-fill jobs. Looking for Work In order to catch bass, you have to find a fishing hole; in orderto land a government job, you usually have to find an announcement, thedifferent kinds of which are described above. First you need anannouncement that a test is being given or that people’squalifications for an occupation are being evaluated. Then you need tofind position or job vacancy announcements so that you can apply for ajob, since no matter how highly you are rated by a personnel department,you usually have to discover your own opening. An evaluation isn’ta guarantee, it’s a fishing license.

And be sure to start lookinglong before you’ll need a job. Being evaluated and finding avacancy can easily take more than a year. Governments use several ways to publicize their announcements. Thefollowing are the most common. * Bulletin boards in government buildings are almost always used.The obvious place is near the personnel office, but announcements arealso found elsewhere. The State of Connecticut lists 70 places wherethey are posted, including courthouses and hospitals. * Public libraries, perhaps because branches are often locatedthroughout a government’s area, often receive copies of allannouncements.

* Local newspapers print brief notices of job openings in the”help wanted” section. * Job Banks, which are run by the Job Service, a State Agency,usually list both State and local position announcements. The locationsof Job Service offices are given in the State government section oftelephone books. The Job Bank or listing is also sometimes available atlibraries and schools.

* Community organizations such as the YMCA, NAACP, and churchesreceive announcements; Baltimore sends such notices to over 100organizations. * College placement offices often post job announcements; you canusually check the bulletin board even if you are not enrolled. * Newspapers and other periodicals aimed at governmentworkers–Federal, State, or local–carry position announcements.Examples of such newspapers are The Chief in New York City and TheFederal Times in Washington, D.C.

Besides the announcements, thearticles in such newspapers can point you toward agencies that arelikely to begin hiring even before an official announcement is issued. * Publications of associations of government workers carry both jobnotices and pertinent articles on trends. * Publications of associations in fields with many governmentworkers, such as civil engineering and nursing, also carry both helpwanted ads and informative articles. * Commercial publications also collect and print the job vacancyannouncements for several agencies or governments; some suchpublications are limited to a single level of government, such asFederal, State, city, or county; others focus on all governments withina region. Check with a librarian to learn which would be most useful toyou.

Finding announcements should not be the only focus of your jobsearch, however. Many jobs are filled without such a notice being made;in other cases, the notice is put up only after a preferred jobcandidate has been found. Therefore, in addition to looking forannouncements, you should also contact as many people as possible whoalready work for the government in the occupation you wish to enter.One contact will lead to another, and you might eventually find someonewho is just getting ready to hire a new worker.

Even if the contactsdon’t point you toward a job, they can frequently offer valuableadvice on filling out applications and on the current job market. When you find an announcement, make careful note of the followinginformation: * The date by which you must apply. * If the announcement is for an examination, the titles of theoccupations covered. * If the announcement is for positions, the titles of the jobs andwhere they are located. * The minimum education and experience required.

* The job duties. * Where to send your application. * Who to contact for more information, if stated. If you are going to be evaluated on the basis of your education andexperience rather than by a test, the announcement’s description ofthe job’s duties can help you use the terms the personnel officewill recognize when you write about your qualifications. Occupations in the Government Government employment is so vast that one or two sentences will notdescribe all the jobs that need to be done.

Many of these occupationscan be grouped by function, such as education, hospitals, and policeprotection. The clerical, professional, and other occupations areexceptions, however, because they are found in all sorts of differentagencies. The following paragraphs discuss some of the largeoccupations in government beginning with those found in many differentdepartments and proceeding through the various functions. The nature ofthe work, salary, working conditions, training requirements, numberemployed, and outlook are described whenever possible.

The largest occupations found throughout the government are in theclerical group. Secretaries and typists alone number almost a million.Other large clerical occupations are bookkeeper or accounting clerk,data-entry clerk, messenger, and payroll clerk. Besides being large,these occupations often have high turnover. This combination means thatopenings are numerous.

High school graduation is usually the minimum qualification; youcan find a job much more readily if you can type at least 40 words perminutes. Bookkeeper and accounting clerk jobs may require high schoolor even junior college courses in business arithmetic, bookkeeping, andaccounting principles. Salary data for some clerical workers are given in tables 1 and 2.The Federal Government started typists at $9,578 in 1984; messengersreceived less, secretaries more.

Working conditions for most of these jobs are good, since peopleusually work in well-lit, heated, air-conditioned offices. The jobs canbe noisy, however, especially because of the new word processing printers. Several technical, service, operative, craft, and repaireroccupations also have large numbers of workers in many differentgovernment agencies. These occupations include building custodian,guard, maintenance repairer, and office machine operator. Some of thesejobs are very routine; others are extremely varied. Some require noparticular education or experience; qualifying for others takes years oftraining. Salaries naturally reflect these differences. Building custodians or janitors are very numerous because allbuildings require cleaning.

Many of the jobs involve little more thanmopping a floor or vacuuming a rug; such jobs pay close to the minimumwage. Advancement is possible, however, and a head custodian may be incharge both of the crew that cleans a building and the craft workers whomaintain the plumbing, electric, and heating systems. Electricians are skilled craft workers with years of training.

Theyinstall and repair the wiring in government buildings. Because theFederal and State governments tend to have larger building complexesthan local governments do, employment is concentrated at the Federal andState levels. Large school systems and hospitals also employ manythousands of electricians, however. Tables 1 and 2 give some salaryinformation for electricians, who are among the best paid craft workers;the Federal Government pays the prevailing wage in an area.

Engineering and science technicians test equipment and uselaboratory or engineering instruments. These 200,000 workers areprimarily employed by the Federal Government; however, State governmentsemploy many civil engineering technicians, and surveyors are foundthroughout government. Drafting, surveying, and laboratory experienceor courses in technical schools are helpful in qualifying for thesejobs, but some openings are available for high school graduates.Starting salaries for those with no more than a high school diploma areabout the same as in entry-level clerical jobs. Guards patrol buildings when they are closed and keep watch overtheir entrances when they are open. A high school diploma is usuallypreferred but not always required. Schools, hospitals, and governmentoffice buildings frequently employ guards. Maintenance repairer and office machine operator are very generaljob titles.

Although these occupations are large, with 150,000 workersin the first and 100,000 in the second, they cannot be described in anydetail since so much depends on the kinds of machinery being repairedand the kinds of equipment being operated. Among the professional occupations spread through many governmentagencies are accountant, attorney, computer programmer and computersystems analyst, office manager, purchasing agent, and urban andregional planner. These jobs usually require at least a college diplomain a field related to the occupation, although technical and clericalemployees are sometimes promoted into a few of them.

Attorneys–25percent of whom work for the government–must be law school graduates.Purchasing agents are concentrated in the Federal Government, whileurban and regional planners are much more likely to be found at thelocal level. Correction departments run prisons and jails and superviseparolees. They employ administrators and food service, health, andmaintenance workers, although many of these duties are performed byinmates. The largest group of employees is made up of the correctionofficers or prison guards. Correction officers must usually be at least 21 and have a highschool education. They are almost always trained after they are hired.

The occupation employs over 100,000 and is expected to grow faster thanthe average for all occupations. Education is primarily the responsibility of State and localgovernments. Except in Hawaii, elementary schools and high schools arerun by local governments–school districts in most States and countygovernments in five: Alaska, Maryland, North Carolina, Tennessee, andVirginia. Community colleges and public universities are usually underthe control of the State, though they may be largely self-governing. Inaddition to the schools themselves, each State also has a department ofeducation that sets standards, such as the minimum qualifications forteachers, establishes the syllabus or subjects to be taught, and thecalendar. The U.

S. Department of Education conducts research andadministers grants. The local school district, community college, oruniversity hires the teachers, puts up new schools and buildings, closesold ones, and prepares the budget. Education employs administrators, service and maintenance workers,clerical workers, and, it goes without saying, teachers. People withthe following job titles number 50,000 or more in education (much morein most cases): Adult education teacher, building custodian, college anduniversity teacher, counselor, general clerk, institutional cook,kindergarten and elementary school teacher, kitchen helper, librarian,library assistant, maintenance repairer, principal, school bus driver,secondary school teacher, secretary, teacher’s aide, typist, andvocational education teacher.

Because the outlook in education largely depends on enrollment andbecause the number of people in different age groups is changing, thenumbers of some kinds of teachers are projected to rise while otherswill decline. Basically, those who teach kindergarten and elementaryschool are expected to grow along with that segment of the population,while college teaching declines. The number of secondary schoolteachers is projected to decline somewhat until about 1990 and thenrise; but even now there is great demand for people who can teachmathematics and natural and physical sciences. Financial administration is keeping track of the government’srevenues and expenditures. Collecting taxes, preparing budgets, andmonitoring expenditures are jobs done by every government.

Appraisingreal estate is a common job at the local level. Fire protection refers to the work of fire departments: Putting outfires, conducting inspections, running fire safety programs, and–inmany cases–providing emergency medical assistance. Firefighters areamong the most respected employees of local governments. No onequestions their courage or the importance of their work. Applicantsmust usually be at least 18, in excellent health, and able to pass testsof physical strength and agility. Oral interviews and backgroundinvestigations are also very common parts of the evaluation procedures.New employees are usually trained by the department. This is a verylarge occupation, numbering over 250,000; it is growing more slowly thanthe average.

General control refers to legislative, governmentwideadministrative, and judiciary functions. Lawmaking is the one functionshared by every government. The laws are passed by city councils,county boards, or State legislatures and enforced by city managers,mayors, or governors. Judges and justices of the peace determine iflaws have been broken and by whom. All these occupations make up a verymixed bag.

Many of those in them were either elected by the citizens orappointed by someone who was elected. They are what politics is allabout. Many of these positions–especially those with county, city, andschool boards–are part time; and many others–especially those withState legislatures–last for only part of a year. City managers–who work full time, year round–are becoming morecommon. There are about 3,000 of them, and three times as manymanagement assistants to help them. In many cities, especially thosewith a population under 25,000, the people elect a council that appointsa professionally trained city manager to run things. City managersusually have a master’s degree in public administration.

Duringtheir careers, they may work in several different cities. Health is not just the concern of the hospitals. The public healthdepartment is usually responsible for preventing the spread of diseases.To do their job, they employ health and regulatory inspectors as well ashealth professionals. The inspectors check restaurants, grocery stores,and other public places. The health professionals–mostly nurses–workat clinics, giving shots and providing information on pregnancy andcommon health problems. A clinic or local health department can rangein size from hundreds of employees to just a few: A public health nurse,sanitarian, and clerical worker.

Visiting nurses are also employed bymany health departments. Highways, streets, bridges, tunnels, and street lighting systemsare built and maintained by State and local governments, even if–as isthe case with the interstate system–90 percent of the money to pay forthe road comes from the Federal Government. Civil engineers andsurveyors plan the roads, construction workers–many of them heavyequipment operators–build them, large crews of maintenance workers keepthem smooth and free of snow, and toll collectors take in some of themoney to pay for them. Since much of the construction and maintenancework must be done in the summer, highway departments often hire largenumbers of summer workers. Employment has been declining in thisfunction of government.

A need for major reconstruction and renovationmight lead to larger highway departments, but that remains to be seen. Hospitals employ the best-paid workers in the country–doctors–andsome of the poorest paid–nursing aides and orderlies. In between comea host of other people: Clinical laboratory technicians, general clerks,hospital administrators, kitchen helpers, licensed practical nurses,medical laboratory technologists, registered nurses, psychiatric aides,radiological technicians, and secretaries. They employ at least 50,000workers in each of those categories. In addition, they ae the majorplace of employment for many other technicians, technologists, andtherapists. Most of the health-related occupations are growing fasterthan average. About half the hospitals in the country are public. City, county,and Veterans Administration hospitals are often general hospitals, whichmeans they care for all sorts of injuries and illnesses.

Many Statehospital primarily serve the retarded and mentally ill; a trend towardsmaller, residential facilities, group homes, and other less restrictedenvironments for these patients has slowed the growth of thesehospitals. Libraries for the public are usually operated by local governments.Librarians almost always need a bachelor’s degree and often amaster’s. Many libraries also employ library aides, however, whodo not need as much education. liquor stores are government monopolies in 17 States. Clerks andmanagers are needed to run the stores. Natural resources are managed by State governments, the ForestService of the U.

S. Department of Agriculture, and the Fish andWildlife Service of the U.S. Department of the Interior, among otheragencies. Among the functions of these State and Federalagencies–which employ over 400,000 people–are agricultural extension and inspection services, fish stocking, flood control, forest fireprevention and control, irrigation, land and forest reclamation, mineralresource management, and soil conservation.

Workers include agriculturalextension agents, foresters, range managers, and game wardens. Parks operated by State and local governments range in size fromsmall playgrounds to vast forests as large as Yellowstone. Besidesplaygrounds, a park department might run pools, public beaches, golfcourses, museums, botanical gardens, and zoos, each of which needsdifferent kinds of workers. The Department of Interior’s NationalPark Service is responsible for most Federal parks. All parks need administrative and maintenance workers. City parksoften have special programs and employ recreation workers trained to runsuch activities. Lifeguards, gardeners, animal keepers, and museumtechnicians are some of the other people who work for park departments.

Police protection is largely a task of the local government. Policeofficers investigate crimes, arrest suspects, and direct traffic. Inlarge cities, police officers specialize in one kind of work. In smalltowns, they do a little bit of everything.

Much of the work is routine,but many people are attracted to the job because a routine patrol cansuddenly turn into a hot pursuit. Most cities require that applicants be at least 21 years old andmany have a maximum age of about 35. A high school diploma is almostalways required, and some departments look for applicants with at leastsome college education. Prospective police recruits are evaluated in many different ways. Abackground investigation, medical examination, and interview are almostuniversal. Psychological evaluation, polygraph testing, physicalperformance tests, and written tests are also used by many departments.New officers are also evaluated while they are being trained by thedepartment.

State police are organized in several different ways. State policedepartments typically provide full police services for unincorporated areas of the State. Highway patrols chiefly enforce traffic laws andassist motorists who’ve been in an accident or have other problems.However, the distinctions are not always clear. Arizona and Texas, forexample, have highway patrols within their State police departments.Hawaii has neither a State police department nor a highway patrol.

Hiring standards and evaluation procedures for State departmentsare similar to those of city departments. More than half a million people work as police officers anddetectives; they are ten times more numerous than State police officers.These occupations are projected to grow more slowly than average duringthe next decade. In the Federal Government, agents of the Federal Bureau ofInvestigation and the Internal Revenue Service have duties similar tothose of a police detective or investigator. Total employment is onlyabout 11,000 and turnover is traditionally low. Postal service is a Federal responsibility carried out by more thanhalf a million postal clerks and mail carriers.

Each post office andmail distribution center does its own hiring. Because automation hadmade it possible for fewer workers to move more mail, employment isprojected to decline. Public welfare departments administer programs such as Aid toFamilies With Dependent Children, Food Stamps, and Medicaid. They mightalso provide social services such as day care, counseling, and homemakerservices. In addition to administrative and clerical workers–notablyclaims clerks–welfare departments employ thousands of social workers. Most social workers meet with individuals, families, or groups.They try to identify what problems people have and suggest ways to solvethem. Some problems are fairly simple.

For example, if a family has nomoney because the adults are unable to work, the social worker canarrange for welfare payments to be made. Many problems are much moredifficult–drug addiction, for example. In these cases, social workersdo what they can to improve things, although they recognize that manypeople cannot be helped.

Social workers usually have a master’s orbachelor’s degree in social work. The occupation is projected togrow about as fast as average. Sanitation is generally the responsibility of the local government.About 100,000 people work for sanitation deparments driving trucks,collecting refuse, and performing other duties.

Employment declinedduring the 1970’s as this function increasingly shifted to theprivate sector. Social insurance administration and employment services have becomegovernment functions only in this century. The States administerunemployment insurance programs and workers’ compensation programsand provide job counseling and job training. They also run the JobService, which is something like an employment agency.

Job Serviceemployees interview applicants to determine their skills and interests,find employers with vacancies, and match the applicants with theopenings. The Federal Government administers the Social Security program,employing thousands of social insurance examiners and claims clerks. Utilities provided by local governments include electricity andnatural gas; however, the ones with the largest employment are watersupply, sewage treatment, and transit services. A Hundred years ago, a town could provide clean water for itscitizens with little dificulty, and removing sewage was simply a matterof putting in pipes to carry the waste away.

Waterworks are now muchmore complicated; wastewater treatment plants are now much moreimportant. As a result, utilities employ many technicians, such aswastewater treatment plant operators, as well as administrators andmaintenance workers. Public mass transportation systems include subways, surfacerailroads, and bus systems. They are usually local operations, but someStates also have systems. Bus driver is the largest single transit occupation. Weekend workand split shifts–so that drivers work both the morning and evening rushhours–are common in this occupation. Drivers ar usually trained bytheir employers. The occupation is expected to increase about as fastas average.

Additional Sources of Information From the above it is obvious that governments offer a great rangeof employment opportunities. It is up to you to learn which ones suityou best. You will have to learn about your own State and neighboring States, your own local government and neighboring ones. You will have todecide which occupations appeal to you and then find out whatqualifications these various governments demand and what benefits theyoffer. The sooner you do so, the better.

You certainly don’t wantto wait until your last few months in high school or college, only tofind out that the examination you need to take was just offered andwon’t be given again for antoher year. The following sources ofinformation should prove helpful. The federal Government, every State, most cities, and many countieshave agencies that provide information about how jobs are filled.Counseling to help you determine which occupations you are best preparedfor may also be available. The names of the agencies differ a gooddeal.

You can learn the ones you need to know from governmentdirectories, which will be in the library. The government section oftelephone books also indicates who to contact for job information, inmany cases. Two other government agencies also try to help jobseekers. One isthe Job Service, which provides employment information and counselingfor both government and nongovernment jobs. The other is the library.Besides directories and job announcements, it will have many other booksand some magazines that give advice on finding work.

Professional organizations and unions are among the nongovernmentgroups that often have information for jobseekers. No matter whichoccupations interest you, some association of these workers probablyexists. Again, the library is the place to find directories of suchorganizations. Occupational information is provided in many books and magazines.Many of the occupations mentioned in this article are described in moredetail in the Occupational Outlook Handbook. You should be able to finda copy at a library or at a school guidance office.

The guidance officemight also have other material you can use. The last source of information to be mentioned is the one mostpeople use first: Friends and relatives. Government is so large thatyou or a member of your family is bound to know someone with agovernment job.

Such a person can start you on the track of finding theright people to contact.


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