Public Service Fields

Sample Employers and Professional Development Opportunities

Want to learn more about career fields connected to public policy and public administration? Use these guides to get a quick overview, explore salary and job title options and find additional resources for getting your foot in the door.

Professional associations provide a platform for industries and professions to work together to shape their future. These associations can affect the political landscape and social awareness. Common types of professional associations include trade association, professional societies, philanthropic organizations, and national state/local government organizations. Useful skills include government relations, public relations, organizational management, event planning and research.

Sample Associations

Association Directories & Professional Resources

Housing and community development work includes policy analysis, program evaluation, community planning and program management. Potential employers include government organizations (federal, state and local), nonprofits, and industry organizations.

Sample Employers

Professional Resources

Congressional employment on the Hill refers to positions available in congressional offices, committees, or subcommittees. Job functions include legislative and policy research, bill drafting, constituent and representative relations, and congressional liaison. 

Career Paths 

Each office has their own pay scale, review the Legistorm website for specific salaries. Typically, Senate positions have higher salaries.

  • Intern: Administrative tasks including handling constituent requests, letter writing and tours. Almost always unpaid.
  • Legislative Correspondent (LC): Drafts responses to inquiries and handles a range of constituent requests/concerns on legislation and national policy.
  • Legislative Assistant (LA): Briefs the Member on a number of issue areas, helps draft legislation, writes position papers and addresses constituent inquiries.
  • Press Secretary/Communications Director: Acts as the key link between the Member of Congress and the media; directs publicity by issuing press releases, media, and speeches.
  • Legislative Director (LD): Heads the legislative staff, updates the Member on the status of bills in Congress, and maintains close contact with a number of constituencies, including other Hill staffers and lobbyists.
  • Chief of Staff: Oversees the operation of the entire office, both in Washington and in the Senator’s or Representative’s home state/district. Individuals in this position generally have at least 10 years of experience working in Congress.
  • Committee Staff: Organizes hearings, writes bills and function as Congress’ experts on specific policy areas.

Sample Employers

Membership Organizations & Professional Resources

Firms with relevant service practices including federal, nonprofit, healthcare, international development, national security, social responsibility. See below for additional Consulting Firms including those with Nonprofit Practices in (NYC, LA and Massachusetts) and Membership Organizations & Professional Resources.

Greater Washington DC Area

Consulting Firms with a * have nonprofit practices in the Greater Washington, DC Area

Consulting Firms with Nonprofit Practices (NYC Locations)

Consulting Firms with Nonprofit Practices (LA Locations)

Consulting Firms with Nonprofit Practices (Massachusetts Locations)

Membership Organizations & Professional Resources

Sample Employers

Membership Organizations and Professional Resources

The energy industry encompasses a variety of products and services but jobs in this field most relevant for the School of Public Policy and Public Administration graduates are with the government (federal, state, or local), companies with an energy focus, environmental companies/nonprofits, or consulting firms. An increased focus on corporate responsibility is also a growing area for nonprofits and international organizations with programs or whole divisions examining implications for sustainable development.

Sample Employers: Private Sector

Government & NGOs

Membership Organizations & Additional Resources

The growth of this field stems from a desire to protect the environment and preserve natural resources in the United States and around the world. Areas where graduates interested in public policy and public administration work include policy making, public education, advocacy, research, conservation, green business and services, and management and planning.  

Sample Employers: Private Sector

Sample Employers: Think Tanks

Nonprofit

Sample Employers: Federal government

In addition to the environmentally focused agencies listed here, nearly every agency has an environmental division. Congress and the Executive Office of the President have opportunities with environmental policy such as House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Sample Employers: Trade Associations

Membership Organizations & Additional Resources

The executive branch is the largest of the three federal government branches and is composed of the Office of the President, the 14 executive departments and over 90 independent agencies, employing 98 percent of all federal workers. While most hiring is centralized through usajobs.gov, some excepted service agencies do not have to post on usajobs.gov.

Federal employment is general not as affected by cyclical fluctuations in the economy as other sectors, but political changes can influence staffing levels.

After an election is an opportune time to search for positions. Hiring also increases at the end of September – the end of the government’s fiscal year.

Salary Information

Salaries vary based on level of experience, education, and complexity of the position. There are 8 pay systems, the most common being the General Schedule (GS). General Schedule has geographic variances. OPM publishes Locality Pay Tables on its website. Jobs are ranked according to level of responsibility and difficulty, and are assigned corresponding “grades.”

Average starting salary with a master’s degree: $54K (GS-9)

Membership Organizations & Additional Resources

Types of Foundations

  • Private non-operating: Grant-making enterprises funded by a single source that disburse funds to other charities and programs external to the organization.
  • Private operating: Use the bulk of their single-sourced income to operate their own facilities or institutions devoted to specific charitable activities
  • Corporate: Type of private non-operating foundations that use “flow through” funds from their founding for-profit corporation.
  • Community:  Public charities supported by the pooled contributions of a large number of donors
  • Support: Named funds within a larger public charity or institution

Sample Employers

Professional Resources

Government relations involves monitoring legislative, executive, and regulatory activities to influence policy, legislation, regulation, or negotiations on behalf of interest groups, governments, industries, specific companies, or constituencies. These activities are also known as “lobbying.” Lobbyists persuade by providing research, information, and advice to elected officials and staff. There are government relations jobs within organizations and companies as well as at lobbying/government relations firms who work on a number of issues.

Sample Employers

Membership Organizations & Professional Resources

The health policy field works with health care systems and strategies to improve efficiency and efficacy. Professionals work to evaluate these strategies and can do so in government agencies, community-based nonprofits, trade associations, insurance departments, lobbying consultants, large associations or corporations.

Sample Employers

Membership Organization & Additional Career Resources

This field focuses on providing capital, training and technical assistance to governments, small businesses and cooperatives, nonprofits/NGOs, communities, voluntary and self-help groups, and individuals. The work is carried out by teams of experts on short-term consulting assignments, on-site field workers in national, regional and/or central offices, and home office policy management and technical support.

Trachtenberg School International Development Career Guide: Guide with key insights, organization types, employment areas and course recommendations (PDF)

Sample Employers: International Organizations

Sample Employers: Bilateral or Govt. Agencies

Sample Employers: Private Voluntary Organizations

Sample Employers: For-Profit International Development Firms

Fellowships

Professional Resources

Trade policy and promotion includes markets, increasing attendance at trade events, identifying agents and distributors as well as disseminating information on export financing. Additional activities include representing business interests with officials of foreign governments, national government agencies, international organizations and trade missions; identifying joint venture partners; researching development projects; and understanding foreign standards, testing, and certification requirements. Trade policy directly affects virtually all industries.

Sample Employers: Federal Government

Sample Employers: Membership Organizations & Additional Resources

Sample Employers: Federal/Local Government

Sample Employers: Nonprofits/Think Tanks/Research Centers

Careers in the field of security revolve around every aspect of international affairs and national security. Knowledge of operations, programs, issues and policies of defense strategy, military capabilities, arms control, and coercion or negotiation in conflict resolution are vital for security professionals today. Positions in the national security field can be found in the federal government, the private sector, international organizations, research institutions, and public interest organizations.

Sample Employers: Federal Government

Sample Employers: Organizations/Institutions

Sample Employers: Private Sector

Membership Organizations & Additional Resources

Nonprofit organizations are mission-focused and may be affiliated with religious institutions or community-based. They often provide direct services for, collect data about, perform research on, and advocate for the cause stipulated in their mission. Their size varies dramatically from no paid staff to hundreds of paid staff. All have a Board of Directors to which the head of the organization must report and within which ultimate fiduciary responsibility lays.

Nonprofit organizations receive their funding from a variety of sources including: national, state and local governments; foundations; the United Way; businesses; religious institutions; and, individuals. In some cases, they run their own businesses – like thrift shops or catering services — to generate funds for the organization. Much of this funding is obtained through a grant-writing process which must be repeated on a yearly basis to maintain funding. Increasingly funds awarded to nonprofits are performance-based, meaning that the nonprofit must track its outcomes and meet specified standards to maintain funding.

Typical Career Positions

  • Management & Administration (CEO, Executive Director, COO, Deputy Director, Vice President, VP/Director of Human Resources, Office Manager)
  • Finance (CFO, Director of Finance, Controller, Business Manager)
  • Fundraising/Development (Chief Development Officer, Director of Development, Director of Major Gifts, Director of Foundation/Corporate Relations, Director of Membership, Director of Special Events, Grants Writer, Development Associate)
  • Marketing & Communications (VP of Communications, Director, Associate, Social Media Professional)
  • Programs & Education (VP/Director of Programs, Program Associate/Assistant/Coordinator)

Sample Employers

Membership Organizations & Additional Resources

Social entrepreneurship works to create social change in the world through solutions that are financially sustainable. Sustainable solutions sometimes come in the form of fee-for-service models, selling products, or bringing in donations in large enough quantities. This is a broad sector, encompassing a wide variety of private, nonprofit and even governmental organizations. Social enterprise can mean different things to different organizations, so it is important to understand each organizations definition of social entrepreneurship.

Typical Career Positions

  • Corporate Social Responsibility Manager: Responsible for a corporation’s ongoing strategy and execution of entrepreneurial efforts to make a positive social impact on the community by leveraging the company’s brand values and resources.
  • Communications/Marketing/Sales: These roles are generally responsible for selling the mission of the organization, which could involve selling a service or a product. Often, these roles will be called “communications” within nonprofit social enterprises, and “marketing” or “sales” in for-profit social enterprises.
  • Program Data Analyst: Using deep analysis of the data to inform the business strategy and tactics of a program, quantifying the financial impacts of the program on stakeholders, and distilling lessons that can be used to change the program.
  • Program/Project Manager: Generally oversees the operations of an organization—can involve anything from budgeting, to management to communications to program implementation. These types of roles are more common at smaller social enterprises that require a few people to do many different tasks.

Sample Employers

Membership Associations & Professional Resources

State and local government employees work on program management and evaluation, social services, healthcare, human resources, public relations, economic development, financial management, urban/town planning and policy making. Employees may be elected, appointed or hired through a traditional process. According to the International City/County Management Association, an increasing number of cities and counties are run by a combination of appointed administrators and elected officials.

Opportunities at the state and local level include city/county management, planning, economic development, budget analysis, policy analysis, fiscal management, administrative services, social services and health services.

Membership Organizations and Professional Resources

Think Tanks and Research Centers employ interdisciplinary approaches to finding long-term solutions to policy-related issues and are often supported by contracts and grants from the government, foundations, private businesses, and endowments. Work can also include major publications, professional conferences and policy debates, Congressional testimony, op-ed articles and government task force service.

Think Tanks with DC Offices

Think tanks located outside Washington, DC

For think tank employment opportunities outside of (and even within) DC, do not underestimate the value of universities. Many host research institutes and centers. For example, many think tanks are associated with Harvard University, although only one is listed here.

Membership Organizations and Professional Resources