Civil Service administrators play an essential role in government departments and agencies, usually in an administrative support or operational delivery role

As a Civil Service administrative officer, you will carry out government policies and deliver vital services to the public, ensuring the smooth day-to-day running of the country.

You may have direct dealings with the public and have the chance to make a real difference to people's lives, or may conduct research and write reports, which contribute to policy.

Job titles vary depending on the department you work for and your specific role. Although you may undertake administrative tasks as part of your role, you may also be involved in other work as well.

Responsibilities

The title administrative officer refers to a Civil Service grade, rather than an actual job and tasks may vary widely according to which department you work in.

However, as a Civil Service administrative officer you may need to do some or all of the following:

  • handle enquiries promptly and efficiently from members of the public, other civil servants and other organisations either in person, on the phone or in writing
  • follow up enquiries with service users and handle complaints
  • ensure information is shared with relevant stakeholders and other agencies
  • carry out research and produce high-quality materials and reports
  • manage an operational case load
  • process payments
  • organise, produce and maintain accurate records
  • maintain and input information into databases and keep manual filing systems and information logs up to date
  • prepare paperwork for checking by a manager and, in some cases, carry out initial checks
  • achieve and deliver results within deadlines
  • refer complex queries to higher grades
  • undertake a range of general administrative tasks
  • take an impartial interest in economic and political issues.

Salary

Civil Service departments and agencies each have responsibility for their pay, grading and performance management. They negotiate salaries for their own staff, which means that salaries can vary across the Civil Service.

  • Entry-level salaries (administrative assistant/administrative officer grades) can range from around £15,500 to £21,500 depending on the role.
  • At a higher level, such as executive officer, salaries may be in the region of £24,820 to £29,640. There are structured career progression routes in place, allowing you to work up to higher salaries of over £40,000.
  • Salaries for senior civil servants are set by the Cabinet Office and can reach over £70,000.
  • Median pay across the whole Civil Service is around £28,180. For administrative officers, it is in the region of £20,500 and for senior civil servants, it is around £81,440.

Location is also a factor and posts across all grades in London will command a higher salary. Skills and level of responsibility also affect salary.

Benefits can include flexi-time, childcare vouchers, support towards professional qualifications, gym membership and a performance-related bonus scheme.

Income data from the Institute for Government. Figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

Regular office working hours often apply. Each individual department functions differently, however, and some may require longer hours, shift or weekend work.

Part-time, job-share and flexible working options are available.

What to expect

  • One in five civil servants are based in London. However, jobs are available throughout the UK. Areas with large numbers of civil servants include the North West and Scotland. For more information, see Civil Service Statistics.
  • The Civil Service is committed to promoting and ensuring equality and valuing diversity in the workplace. For more information, see Civil Service - Equality and diversity.
  • Dress code depends on the department you work for and whether the role is customer-facing. Generally, you'll be required to dress professionally, but smart casual may be acceptable for some work.
  • The role can be challenging at times. Some jobs require working to tight deadlines, dealing with complaints or difficult queries or undergoing regular changes to systems or ways of working.
  • Travel within a working day is necessary in some roles, for example to attend meetings or conduct site visits. Overseas work or travel may be a feature of some jobs, for example, with the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO).

Qualifications

Although you don't need a degree to work as a Civil Service administrative officer, the skills you gain during your degree may be useful. You will need to have a good standard of education, usually at least five GCSEs (or equivalent), including numeracy and literacy skills,

The selection process uses Success Profiles, the new recruitment framework for the Civil Service. As part of the process your behaviours, strengths and experience are assessed, as well as your ability and your professional skills, knowledge or qualifications.

If you do have a degree, you may be eligible to apply to the Civil Service Fast Stream, a leadership development programme. Some government departments also offer graduate recruitment schemes.

You can also join the Civil Service via a Civil Service Apprenticeship.

If you're successful in the recruitment process you will need to undergo pre-employment checks, and some departments will require security clearance. You must also meet the Civil Service nationality requirements.

Find out more about a career in the Civil Service.

Skills

You'll need to have:

  • strong organisational and administrative skills
  • excellent oral and written communication skills
  • customer service skills
  • a responsible attitude and the ability to work on your own initiative
  • the ability to understand complex information relating to policies and procedures
  • the ability to work well in a team
  • attention to detail
  • a flexible approach to work with the ability to adapt to change
  • the ability to work quickly and accurately under pressure, often according to complex rules and procedures
  • resource management skills
  • numeracy skills
  • general IT skills and the ability to use the main software packages
  • commitment to self-development.

Work experience

Pre-entry experience is useful. Relevant experience includes office administration, customer service and research work.

Many government departments offer summer placements and work experience opportunities. These can be a useful way to gain relevant skills and try out working within the Civil Service.

Find out more about the different kinds of work experience and internships that are available.

Employers

The Civil Service is a significant employer, comprising departments, agencies and non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs). It employs around 430,000 people, and around a third have an administrative responsibility level (Institute for Government).

Civil Service administrative officers can be employed in various government departments such as:

See the full list of government departments, agencies and public bodies.

Look for job vacancies at:

You can also look for vacancies in national newspapers.

Some government departments offer graduate recruitment schemes, such as:

The Civil Service has a commitment to equal opportunities, and departments have signed up to the Disability Confident scheme.

Speculative applications are not accepted.

Professional development

Most departments will offer on-the-job training and a mentor (usually a senior member of staff within the department) to offer advice and guidance. On-the-job training includes learning from experienced staff and attending in-house training courses.

The Civil Service aims to ensure that all employees have the tools and skills needed to provide public services more effectively. Once in post, you'll be able to access Civil Service Learning, an online portal that provides access to e-learning, online resources and classroom courses. The portal aims to develop skills that are common to all civil servants.

The government has launched a new Government Curriculum to help civil servants plan their training and improve how they do their job. There are five strands with courses covering areas such as initial induction, working in government, line management training and specialist courses.

You may get the opportunity to apply to the Civil Service Fast Stream. This is an accelerated-development programme, which allows you to gain a range of experience in a short time, allowing you to progress in your career.

You need to be working at the higher executive officer grade (or equivalent) or below to be eligible, and can apply at the same time as external applicants. The selection process for civil servants is the same as for external candidates, but you may not need a degree to be eligible to apply for some schemes. Check with individual schemes for degree exemptions for civil servants.

Learn more about becoming a Civil Service Fast Streamer.

Career prospects

The ethos of the Civil Service is to reward and recognise positive contributions by staff, although opportunities differ between departments and agencies. Recognition can be via promotion or pay increases, which may be performance-related.

Moving between different roles and advancement to more senior levels is dependent on opportunities arising, but there is usually plenty of scope for civil servants to move within departments and there are clear progression structures in place. Salaries may be restricted by set-pay scales, depending on Civil Service grade level.

There are numerous departments and agencies that you can move into and, as your career progresses, you may develop a specialist area. This could be within a field such as HR, finance, research or policy development.

With the right combination of skills and experience, you could move into a business and policy support role at executive officer grade. Further advancement to senior executive officer/higher executive officer grade is possible and includes policy officer roles with specific policy responsibilities. To reach a Grade 6 or 7, you will need to be an experienced official with significant policy responsibilities.

The Senior Civil Service (SCS) is the most senior grade in the Civil Service and makes up only 1.5% of civil servants. It comprises the senior management team who are responsible for the policy work of their team.

There are also opportunities to move out of the Civil Service into private companies or charities.

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