In this front-line role you'll be an essential part of a government department or agency, and could provide vital services to the public
The Civil Service is made up of a large number of different departments, which implement government policies and deliver services to the public.
Civil Service administrators may have direct dealings with individuals and have the chance to make a real difference to people's lives, or may conduct research, compile reports and work on policy documents.
Administration roles are available at various grades, including:
- administrative assistant (AA)
- administrative officer (AO)
- executive officer (EO)
- higher executive officer (HEO).
Tasks vary according to which department you work in and the level of responsibility you have, but are likely to include some or all of the following:
- using excellent customer service skills to deal with service users, such as other civil servants, members of the public and other organisations
- interpreting and applying complex written information relating to policies and procedures
- working efficiently with and managing resources, often on a limited budget
- using communication skills, both oral and written, to explain complex information to colleagues and members of the public
- achieving and delivering results within deadlines
- working quickly under pressure, often according to complex rules and procedures
- producing high-quality materials and reports
- helping to formulate and implement policies
- researching and carrying out analysis relating to particular areas of economic or political interest
- providing evidence, based on research, and delivering findings to senior staff members, which may eventually feed into future policy work
- taking an impartial interest in economic and political issues.
Civil Service departments and agencies each have responsibility for their pay, grading and performance management. They negotiate salaries for their own staff and because of this salaries can vary across the Civil Service.
- Average starting salaries can range from £14,000 to £20,000 depending on the role. At a higher level, such as executive officer, starting salaries may be in the region of £22,000 to £25,000.
- The average UK salary is £26,520 (LMI for All, 2018).
- 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 £60,000.
Location is also a factor and posts across all grades in London will command a higher salary.
Benefits can include flexi-time, childcare vouchers, support towards professional qualifications, gym membership and a performance-related bonus scheme.
Income figures are intended as a guide only.
Regular office working hours apply, often with extra hours available. Each individual department functions differently though and some may require longer hours, shift or weekend work.
Part-time and job-share options are available.
What to expect
- Much of the work is office-based. Some posts are rotational meaning you will move to different departments but will still carry out similar tasks.
- Career breaks depend on the department. It may be necessary to negotiate the break and ensure that skills are maintained at the appropriate level during the break.
- The Civil Service is committed to increasing diversity in its workforce. For more information see Civil Service - Equality and diversity.
- Dress code depends on the department 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 stressful 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 features in some roles, for example to attend meetings or conduct site visits.
- Jobs are available throughout the UK.
- Overseas work or travel may be a feature of some jobs, for example, with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the Department for International Development (DFID).
This area of work is generally open to all graduates. In particular, the following degrees or HNDs may improve your chances of entry to some roles:
- business administration
- business studies
Entry without a degree, HND or foundation degree is possible, and non-graduates usually join as junior staff members. You won't need a postgraduate degree.
You'll need to show:
- strong organisational skills
- a responsible attitude and the ability to work on your own initiative
- the ability to understand complex information
- excellent oral and written communication skills to convey complex ideas and information in an accessible way
- commitment to self-development
- resource management skills.
During the recruitment process you'll be assessed against key competencies that cover skills, knowledge and behaviours. They are grouped into the three areas of:
- setting direction
- engaging people
- producing results.
More information can be found at the Civil Service competency framework.
You will also need to meet nationality requirements. Any job in the Civil Service is open to UK nationals or those who have dual nationality (with one being British). Some posts are open to Commonwealth citizens, and nationals of the member states of the European Economic Area (EEA).
Pre-entry experience is useful and is valued by employers. 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.
The Civil Service is a significant employer, comprising departments, agencies and non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs). It employs over 430,000 people, and just over half have an administrative responsibility level (ONS Civil Service statistics, 2018).
It's a common misconception that civil servants are all based in London. In fact, almost three-quarters of civil servants work outside London and the South East.
They work in a variety of occupations, including training, social research, marketing and international development.
Civil Service administrators can be employed in various government departments such as:
- Cabinet Office
- Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS)
- Department for Education
- Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO)
- HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC)
- Home Office
- Ministry of Defence (MoD)
See individual websites for further details about each department.
Look for job vacancies at:
You can also look for vacancies in national newspapers.
Some government departments offer graduate recruitment schemes, such as:
- Defence Engineering and Science Group (DESG) Graduate Scheme
- Highways England Recruitment
- HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) Graduate Programme
- HM Treasury Graduate Programme
If you're successful in the recruitment process you will need to undergo pre-employment checks and some departments will require security clearance.
The Civil Service has a commitment to equal opportunities and offers a guaranteed interview scheme for disabled applicants who meet the minimum selection criteria. For more information see Civil Service Guaranteed Interview scheme.
Some Civil Service departments and agencies are sponsors of The Windsor Fellowship, a charitable organisation established to encourage and support applicants from black and minority ethnic (BME) groups. It offers work experience, training seminars and voluntary work through their Leadership Programme for Undergraduates.
Speculative applications are not accepted.
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 Competency Framework sets out how the Civil Service would like people to work, and was designed to help civil servants perform successfully and develop relevant skills.
The Civil Service aims to ensure that all employees have the tools and skills needed to provide public services more effectively. As part of this, all civil servants are entitled to five days of learning and development each year. This can include job shadowing and formal training courses.
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.
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 below to be eligible, and can apply at the same time as external applicants. As a currently serving employee you won't need specific academic qualifications, however if you have a degree this will allow you to work in more departments.
Learn more about becoming a Civil Service Fast Streamer.
The ethos of the Civil Service is to reward and recognise positive contributions by staff, although opportunities differ between departments and agencies. Recognition may be via promotion or pay increases, which may be performance-related.
To help civil servants plan their career there is the Civil Service Competency Framework. It can be used to identify what skills you might need to gain to change role or seek promotion.
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 will be 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.
The skills you build up will also allow you to move out of the Civil Service into private companies or charities.
The Civil Service is keen to shift the public's opinion of it, from being seen as a stereotypically traditional organisation to one that is fast-moving and dynamic. The message being given is that, as well as job security, the right candidate will have ample opportunity for development and progression in an exciting environment.