Despite the stereotypes, there’s a lot more to government jobs than pencil-pushing or political jockeying. In fact, the variety in government jobs is almost as wide as that in the civilian job market. From environmental activism, to scientific research, to high-stakes security, the federal government alone is reported to comprise more than 1.7 million jobs that cover more than 400 occupational specialties.
So no matter your area of expertise, or your desired career track, consider looking at some job openings in federal, state or local contexts. Entry-level positions are a great way for recent college graduates to get a foothold in a vast world of career opportunities.
Below are just five types of jobs you can start out in while pursuing a career in government.
1. Clerk in the Department of…
There are certain jobs that can be found at almost any department or agency in the federal government. Being a clerk is one of them. The responsibilities vary, but clerks tend to handle office work including bookkeeping, filing and phone calls. It’s a great way to start out at an office, make an impression with your work ethic and find further opportunities. Clerk jobs can be found at handfuls of departments on the federal level, such as the Department of Agriculture or Defense, but they are also found in state lawmakers’ offices or city halls.
Typical Annual Salary: $34,000
2. Campaign Aid
If you’re passionate about politics and want to help get your nominee in office, then working on a campaign is a great way to start out in government. The job isn’t run by the government, but it can lead directly to a job for your representative, senator, mayor or whomever. The long nights and days of work will pay off through getting your foot in the door, learning a lot about politics and making tons of interpersonal connections. Making phone calls, fundraising and polling are typical duties of campaign workers. Again, this is not a government job yet, but if you’re interested in politics — and fundamentally care about the issues raised by a candidate — then this is an exhilarating and fulfilling place to start your networking.
Typical Annual Salary: $13,200 (note that many campaign aids don’t work full years)
3. Data Analyst
If math is your game, this job is a great way of putting your right brain to work for government institutions. Data analysts crunch numbers for a department’s inputs and outputs, process invoices and manage rebates for the state. Keeping the figures in order is extremely important for a government maintaining balance and and fairness for resources. Local, state and federal organizations need analysts to process their data so they can track their progress toward goals.
Typical Annual Salary: $43,000
4. National Parks Service Worker
Positions in the Department of the Interior are tailor-made for nature lovers and potential environmentalists. For example, being a park ranger at any of the 58 National Parks in the United States allows you to maintain and protect thousands of acres and the wildlife that calls them home. There’s often an educational component too when it comes to park visitors. Ranger jobs can lead to leadership positions overseeing parks or working higher up in the department. For younger students, try to land a volunteer position at the parks first in order to get a feel for what this type of government work is like.
Typical Annual Salary: $38,000
5. Administrative Assistant
Another job found at many departments of the government is administrative assistant. The Department of the Army employees administrative assistants to maintain suspense logs, coordinate training requirements and coordinate administrative operations. The army’s version of this position is a great example of how a job can be a normal 9 to 5 (with a business degree and a desk) but also fulfill a large national purpose, in this case protecting the country’s soldiers and military operations.
Typical Annual Salary: $44,000