Why Public Service?

The Opportunity to Make A Difference!

What makes a professional career in public service so unique is the emphasis on tackling “wicked problems” — the challenging issues that define the public agenda and call for talented individuals to devote their efforts to finding solutions. Here are just a few of the “wicked problems” on the agenda today:

  • Managing global climate change and controlling its underlying causes such as carbon emissions
  • Supplying food, energy and clean water to the growing populations in developing countries
  • Securing the United States and other countries against the possibility of chemical, biological and nuclear terrorism
  • Redeveloping older urban areas that have lost their economic base in manufacturing
  • Transitioning recently incarcerated persons into productive, nonviolent lives in society
  • Ending the epidemic of HIV infection in developed and developing countries.
  • Providing quality education and health care to children living in poverty.

These high profile problems are only a piece of the entire picture of public service careers. Many worthwhile careers in the new public sector are devoted to providing absolutely vital daily services to the public in cities, counties, states and nations around the world. Professionals in these careers often must tackle very challenging problems such as expanding services to meet the needs of changing populations without necessarily raising taxes, implementing information technologies that better connect citizens to their governments, and improving responses to natural disasters. Employment demand for professionals to provide leadership, financial management, policy analysis and other such skills has never been stronger.

Challenges of the New Public Sector.

The “new public sector” refers to the complex network of relationships among organizations that has emerged over the past thirty years in response to the realities of today’s public policy and public administration needs. Whereas a public service career once meant government employment, we now recognize the connections between governments, nonprofits, NGOs the private sector, and universities. Persons employed in any of these types of organizations can have highly productive careers that contribute directly the public good.

For just one example, consider the problem of helping recently incarcerated individuals to reenter society. In the United States, governments at all levels are working closely with community-based nonprofit organizations to help former prisoners to lead productive lives. Those nonprofit organizations also are receiving financial support from philanthropic foundations. Some of that support is paying for university-based researchers and think tanks to evaluate alternative strategies for successful reentry. Outreach to the private sector is essential for these efforts to succeed. Anyone involved in leading or managing such an effort must be prepared to work effectively across the sectors.

Professional public service today thus offers many career opportunities including those in governments at all levels, in nonprofit organizations and NGOs, in higher education, and in private sector companies that work under contract to governments. These opportunities provide good pay and benefits, numerous choices of where to work in the United States and around the world, and resources for further training and education.

Launching a Career in the New Public Sector.

Earning an advanced degree in public administration or public policy is an excellent way to launch and grow a career in the new public sector. These degrees are ideally suited to preparing persons to handle the challenges involved. More information is available under “Degrees“ on this website.

Related pages on this site:

  • A page of Links to organizations that promote excellence in public service and offer detailed information about the challenging problems on the agenda today.
  • Featured profiles of noteworthy persons in the field.