Public Service as a Profession

"Careers focused on lifting up our communities – whether it's helping transform troubled schools or creating after-school programs or training workers for green jobs...are not always obvious, but today they are necessary. Solutions to our nation’s most challenging social problems are not going to come from Washington alone. Real innovation often starts with individuals who apply themselves to solve a problem right in their own community. That’s where the best ideas come from." 

- Michelle Obama, Former First Lady of the United States

Public service embodies the ethical principles of the common good, service to others, and social equity. Public service is important because the essential components of our society are largely carried out in the public sphere. For example, public service is central to education, health, justice, security, environmental protection, museums, and the arts. Employment in the public sector attracts individuals with special motivations, often based on a sense of duty or an intense inner commitment to a cause that extends beyond the pressures of the moment and the self. Those who work in public service institutions are personally motivated by making societal contributions, which extend beyond personal goals. They enter public service out of a desire to serve the common good and to connect with the larger community.

The parameters of public service continue to evolve and expand in order to meet the diverse needs of growing populations. The values framework of the public sector is becoming more complex as it embraces ideas from multidisciplinary approaches. To meet the needs of our communities, education, training and professional practice  in public service-related fields must continuously evolve to accommodate these developments.

Government and nonprofit organizations offer opportunities for building careers in public service. Government positions range from direct service providers to commissioners and cabinets secretaries. Typical employers include cities, towns, and townships; counties; school districts; courts; legislative agencies; state agencies; and federal departments. Nonprofit positions similarly include both hands-on direct service roles to operational roles including fundraising and leadership. Typically, employers include a range of nonprofit agencies, foundations, special interest groups, libraries, museums, historic sites, research organizations, and educational institutions.

In the educational resources section is an overview of a collection of public service narratives, "Ask me why I care," under "Tell your story." They were curated by the University of Nebraska at Omaha College of Public Affairs and Community Service in a Public Service Stories Project. Project Co-Directors are Dr. Mary Hamilton and Ms. Rita Paskowitz. The collection is presented in four groups and each group is accessible in the related VMPS galleries. Each group includes a set of suggested assignments for students. Further details are provided in the Public Service Stories exhibit, which can be opened below in this gallery.

Public Service as a Profession