Read our resource on careers in the public sector, based on advice from geographers working in the sector.
Given that 'the public sector' refers to jobs not just in government, but in all services such as the NHS, police and military, this is a a huge employment sector with a range of roles across pretty much every area of work - from emergency services and healthcare to economic research and international relations.
See an overview
Careers with geography in government can be in policy or analyst positions in any government department or local government. They can involve applying your analytical and drafting skills to research or create advice on policy issues, or your technical skills in GIS to help plan and analyse policy implications.
In specialised agencies you could use your geographical knowledge and technical GIS skills – for example, in the Environment Agency to map and tackle environmental problems, or in Ordnance Survey creating mapping for government and other customers.
Alternative paths for geographers in public service include the military – such as the Royal Engineers 42 (Geographic) Regiment, who create mapping for the British Army – or in analytical or frontline roles with the emergency services, or in local government.
Learn more about the paths geographers take in this sector in our career profiles.
Discover the impact you could have while working in the public sector by reading our case studies – search for 'government' and 'local government'.
Watch our careers webinar on starting your career in government, with panellists Vanessa Pilley CGeog, Lucy Allen and Patrick Rickles CGeog
There are many points of entry into the public sector – if you’re interested, keep an eye out on government jobs portals like Civil Service Jobs. Most roles will require an undergraduate degree. There are a number of routes, including both directly applying for public sector jobs with particular organisations and agencies, and schemes like the Civil Service Fast Stream – see here for a summary of routes into the Civil Service.
Getting into a career in the public sector can be a question of identifying a role for which you can evidence your skills. For example, if you have studied courses focusing on international relations or geopolitics, you might aim for graduate roles in the FCDO via the Fast Stream programme.
Similarly, if you’ve got an undergraduate degree with some geospatial content, plus volunteering experience with GIS, you could aim for roles with organisations like local councils, Natural England or the Environment Agency who may be hiring GIS developers.
Across roles, the main thing is to demonstrate the skills you have – so explain where you have been able to apply your skills and have an impact in anything you’ve done. Even a part-time job or a short volunteering experience can be used to demonstrate how you had an impact, and that can be important in any application!
If you are thinking of applying your skills in, for example, the police or army, check out the requirements for relevant entry programmes and units.
There are also a range of apprenticeship programmes from public bodies including to degree level – see more at Prospects.
In your public sector career, you can access professional support and CPD via your 'profession' – a discipline-specific network of professionals across government. Government Science and Engineering, one of the 28 professions across government, is the home of the Government Geography Profession. The Geography Profession is open to all those using geography in their public sector work.
My biggest piece of advice is to try and get some prior experience. The Civil Service offers a range of internships and work experience opportunities and this is the best way to know if a career in this field is right for you. I successfully gained a place on the Civil Service Summer Diversity Internship Programme, and was placed in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. This provided invaluable insight into how the Civil Service operates, and really cemented my desire to pursue a career in this field.
Maria Christodoulou is an EU Exit Policy Advisor for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
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I gained my experience through working at a variety of organisations using different technologies and quickly understanding how to create solutions with them. My qualifications as a project manager also proved to seniors that they could trust me to manage stakeholders and deliver results. I found out about this role through a networking event, so I recommend meeting people and sharing the work you do – you never know what opportunities could come from it.
Patrick Rickles, Head of Digital Skills and Innovation at Oil and Gas Authority
Find out more
Some people arrive with an ambition to achieve promotion as quickly as possible. It isn’t always about that, and when you start your career you need to navigate carefully to identify what learning you need to pursue - having A Levels and a degree doesn’t automatically make you a great manager, people person, or deep expert. Be prepared to continue learning.
Ian Spencer is Head of the Foundation of Geospatial Intelligence and Director of the Defence Geographic Centre at the Ministry of Defence
Find ways to make yourself stand out. That could be through volunteering locally for an environmental cause, undertaking further study or interning at an organisation with a focus on policy. Being able to write clearly, convincingly (and quickly) is one of the most important skills in a policy and research job, so take every opportunity to practice writing and get feedback on how you can improve. Geography enables you to see these impacts in an interconnected way and working within the GLA’s Environment Team allows us to do this in practice.
Anne-Marie Robinson, Principal Policy Officer at the Greater London Authority
Civil Service - Ways to join the Civil Service
Civil Service - Working for the Civil Service
Government Geography Profession - Career Framework
Government Geography Profession - Jobs
National Career Service – Government Services
Prospects - Getting a graduate job in public services
As well as our list of sites for finding jobs with geography, the sites below have a particular focus on governmental jobs
Civil Service jobs - jobs at UK governmental organisations or departments, including apprenticeships.
Civil Service Fast Stream graduate scheme
United Nations careers - international positions at the UN, including internships and volunteering opportunities
Scottish Government jobs - including apprenticeships and grad development
Welsh Government jobs - including interns, apprenticeships and Fast Stream
Northern Ireland Civil Service jobs
Jobs at EU institutions and agencies
Local government jobs may also be advertised on council websites or via recruitment and job search websites.
Some opportunities to gain experience in the Civil Service include:
Government Social Research Sandwich Placement Programmes for undergraduates
Civil Service Summer Diversity Internships and Early Diversity Internships
Civil Service participation in the Movement to Work work placement programme for young unemployed people
Featured image: Lucas Davies/Unsplash
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