Government & Law
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When you think about positions in government, you need to think broadly. Careers can be pursued at the local/municipal level, within county government, or at the state and federal level (check out our Federal Employment Search Tips career guide). Public service attracts a wide range of individual skills, interests, and expertise...so no matter what career field you are hoping to enter, a position may exist. State and federal agencies include Education, Economic Development, Employment Services, Health, Human Resources/Management Services, Transportation (among others) and a range of services to citizens from A to V (such as services for aging to Veterans Services). In 2015, more than 34,000 civil servants worked for the State of Minnesota.
Public policy is another area to consider. It is not a tangible thing but rather a term used to describe a collection of laws, mandates, or regulations established through the political process. The field of public policy typically demands candidates with a graduate degree in public policy (MPP) or public affairs (MPA), although related entry-level careers exist for students with bachelor's degrees. In Minnesota, we are fortunate to have the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. It currently ranks 8th out of 50 public policy schools in the U.S.
If you are interested in the law, law enforcement, or working in corrections, there are, once again, opportunities at the municipal, state and federal levels. Police/fire/emergency services exist, and each state has an Attorney General’s office. Corrections Departments tend to employ a high number of individuals. In the State of Minnesota, for example, Corrections is ranked #3 (only Human Services and Transportation are higher). Positions related to compliance also seem to attract individuals interested in the enforcement of laws. Compliance officers are hired by governmental agencies (see paragraph above).
If you are interested in attending or exploring law school, start by reviewing the many pre-law resources available to all U of M students. And finally, it’s worth noting that several career options exist in legal services that do not require a law degree. Examples include paralegals, legal assistants, victim/witness advocates, and contract administrators.
Careers in government and in the public service sector encompass a variety of job functions and attract candidates from nearly all academic majors. Like any other business or organization, government agencies need communication/marketing, human resources, customer support, finance, accounting, project management, and technology support. It’s important to examine (and gain clarity on) your individual interests, skills, and how your previous experience has prepared you for the position. Another component of the job search is knowing WHY you are drawn toward public service (your work values). There is not one major or minor that will prepare you for this field as there are many pathways, the lists below are not all-inclusive.
Consider coursework in Writing and Speaking, Problem Solving and Analytics, Leadership, Understanding Human Behavior and Social Justice/Human Rights. Learn more about recommended pre-law courses at the U of M. Check out the HECUA program which offers off-campus study that addresses some of the most important issues of our time, including a program called Inequity in America.
For a deeper study on a specific discipline within this field, you may want to consider graduate school programs to enhance your expertise, or in some fields open up more job advanced job opportunities. Faculty in your department are fantastic resources to solicit information from. Additionally, you can search for graduate school programs use the Grad School Directory or Peterson's Guide.
Click to expand each gray box below for opportunities in this career field!
Government & Law Career Field Spotlights