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Public Sector Jobs: What Are Your Options

Working in the public sector means you’ll be on the frontline playing a pivotal role within our society, sometimes under challenging circumstances. Discover the different options available to you.

About the UK’s Public Sector

The public sector is responsible for delivering all public services in the UK. This ranges from emergency services such as the Police, Healthcare, Fire and Ambulance Service to Education, Social Care, Housing and Refuse Collection.

Did you know that there are 5.68 million people employed in the UK’s public sector?

Reference: https://www.ons.gov.uk/employmentandlabourmarket/peopleinwork/publicsectorpersonnel/bulletins/publicsectoremployment/june2021 (June 2021)

Careers in the Public Sector

There is a wide range of careers within the public sector. If you want to make a difference to the public, then this could be the sector for you! Careers span across a variety of roles including:

Education

If you’re passionate about becoming a teacher then it’s a good idea to get social experience. This can be done through virtual experience, attending events or working in a school to gain work experience. By doing this, you’ll be able to identify what age group you’d like to work with (early years, primary, secondary and further education). It also allows you to:

  • Observe lessons and the responsibilities of a teacher
  • Talk to teachers to gain invaluable insights
  • Learn about the day-to-day life of a teacher

You can find school experiences here: https://schoolexperience.education.gov.uk/ Or alternatively, you can approach your local schools yourself. Attending an event is also a great way to learn about teaching, the funding options available to you and much more: https://getintoteaching.education.gov.uk/events

Teacher and student in classroom

How to become a teacher

To become a teacher you’ll need to have a degree and a recognised qualification in teaching (Qualified Teacher Status – QTS). To teach in primary or secondary school setting, you’ll need:

  • A degree
  • Grade 4 (C) or above in English and maths GCSEs
  • Grade 4 (C) or above in GCSE science (if you want to teach primary)
  • If you do not have GCSE grade 4 (C), you’ll need to show that you can meet an equivalent level. This could be done via a test to evidence your abilities. 

For further education you will usually need:

  • A degree, or relevant vocational or technical qualification
  • Grade 4 (C) or above in English and maths GCSEs (or equivalent)

To become a teacher, there are a number of qualifications and programmes available including:

  • Teacher Apprenticeship
  • Undergraduate degree plus postgraduate teacher training
  • Bachelor of Education (BEd) with QTS
  • Bachelor of Science (BSc) and Bachelor of Arts (BA) with a QTS
  • An opt-in QTS
  • Future Teaching Scholars Programme
  • Level 5 Diploma in Education and Training (DET)
  • Troops to Teachers

If you already have a degree, the following opportunities are available to you:

  • School Direct (tuition fee and salaried)
  • School-centred Initial Teacher Training (SCITT)
  • Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE)
  • Teach First
  • Assessment Only route to gaining a QTS

Learn more about the different routes available here: https://careermap.co.uk/become-a-teacher/ 

For more information on starting a career in teaching, visit: https://getintoteaching.education.gov.uk/steps-to-become-a-teacher

Emergency services

Working in the emergency services will see you make a real difference to people’s lives. There are a number of roles and departments you can work within including:

1. Ambulance Service

Paramedics are often the first to the scene in the case of an emergency. They provide specialist care and treatment to patients who are involved in emergencies, accidents and other incidents.

How to become a paramedic?

To become a paramedic, you’ll need to be registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). To do this, you will need to successfully complete an approved paramedic science qualification. The different routes to become a paramedic include:

  • A full-time paramedic science qualification, approved by the HCPC (eg: via university).Upon completion you will then be able to apply as a paramedic to an ambulance service near you.
  • Become a student paramedic and combine study while working with an ambulance service.
  • Apply for a paramedic science degree apprenticeship with an ambulance service trust.

To find out more about becoming a paramedic, visit: https://www.healthcareers.nhs.uk/explore-roles/ambulance-service-team/roles-ambulance-service/paramedic/entry-requirements-and-training-paramedic 

2. Fire and Rescue Service

Firefighters attend call outs and respond quickly to fires, accidents and other crises, when there is a risk to life and/or property, for example home fires, moorland fires, car accidents and flooding. 

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How to become a firefighter?

You don’t need any specific qualifications to become a firefighter. However, you’ll be expected to sit tests at a similar level to English and maths GCSEs, along with a test to assess your verbal, numerical, mechanical reasoning, physical tests and medical examinations. Although a degree isn’t required, some universities offer relevant degrees and postgraduate qualifications. 

You can also enter the fire and rescue service directly and through an apprenticeship. For more information, check out your local fire services website, RAF firefighter job profile: https://www.raf.mod.uk/recruitment/rol

3. Police

Working in the police force will see you build partnerships within the community you serve. You’ll be responsible for maintaining law and order, protecting the public and property, as well as identifying, preventing and investigating criminal activity.

How to become a police constable?

There are three routes available to join the police force, these include:

Police Constable Degree Apprenticeship: This route will combine off the job training and working towards a BSc Professional Policing Practice qualification with employment and training on the job. You’ll also be able to earn a salary while you train.

Degree-holder entry: If you already have a degree qualification in any subject, you can complete a work-based programme with the police, which leads to a Graduate Diploma in Professional Policing Practice. 

Pre-join degree: If you don’t already have a degree, you can undertake a BSc Professional Policing Practice programme prior to applying to the force and following a shorter period of training on the job. This route will be funded by you.

* While you do not need a degree to become a police constable, under the new Policing Education Qualifications Framework (PEQF), you will be required to study towards one.

Obtaining a valid driving licence is often essential, and you’ll also have to pass medical, eyesight and fitness tests.

You can learn more about joining the Police at:

College of Policing: https://www.college.police.uk/ 

Police Now: https://www.policenow.org.uk/

Joining the Police: https://www.joiningthepolice.co.uk/ 

Healthcare

Working in the healthcare sector is all about helping and caring for people.There are three main areas of public health. These include:

Health protection: Preventing outbreaks of epidemics, planning responses to emergencies or food safety. 

Health improvement: You’ll be encouraging people to live healthier lifestyles, such as eating, exercising, quitting drugs, smoking or limiting alcohol intake. 

Healthcare public health: Ensuring that the public can access high quality health services and medication, when they need them.

How to start a career in healthcare?

Depending on what role in healthcare you’d like to work in will depend on the qualification routes available to you. Some opportunities include:

  • Degree or Master’s
  • Apprenticeship
  • Courses

For more information, visit: https://www.hee.nhs.uk/

Elderly Person Holding a Stress Ball

Social care

Social workers, carers and probation officers provide an invaluable public service. You could be working in a variety of settings from schools, care homes, hospitals, prisons or youth centres.

How to start a career in social care?

There are a diverse range of routes into the social care sector. You don’t necessarily need any qualifications to start working in social care as you gain most qualifications once you start working in the sector. These are known as vocational qualifications. What is most important are your values and the skills you build during the role. However, should you wish to opt for a degree qualification, many universities do offer this pathway.

Qualifications pathways include:

  • Apprenticeships
  • Sector Routeway Programme
  • Traineeships
  • BTECs
  • Degree

To find out more about working in social care visit: https://www.skillsforcare.org.uk/Home.aspx 

Remember: There are a wide range of supporting roles within the public sector including finance, administration, HR, emergency services call centres and more.

What Skills Do I Need?

There are a wide range of skills that employers look for in candidates applying to a public sector role, many of which are transferable across different industries. Examples of these include:

  • Problem solving and critical thinking
  • Communication and debating skills
  • Respect
  • Resilience
  • Empathy
  • Ability to work as part of a team and independently
  • Leadership

How Can I Apply?

You can also find opportunities with the NHS here.

To apply for a vacancy in the public sector, visit Careermap to search over 10,000 opportunities.

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