The basis to making good career decisions comes from knowing yourself and knowing your environment.  At some point, you'll want to take a moment to Assess your Personality and Preferences. When you have a solid foundation of knowing your values, interests, and skills, you can be selective about the information you look for.  The following resources will help give an overview of fields within the Public Service and Government Community.  They are by no means exhaustive or comprehensive, but they will give you a fairly good sense of the skills needed and options available in these fields.

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Roles & Work Environment

Public Service and Government can cover a number of different career options, but many of the types of work associated with this career community tend to have overlapping themes. Here are some interests, topics, and skills that lend themselves well to work in Public Service and Government:

  • Serving, helping, enlightening or empowering people
  • Solving social problems
  • Advocating for others
  • Defense
  • Government
  • Politics, Public Policy, and Activism
  • Security and Investigation
  • Training people
  • Developing relationships
  • Providing information
  • Facilitating discussions
  • Learning or working with people
  • Working with people from diverse backgrounds
  • Work that is driven by a particular cause
  • Teamwork

These interests and skills can be utilized in a variety of industries and in many settings, but the motivators for many who find themselves interested in Public Service and Government have a strong value of helping people and solving social problems. 


GovLoop is a geat resource and information sharing social network for and about Government. It provides oppotunities to learn about career opportunities, trainings, and resouces to help you explore and see innovations in the public sector at all levels.

Rankings and Reviews

Ranking and Review websites can be helpful in learning more about an organization and their specific work environment. In using rankings it is important to pay attention to the specific methodology and understand how the rankings were formulated. Overall, both rankings and reviews can help to provide another outside perspective on oganizations and help you to research and find organizations that could potentionally be a good fit for you.

Sample Resources

Career Insider by VAULT

Roles and work environment vary greatly depending on the industry. To get started exploring careers in Public Service and Government, check out the VAULT Guides (accessible through Handshake) for detailed information on specific industries.  

The following guides may be of interest to you:

  • Vault Career Guide to Nonprofit Careers
  • Vault Guide to Nonprofit Jobs
  • Career Launcher: Nonprofit Organizations
  • Vault Guide to Social Services Jobs
  • Vault Guide to Elder Care Jobs
  • Vault Guide to Government Agency Careers

To begin exploring careers, you can research online resources to identify areas of interest. Below are a few job titles to help you further understand the opportunities available in Public Service and Government.  Keep in mind that Public Service and Government careers often overlap with each of the other Career Communities (e.g., Technology Manger for a Nonprofit; Graphic Designer for a Humanitarian Aid Organization), and by exploring multiple communities you will have a more complete view of a particular field of work.

*Descriptions for these titles can be found in the Career Insider by VAULT Guides.

Tools to Assess Fit

Check out these online assessment and reflection tools to better understand the kinds of roles you might play in Public Service and Government as well as the types of organizations you may want to explore. Bring your results to community office hours to further discuss your ideas!

O*Net OnLine

O*Net OnLine is another foundational and comprehensive resource that provides a variety of search features and is a great starting point for exploring industries and careers. One great feature is the ability to search for careers based on overall match with personal values, interests, and skills. Browse by Job Family is a helpful tool to target your search based on specific industries (such as Community and Social Service).

Riley Guide

Riley Guide is a great overall career resource which provides a lot of industry-specific information. Review these sections on Nonprofits, Associations, Foundations & Think Tanks and Public Service & Administration.

Alumni Career Services Webinars

Each Friday, Alumni Career Services hosts a webinar on a career-related topic.  These webinars often serve as introductions to various career fields, or provide tips for job searching and networking in general.

Social Entrepreneurship

Opportunities to serve and influence community development through social entrepreneurship are exciting and ever-growing. Check out our list of organizations engaged in this work, and head over to NetImpact for further tools and information.

Job Market & Income

One concern you might have about working in a field in Public Service and Government is your ability to make a living. Many people spend their entire career in public service and live comfortably. As with any field, though, it is important to conduct thorough research to understand salaries and benefits and to be realistic about earning potential.

Check out this Friday Alumni Career Services webinar on "Nonprofit Careers: Follow Your Passion and Make a Living" as alumna Teri Lovelace (CLAS '82) discusses how you can explore careers in nonprofit that align with personal and professional values.

The Occupational Outlook Handbook published by the U.S.. Bureau of Labor Statistics provides information such as job summaries, education required, salary, job outlook and more for various jobs in the Public Service and Government industry.

Do your research when considering salary and understand what expectations are realistic for the industry and the specific position. There are many factors that could potentially impact salary such as: years of experience, education level, performance, where the position falls in an organizational hierarchy, cost of living, number of direct supervisees, geographic location, special certification or qualifications, etc. Understanding potential salary ranges can help you in making an informed and educated decision and negotiating well when appropriate.

Alumni Stories

UVA's Peace Corps: Meet the Volunteers Behind the University's Top Ranking

Middle Eastern Literatures and Languages Alumna in Jordan Working with Refugees through MENAR Fellowship (CLAS '17)

UVA Peace Corps Alumni: Meet Sophia - Sophia Arrighi (CLAS '13) is currently serving as a Literacy Promoter in the Dominican Republic.

Considering a Career in Nonprofit Fundraising - Rose McManus Coleman (CLAS '84) shares key questions to ponder if considering a career in nonprofit fundraising.

Cathy Lechowicz (Curry ’99) - Inteview with the Director of the Center for Community Partnerships at Wesleyan University. She majored in Speech Pathology at Curry and was active in Madison House as an undergraduate. 

Craig Volden - A professor at the Batten School has developed a deep database and a formula that rates members of Congress by their effectiveness at turning their ideas into laws... Now he and his collaborator want to figure out what common characteristics or backgrounds make those members effective. It’s a little like Moneyball for Congress.

Fatimot Ladipo (Col '94 L/M) - Named executive director of government relations in the newly created division of economic development and community engagement at Kennesaw State University.

Get Connected

Virginia Alumni Mentoring Program (VAM)

Virginia Alumni Mentoring is a program that connects UVA students with alumni who have volunteered to provide insights about the process of choosing and starting a career in their field.  The program provides students and their alumni mentors a structured means of initiating a professional relationship to discuss career interests and professional preparation. Together, they develop goals for their regular meetings, during which the alumni mentors offer insights about their own undergraduate experiences, career progression and current work, in order to support mentees in navigating their own chosen career paths.


LinkedIn is an online networking tool.  Beyond connecting to other professionals in similar fields, LinkedIn is an invaluable tool for conducting research about specific occupations or industries.  You can also use LinkedIn to learn about UVA alumni and their destinations after graduation.  


HoosNetwork is a hub containing lighthearted, entertaining and informative articles for ‘Hoos living around the world. On HoosNetwork, visitors will find opinion pieces from alumni bloggers including discussions and advice on the working world.