The term public service implies that the services offered by a public entity apply to everyone serviced by the organization. For example, local governments provide water, a need for all, to residents living within city limits and soldiers provide protection to all of the country's citizens. In general, government agencies, the armed forces, nonprofit organizations and local school districts offer public service work. If you have a strong desire to help your community, a public service job might be right for you.
Public service jobs in the government include opportunities at local, state and federal levels. At the local level, find positions in city and county departments, such as law enforcement, firefighting, parks and recreation, and utility services. State positions include employment with agencies that offer similar services on a broader scale. State agencies also oversee local entities, such as school districts and motor vehicle registration offices. Federal positions include careers in all departments of the U.S. government, such as the departments of Labor, Justice, Treasury and Homeland Security, and the U.S. Postal Service.
Mastering the Military
Joining the military gives you another public service option. If you have a four-year degree, you can join as an officer and select from many leadership positions in medical, legal, infantry and logistics services. If you don't have a degree, you can enlist and choose from many para-professional positions, including administration, supply, infantry and communications. Note that prior to entry, soldiers must undergo a physical examination. If doctors determine that you have a mental or physical limitation, the military may bar you from certain careers. For example, if the military deems you colorblind, you may not be eligible for occupations that require perfect vision.
Jobs in nonprofit organizations governed by section 501(c)3 of the Internal Revenue Service Tax Code are considered public jobs. Private nonprofit companies not governed by the code can also qualify, but must offer specific services, such as emergency management. Funding decides the nonprofit company's status. Federal dollars and other public monies fund public nonprofits, while private donations fund private nonprofits. Working with a nonprofit organization involves outreach work in the community and can be extremely rewarding. Examples of nonprofit organizations that serve the public are homeless and domestic violence shelters (reference 1), food pantries, soup kitchens, group homes and some counseling centers. Organizations such as the United Way and Boys and Girls Clubs of America are also considered nonprofit. (I listed some resources for readers)
The Department of Education offers student loan forgiveness for employees in public service. The DOE lists on its website the types of employment it considers when forgiving student loan debt. You must make a minimum of 120 qualifying payments while working in a public service job before the government will grant forgiveness. Contact the DOE if you're unsure if your job qualifies as a public service position. When considering a public service job, determine what type of job you would find fulfilling, then research to see whether a public job matches your desires.