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What Are the Duties of a Public Servant?

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Public servants, also known as civil servants in some countries, are employed (indirectly or directly) by the government in what is known as the public sector. Taxpayers and public funds partially or fully fund their wages, which is why they are known as servants of the public. The duties of public servants are as diverse as the duties and responsibilities of the government. In the United States public servants may work for federal, state or local government departments and entities, or for independent government agencies such as the Social Security Administration, the United States Postal Service or the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Public servants could be as highly qualified as doctors and astronauts or require few or no qualifications such as clerical staff, postal delivery workers and janitors.


It is the duty of all public servants to ensure that the public's money is spent as efficiently as possible and that programs are provided effectively, without discrimination or prejudice, with transparency and without waste of money or resources. Most public servants work in the administrative functions related to public service program provision. This may include: managing and administering budgets; processing applications for federal benefits such as Social Security, Medicaid and disability; monitoring pollution with the Environmental Protection Agency; providing military veterans with services and benefits; providing ranger services at national parks; advising the public on housing options; helping the unemployed find employment; and providing front-of-office services to the public at agency offices throughout the country.

Sworn Officers

According to the the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2008 there were 289,000 fire fighters and 630,000 law enforcement officers in the US. Law enforcement officers and fire fighters are public servants. Their duties relate to protecting the public, upholding the law and managing disasters like wildfires. Police and fire officers undergo comprehensive training to ensure that they can carry out their duties to the best of their ability. In addition to responding to fires and a variety of other events, including traffic accidents, natural disasters and medical emergencies, fire fighters are also involved with providing public safety education, providing emergency preparedness training to the community and inspecting local businesses and public buildings to ensure health and safety compliance. Law enforcement officers enforce laws for agencies such as local police departments, the highway patrol, sheriff's departments and federal agencies such as the FBI. They apprehend criminals, gather evidence and oversee public safety.

Executive Branch

The executive branch of the federal government employs 97 percent of federal employees and has wide-ranging duties. It comprises of the Executive Office of the President, 15 executive Cabinet departments, and many independent agencies, all with their own specific duties. The most famed of all public servants is the President of the United States. Public service is evolving rapidly, and the government works closely with non-profit organizations, for-profit contractors, universities and non-governmental organizations to provide the best possible research, development and service provision. Whatever a person's career aspirations, there are public sector options for them to consider.


Helen Harvey began her writing career in 1990 and has worked in journalism, writing, copy-editing and as a consultant. She has worked for world-class news sources including Reuters and the "Daily Express." She holds a Master of Arts in mass media communications from Cambridge University in the United Kingdom.

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