Careers in government: how to explore, navigate and create a career path in government

Career options

As the largest employer in Canada, you have options. In fact you potentially have more career options than in any other industry. The Federal Public Service works in:

  • Transportation
  • Natural Resources
  • Environment
  • Border Services
  • Immigration
  • Public Health
  • Industry
  • National Security
  • Agriculture
  • Global Affairs
  • Finance
  • Justice

… and of course Fisheries and Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard to mention just a few.
Within each of the 40+ departments and agencies, there exist numerous and varied jobs or work streams in areas such as:

  • policy
  • administration
  • HR, IT
  • research
  • science
  • trades
  • procurement
  • legal
  • financial
  • security

Choosing and plotting a career path does not have to and should not occur in isolation. While you are responsible for your career, it is a joint effort with your manager and your department or agency to assist you with understanding your options, potential career paths within your organization and across government as well as the steps and training required to head down the chosen path.

You may be starting your career or already established, but ensuring you choose or move to a path that aligns your passions, expertise and job and career expectations with organizational needs is essential to enjoying an engaging, productive and rewarding career. Finding the intersection of these career elements is essential to a fulfilling professional life.

Classification and your career

Once again, similar to questions about pay and benefits, as a new employee you probably don’t want to ask your manager about career options and direction, at least not right away. However… your manager should be initiating this conversation with you within the first 30 days of joining the organization. As you discuss job expectations, your conversation should also include job and career training and interests.
As you will soon realize, every public servant has a job category classification attached to their position. You are currently assigned a job classification based on the work you have been hired to do. There are a myriad of reasons for this including, bargaining agent (union) support, associated pay and benefits and ease of defining the job tasks and work you do. Examples include:

PE: Personnel (HR work), AS: Administrative Services, CS: Computer Services, SC-STD: Ships Crew, Steward

While this is how the work we do in government is classified, as you consider a career path, be careful to not be defined by you classification. If you have accepted a job in order to get your proverbial “foot in the door”, it is essential that you determine early in your career what interests and line of work you would like to pursue. You can work with your human resources advisor and connect with those who specialize in helping with career progression such as the Career Management Community of Practice. The public service generally and the Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS) has created many online and other tools to assist you with gaining new experience and extending your network. Tools include assignments, interchanges and job shadowing. Once you’re on board, check out Jobs Marketplace.