Why I want to work for the government when I graduate

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When I came to McMaster University in 2007, I was a 17-year-old who was adamant to finish my four years with six-figure earning potential by age 23.

Alas, coming to university knocked some sense into my system and I realized when it came to my career, I really needed to focus on what I could attain with my qualifications and what would benefit me the most.

In my second year, I went for a job shadow at the Ontario Ministry of Finance in downtown Toronto because a career advisor at McMaster’s career services told me it was an excellent way to gain some exposure. I was reluctant at first because I automatically assumed that working for the government would not be very exciting.

To this day, I credit that job shadow with being the reason why I want to work for the government when I’m done school. While I was not paid to job shadow at the Ministry of Finance, being able to immerse myself in the environment and having the chance to talk with current workers was worth it.

As stated by Eleonore in her article on government recruitment, hundreds of Canadians every year are given the chance to work for the federal government. Nevertheless, her article focused on post-graduate opportunities within the federal government, which are jobs for people that are finished or are about to finish school.

While there is an abundance of job opportunities for post-graduates, current students should not get discouraged – the government, specifically at the federal and provincial levels, has excellent programs for students to get some public service work experience before they finish school.

These are some of the misconceptions I had about government work which I realized were not true at all once I started working there.

Government jobs always need French.

While the answer to this question depends on what government level you’re looking at, bilingualism is not always a requirement. Approximately 40% of federal government jobs require some knowledge of French (but not necessarily fluency). At the municipal and provincial levels, it depends on where you live and the type of job you are looking for.

For example, a senior manager in Ottawa working The Bank of Canada probably needs to be bilingual, but a senior policy analyst at the Ontario Ministry of Finance probably does not need to be bilingual.

All federal government jobs are located in Ottawa.

The headquarters for several departments within the federal government are located in the National Capital Region (Ottawa, Gatineau, et al), however, it would be impossible for the federal government to manage the whole of Canada if there weren’t regional offices located all over the country. Taking a brief look at job postings on the Public Service Commission’s website can show you that they are looking for qualified people from coast to coast.

Public servants (government workers) do not make a lot of money.

This question is hard to answer because it really depends on what you consider a good pay, what your credentials are and where you plan on working. While browsing for jobs on the Public Service Commission’s website, I could not find an entry-level job that made less than $40,000. While some people may not consider this to be a stellar starting point, salaries can differ between departments.

Something else to keep in mind is government officials also have fantastic benefits and a great pension.

Photo of Canada Place in Edmonton by bulliver on Flickr
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About the author

Samantha Asare is a third-year honours economics student at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont. During her years at McMaster, she has been involved with several organizations, including the McMaster Students' Union and the DeGroote Marketing Association, among others. After finishing her undergrad, Samantha plans to pursue her masters in public administration (MPA), business administration (MBA) or public policy (MPP). A native of Oakville, Ont., she hopes to someday work and live in Toronto, Montreal or Ottawa.