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Home > For Principal Reps and Faculty > Almanac >

Attitudes Towards Public Service Careers


NASPAA/GWU Survey Results

MPAs and MPPs View Federal Employment: 
Impressions, Incentives, and Impediments

William C. Adams,
Andrew S. Goldsmith,
Damian A. McKenna,
and Philippe S.Rosse
The George Washington University, Public Administration Department, 1998


EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

This 1998 nationwide survey of 477 graduate students in 28 MPA and MPP programs found that Federal civil service employment is not nearly as appealing to these first-year students as might be expected. Federal jobs are a priority for only about one fourth of these students. Most view Federal jobs as offering attractive benefits and job security, but no other features were widely viewed as positive.

The single most powerful predictor of affinity for Federal jobs is having the personal career priority of having “a real impact on national issues” and believing that Federal jobs offer that opportunity. Those who value and are optimistic about chances for personal growth and job security are also significantly more likely than other MPA/P students to want Federal careers.Along with these opinion factors, the attraction to Federal jobs is stronger among those who have friends and relatives who work for government.

Converting student interest into actual workers confronts at least one serious obstacle.Even students who are eager to get a Federal job believe that doing so would probably be a prolonged and laborious process.

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE STUDY

Impressions of Federal jobs

Premise of the survey: “This survey seeks your impressions of working for the Federal government (but not in the military and not as an elected politician) in jobs where recent graduates of your program might be employed.”

Percentage of Respondents that think the following qualities are "very/mostly" typical of Federal jobs

Attractive Benefits 84%
Job Security 74%
Advancement Opportunity 58%
Workplace Diversity 57%
Good Family Leave 57%
Peers Respect Job 56%
Challenging Work 55%
Salary Increases 45%
Impact Natl. Issues 43%
Modern, High-tech 36%
Make World Better 36%
Help Others Directly 35%
Merit Rewards/Recog. 34%
Per. Growth/Skills 33%
Congenial Office Rel. 30%
Capable Co-workers 29%
Good Starting Salary 25%
Efficient Procedures 23%
Low-Pressure Work 21%
Rel. Outside Office 18%
Freedom in Job 10%

The Appeal of Federal Careers


Stalwarts  Only 36% of the new graduate students in public administration and public policy said that working for the Federal government was either "very appealing" and/or that it was their top preference over other options (state or local government, non-profits, business and the private sector).

Sympathizers  Altogether, 12% consider a Federal job "fairly appealing" and ranked it as their second choice (usually behind non-profits or state and local government).

Skeptics  About 36% of students surveyed consider a Federal job to be no more than "slightly appealing" and give it a lower priority - but do say that "at some point" they would be willing to "consider working for the Federal government."

Scorners  A total of 16% of these graduate students said they would not even "consider working for the Federal government" at any time during their career.

 

Preferred Career Sectors
The following are the preferred career sectors of MPA/P Students:

 

SECTOR FIRST CHOICE
Federal 26%
State 11%
Local 15%
Non-Profit 22%
Private Sector 26%
TOTAL 100%


Attitudes of Students 

Attitudes of Students Entering College
  1996 1995 1994 1993 1992 1991 1990 1989 1988 1987 1986 1985 1984 1983 1982 1981 1980 1979 1978 1977 1976 1975 1974 1973 1972 1971 1970 1969 1968 1967 1966

Frequently or Occasionally

Participated in organized demonstrations

  41.2 41 40.4 38.6 40.5 39.4 36.7 36.1         20.5 21.4 20.1 -- 18.1 16.8 -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 16.3  16.6

Worked in a local, state, or national political campaign

6.6 7.6     7.3       8.7       8.9 7.5 8.2 8.8   8.8 8.9             13 14.1 16.4 12.7    

Performed Volunteer Work

71.8 70.3 70.1 67.7 65.8 64.7 63.1 62 -- -- 69.4 70.4 69.8 -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --

Frequently Only

Voted in a student election

23 22.7     29.8 32.7                                       64.4 66 67.3 76.9 72.9 70.7

Discussed Politics

16.2 14.8 16 18.8 24.6 20.5     18.6                                 21.1 26.8 25.9 29.9 24.2  

Objectives Considered to be Essential or Very Important

Influence the political structure

17.7 17.2 18.7 20.6 20.1 17.9 20.6 19.9 14.2 16.4 14.5 15.6 15 13.9 14.8 15 16.2 15.4 14.8 15.7 15.2 14.4 12.5 14.6 15.7 14.1 18.3 16.3      

Influence social values

39 38.2 40.2 42.2 43.3 39.6 42.9 41.1 37 36 32.5 32.9 32.1 30.7 31.1 31.8 32.2 31.9 31.1 30.8 29.7 30 27.2 31.1 30.4 28 34 33.9      

Help others who are in difficulty

62.5 60.7 61.7 63.6 63 60.3 62 59.7 * 58.7 57.2 63.4 61.9 61.7 61.6 62.9 64.7 63.7 65.5 65.1 63.1 66 61.3 64.3 66.7 62.7 64.9 65.5 58.9 61.8 68.6

Become involved in programs to clean up the environment

20.7 22.5 24.3 28.6 33.6 31.3 33.9 26.1   17.7 15.9 20.3 20.6 21.2 22.9 24.8 26.7 26 27.5 29.4 27.7 28.8 25.9 34.3 44.6 42.9          

Participate in a community action program

23.7 23 24.4 25.6 26.1 23.5 25.9 23.3   19.8 18.5 22.8 22.2 22.1 22.8 24.1 27.4 26 26.7 29.4 28.8 30.4 27.5   29.1 25.9 29.4        

Keep up to date with political affairs

29.4 28.5 31.9 37.6 38.8 37.1 42.4 39.4         38 35.1 38.2 39.2 40 38.1 36.8 39.9 37.4 38.6 36.6 42.4 48.7 42.8 52.8 51.4 51.7 5038 57.8

Participate in an organization like the Peace Corps or Vista

                                                15.8 16.2 19.5   18.4 18.9 21

Become a community leader

32.1 29.8 31   30.7                                       14.9 13.3 16.2 17.6 21 23.8 56.1

% Who Strongly Agree or Agree Somewhat

Realistically, an individual can do little to bring about changes in our society

31.5 33.6 32.6 32.5 31 31.3           37.2               44.4 44.3 47.9 43.7 41.1 43.14 42.9 39 36.1 32.1 32.9  

Source: Information courtesy of the Higher Education Research Institute, Graduate School of Education & Information Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles.  Data from the Cooperative Institutional Research Program: http://www.gseis.ucla.edu/heri/cirp.htm


In Search of Public Service
by Paul C. Light
June 2003 


Summary

As the class of 2003 leaves campus life behind, many graduates are interested in going into public service, especially in the nonprofit sector. A new survey conducted for the Brookings Institution shows that government is their second choice, with contract firms a distant third.

Read the full report here:

http://www.brookings.edu/gs/cps/search.pdf

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