Skip to content

Careers Centre

Local government

Sector Overview

This page has been written by Pamela Andrew, the relevant Careers Adviser for this occupational area. To see how you can meet Pamela, or any of our advisers, visit our website.

Local government is the collective term for local councils. They can also be referred to as local authorities. Councils provide a wide range of services, eg education, housing, and environmental services within designated regions of the UK. Stats from the National Graduate Development Programme website:

Working in local government offers entrants the opportunity to work nationwide, in a wide variety of roles and in a setting where their work makes a real difference to people’s lives. The next few years will be a challenging period for many local authorities in the UK as the changes brought about by the current government's measures to reduce the national budget deficit are implemented. Councils will face almost £10 billion of cost pressures by 2020 [Source: Local Government Association]. Despite funding cuts, jobs are still available for graduates in this sector.

Local Government attributes/skills profile

Key attributes/skills needed for the roleWhere you could develop these skills or attributes while at university
Knowledge of public service and challenges facing it Keeping up to date through the media.
Strong communication & interpersonal skills

Many of these skills you will develop through your academic studies and extra- curricular activities.

CAPOD offers courses on these kinds of skills regularly within its Professional Skills Curriculum
Ability to organise time and work methodically whilst paying attention to detail
Leadership qualities and effective team working skills
IT Skills Using the the University’s subscription to the Microsoft IT Academy can help to develop your skills with programmes such as Excel

Nature of sector or roles

Local councils are some of the largest employers in the UK and deliver a huge range of services to local communities (there are approximately 600 plus different occupations represented). Each local council will have its own specific requirements.

Roles in local government are grouped into six themes: building your community (architects, building surveyors, building engineers, housing officers, council tax), caring for your community (social care officers, social workers), educating your community (librarians, teachers, careers advisers, counsellors, therapists), entertaining your community (leisure centre staff, arts administrators, museum curators, events coordinators), protecting your community (environmental health and conservation, trading standards, highway maintenance, waste management and town and country planning) and supporting your community (administration, finance, HR, marketing, PR, policy and research).

A local government officer responds to the administrative needs of individual departments, assists in the development of policies and procedures, and helps to co-ordinate their implementation. Have a look at the Prospects definition of this role.

Councils are increasingly innovating and changing the way they work, which makes it an exciting time to join them as an employee.

Networks - why and how to use them

Connecting with University of St Andrews alumni already working in this sector is a great way to make contacts, gain an insight into what's happening in the sector, and in some cases alumni can become valuable mentors.

Local government roles currently held by St Andrews alumni include: Operations Manager of Community Safety, Support Officer for Planning and Performance, Operations Officer for Recycling Centres, Corporate Communications Manager, Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages, Community Learning and Development Manager and HR Business Manager. Sheffield City Council, Leeds City Council, Fife, Perth and Kinross Council and the City of London Corporation are some local authorities employing University of St Andrews alumni

How to gain experience/internships

Naturally, if you have had some experience whilst being a student, your insights into the work and chances of getting a job in local government after you graduate could be improved. At present there is no national work experience scheme for local government, so you will need to approach your local council directly to request a visit or opportunity to work-shadow the area of work that interests you. Many authorities may also have temporary work opportunities; contact the Human Resources department to enquire and register on their temporary jobs email lists. Use a Local Council Directory to find contact details.

How to get a (graduate) job

In general, local authorities recruit separately, and many advertise their vacancies only locally. So, if you are sure about the geographical area in which you want to work, look at the vacancy bulletin produced by the local authority in that area and register to receive their online job listings. You will find a copy in most public libraries, or you can obtain one direct from the council’s HR department. A particularly useful site to identify councils in the UK is to use the Council A-Z website.

The graduate scheme, The National Graduate Development Programme (NGDP) operates in England and Wales. The NGDP is a two-year graduate management development programme, run by the Local Government Association. At present, there is no equivalent to the NGDP in Scotland, but you can access a searchable database of all Scottish Councils' vacancies at myjobscotland. Some councils may have their own administrative schemes but also consider starting in a low level post and look for opportunities for advancement; almost all councils promote from within. Each council has its own myjobscotland jobs twitter feed too. Here potential candidates can sign up to the latest jobs in those councils so that they are added to their Twitter feed.

Some councils are developing individual graduate training programmes in many different occupational areas, as well as general fast-track schemes in management. Examples include:


Useful resources:

Applications, interviews and assessment centres

The application and interview procedures for a council which runs a graduate scheme is likely to be much more formal than for an entry-level role, and may include some (or all) of the following stages:

Check council websites as many provide details on their recruitment and selection processes.

The Careers Centre has a wealth of advice on the application process.


National Graduate Development Programme (NGDP)

The NGDP recruitment process consists of: an application form followed by candidate testing and assessment centre(s). The final stage is council ‘best fit' interviews. Further details on the NGDP website.

Relevant Postgraduate Study

Whether or not a relevant postgraduate qualification is required will very much depend on the type of role for which you are applying. The National Graduate Development Programme (NGDP) does not require a postgraduate qualification.

Some councils may provide you with the necessary professional training while you work. Suffolk County Council, for instance, states on their website that they will provide funding up to £5,000 to undertake professional training or postgraduate qualification, in conjunction with your specific placement.

If, however, you have a particular professional career in mind with a local authority (eg Teacher, Town Planner, Social Worker, Environmental Health Officer), you will have to consider relevant postgraduate study or have additional work experience to qualify for these kinds of posts.

Contact councils to get their views on undertaking postgraduate study before committing yourself to considerable expense.

Key UK links and resources

 Careers Centre resources

Online

 General local government-related careers information

Professional Bodies & Trade Organisations

 

 

USA resources

Vault

The USA job market and recruitment timetables, for both internships and graduate jobs, for sectors of employment often differ from the UK.

The Careers Centre subscribes to the reputable independent USA careers information and vacancy provider Vault. The links below will take you directly to Vault subscription resources which cover this sector. You may find further useful and relevant resources linked from there as well.

 

Internships in the US - Government

This list is by no means exhaustive. It is simply designed to serve as a starting point.

 

Members of Congress