Why Join ?

Most people choose to aspire to become a 'shiny bum' for any of the following reason:

  • They dream of being a diplomat, a spook or an environmental manager at a national park (most common amongst graduates)
  • They dream of being a financial auditor or CPA on a third the private sector rates (least common amongst graduates)
  • A 37.5 hour work week and job security if you just bum around (not a good reason to provide if you asked why you want to join)
  • The superannuation schemes are quite good (most common amongst older entrants)
  • They give maternity leave (that's why we get lots of unfecund wimmin)
  • They are trained in a skill like museum curatorship or bomb disposal not normally sought after in the private sector
  • They like Canberra (actually, nobody says this)
  • They have got Arts Degrees and don't know what to do with their lives, and although they are socially progressive they don't want to go within ten paces of a career in education or social work.

The Tree

There are two hierarchical systems in the Australian Public Service, the older traditional system, and newer, more streamlined Broadbands (with departmental-specific grades in between).

Broadband     Traditional   Salary (roughly)*
    1      |    APS1         $30K - $34K
    1      |    APS2         $34K - $38K
    2      |    APS3         $39K - $42K
    2      |    APS4         $43K - $48K
    3      |    APS5         $48K - $52K
    3      |    APS6         $52K - $61K
    4      |    EL1          $67K - $73K 
    4      |    EL2          $77K - $93K
   SES     |    SES          negotiated

* Australian Dollars, as per the Department of Defence

Entry-level clerks, passport stampers, Centrelink officers, fruit-fly inspectors etc start off in Broadband 1. Once they can do more sophisticated tasks without supervision they can move up to Broadband 2, which is also where graduates come in and spend their probationary period. At Broadband 3 graduates would be expected to work without supervision on routine policy analysis, liaison and execution tasks, while in larger organisations staff would be supervising junior staff, and possibly managing sections. At Broadband 4 ('Executive Level') most officers would be managing teams. Graduates can hope to get here within 3-5 years depending on how smart, lucky and obsequious they are. Incidentally, the rank of lieutenant-colonel equals that of an EL1 in the Department of Defence, something many seasoned brass gristle at when they are dealing with 25 year old members of the rectangular-spectacles brigage.

There are also separate bands for information technology officers, psychologists , public relations practioners etc, but they follow roughly the same structure as other graduates.

At the top of the pile are the Senior Executive Service (SES) officers of varying ranks, who run departments, serve as ambassadors and spend most of their time dealing with politicians.

How to Join

Firstly, you need to be an Australian citizen. Secondly, you need to have an idea of what skills and experience you can offer. The APS is pretty good on entry-level positions for graduates and non-graduates alike, but some of these positions can be fiercely competitive. The best place to check for jobs is www.psgazetteonline.gov.au, where most positions are advertised, and searches can be conducted by location, salary, department, keywords etc.

Be wary when you see a job that it is not already being filled by somebody who is a strong internal applicant, otherwise you would be wasting your time. If the current occupant doesn't plan to contest the position, it could be because the job stinks.

Even though most graduates will want to come in as generalists (capable of obtaining a superficial level of understanding of anything quickly and appearing credible about it), it often comes in handy to have some experience or training in a skill useful in analysing and executing policy. Your thesis on the order of battle of the Indonesian Armed Forces, or the intersectionality of inequality in parenting benefits would probably not go down as well as an eight week course, or a brief stint in risk management, econometrics, business analysis or contract management.

There used to be a public service exam. You would be given a score out of 10 - 50% would be based on your performance in the exam, and 50% would be derived from your level of academic achievement. Your score would count for quite a bit in getting into a graduate programme. Nowadays there is less discrimination against non-graduates (probably because older clerical types who never bothered going to university want to stay in).

And also learn how to address selection criteria.

How to Leave

  • Through retirement, if you can get yourself another life outside work you should enjoy your time in the public service.
  • Through getting outsourced, and being rehired at double your current wage.
  • Through finding another job elsewhere. Tax and corporate law specialists can do quite well in companies they were trained to investigate.
  • Through gross misconduct and not engaging all the legal avenues at your disposal.