A Wealth of Opportunities
State and local governments provide citizens with services such as transportation, public safety, health care, education, utilities, and courts. State and local governments employ some 7.9 million workers. This makes the government one of the largest employers in the economy. Seven out of ten government employees work for local governments, such as counties, cities, and towns. In addition to these 7.9 million, a large numbers of state and local workers work in public education. These workers form a large part of the educational services industry.
Citizens are often served by more than one local government unit. Most states are subdivided into counties, which may contain various municipalities, such as cities or towns, as well as unincorporated rural areas. Townships, which do not exist in some states, may or may not contain municipalities and often consist of suburban or rural areas. Some government entities supplement these forms of local government by performing a single function or activity. For example, many special districts manage the use of natural resources. Some provide drainage and flood control, irrigation, and soil and water conservation services.
In addition to the fifty state governments, there are about 87,500 local governments in the United States. This number includes 3,000 county governments, 19,400 municipal governments, 16,500 townships, 13,500 school districts, and 35,100 special districts. Illinois has the most local government units (more than 6,900); Hawaii has the fewest, a mere twenty.
State and local governments employ people in occupations found in nearly every industry in the economy, including chief executives, managers, engineers, computer specialists, secretaries, and health technicians. Some jobs are unique to the government, such as legislators, tax collectors, urban and regional planners, judges and other judicial workers, police officers, and correctional officers and jailers.
Professional and service occupations account for more than half of all jobs in state and local government. Most new jobs are created by the growing demand for community and social services, health services, and protective services. Increasing demand for services for the elderly, the mentally impaired, and children result in steady growth in the numbers of social workers, registered nurses, and other health professionals. The demand is also high for information technology workers. Jobs in management, business, and financial occupations are expected to grow in state and local government. Office and administrative support jobs are not expected to grow and are likely to be victims of increased outsourcing.
People interested in working for state or local government agencies should contact the appropriate agencies. City, county, and state personnel and human resources departments, as well as local offices of state employment services, have applications and additional information.
The benefits offered with government jobs include health, life insurance, and most likely retirement benefits as well. This is one of the areas in which government jobs excel. Retirement benefits are more common for civil servants than for employees in the private sector.