Civil Service Executive Officer

The Job and What's Involved

Civil servants support the work of government ministers and their departments. Depending on the department that employs them, they could be involved in providing services to industry and agriculture, assessing and collecting revenue, paying benefits and pensions, issuing driving licences or providing central administrative, policy and support services.

Executive officers are junior managers in the Civil Service. Their job titles and job descriptions vary widely from department to department, but their duties are likely to include:

  • Managing a team or small office.
  • Allocating work to junior staff and ensuring that it is completed to standard and on time.
  • Helping to train staff, conducting job appraisals and identifying training needs.
  • Giving advice to members of the public and/or representatives of organisations.
  • Visiting organisations and members of the public to check that they are operating within the law.
  • Investigating and initiating action against those that break the law.
  • Attending meetings.
  • Giving presentations.
  • Carrying out research.
  • Keeping records.
  • Producing reports, statistics and other paperwork.
  • Liaising with external suppliers of goods and services.

Civil servants usually work around 35 to 37 hours a week, Monday to Friday. Some flexibility may be required depending on the needs of the department. Flexible working hours, part-time work and job share are widely available.

Most executive officers are office based. In some jobs they may work in premises that are open to the public. Some executive officers spend a lot of time visiting members of the public or organisations.

Starting salaries for Civil Service executive officers may range from around £19,000 to £23,000 a year.

A driving licence may be useful.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

The Civil Service employs around 500,000 people, three quarters of whom work outside of London and the South East.

Candidates will be asked to give evidence of nationality when applying for jobs. Most vacancies are open to UK and European Union nationals (including European Economic Area) and Commonwealth citizens. A small number of posts are reserved for UK nationals only.

Departments also carry out security and other checks, such as health, prior to appointment.

Each Civil Service department is responsible for its own recruitment. There are links to all Civil Service department websites at

Vacancies are advertised in local and national newspapers, on government departments' websites and at Jobcentre Plus offices.

Education and Training

Entry requirements differ from department to department. Increasingly, many departments do not specify any formal qualifications as they judge applicants against the competencies, skills and experience required for the job.

Some departments and agencies offer opportunities for work experience - further details are on the Civil Service Recruitment Gateway. There are also opportunities for day visits.

As well as completing an application form and attending an interview, candidates may be required to take a range of tests assessing numeracy, writing, communication and interpersonal skills, along with decision-making and analytical skills.

Graduates with at least a 2.2 honours degree in any discipline who can demonstrate the potential to become excellent negotiators and managers may apply to the Civil Service Fast Stream. Competition is intense with thousands of applicants for a total of approximately 500 places.

Experienced Civil Service administrative officers may be promoted to an executive officer role.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

The Civil Service has a strong commitment to training. New recruits usually receive induction training to introduce them to the work and culture of their department. There is likely to be a mixture of on-the-job training, distance learning and short courses. Individual training needs are identified during regular job appraisals. These might result in opportunities to develop skills in subjects like team building, assertiveness or IT. Special courses may also be arranged to train staff in areas such as the implications regarding a change in the law or the introduction of a new IT system.

Successful applicants to the Civil Service Fast Stream enter at executive officer or higher executive officer level and complete a series of placements, each lasting 12 to 18 months, in a range of jobs in different departments.

There may be opportunities to study for a Foundation Degree in Government. This work-based qualification has been developed by the National School of Government, Government Skills (the Sector Skills Council for Central Government) and the Universities of Chester and Portsmouth.

Some departments appoint a senior member of staff as a mentor who gives support and advice to junior colleagues.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

Civil Service executive officers should:

  • Have management and leadership skills.
  • Be able to work well on their own initiative and as part of a team.
  • Work methodically, accurately and with attention to detail.
  • Have excellent communication skills.
  • Be able to follow clearly defined work procedures.
  • Be able to keep accurate records.
  • Be confident using IT.
  • Be able to explain complex rules and regulations to people who have no specialist knowledge.
  • Be able to meet deadlines.
  • Be discreet when dealing with confidential information.

Your Long Term Prospects

There is a clearly defined promotion structure in the Civil Service and experienced executive officers may be eligible to apply for senior posts. Promotion is based on merit.

Fast Stream entrants are usually promoted to more senior posts within three to five years.

Executive officers with at least two years' experience, who demonstrate appropriate skills and abilities, may be nominated to apply for the Fast Stream through the In-Service scheme.

Get Further Information

Civil Service Recruitment

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