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salaries series

Christmas lights reflect on the walls of the Parliament buildings.FRED CHARTRAND/The Canadian Press

Job: Public administration employee

Salary: Starts at about $45,000 for entry-level positions, but can increase dramatically, depending on the role and level of experience, to more $300,000 for workers at the highest levels in the public service.

Education: Most public administration employees are expected to have a postsecondary education and many now obtain graduate degrees in public administration, economics or other specialties.

The role: The job can range from overseeing budgets to managing government programs in areas such as health, education, transportation or finance. Depending on what position or level of government, the job can be specific to one sector or across the board. "We are in the 24/7 business and the 'A' to 'Z' business," Edmonton city manager Simon Farbrother says. "We don't sell two or three products and have a particular niche market. We are very much in everyone's market."

By the numbers: There were about 262,817 people working in the federal public service, across all job types, in 2013, according to the Treasury Board of Canada. That's down from 282,955 in 2010 but up from 211,925 in 2000. There were about 25,800 managers in public administration across Canada in 2011, according to Statistics Canada.

Job prospects: It's not the stable career path it once was. Governments are continually under pressure to make cuts. That includes services as well as staffing, depending on the economic health of the city, province or country. The federal government alone has introduced plans to cut about 19,200 public service positions by 2014-15, or about five per cent of the workforce. The cuts were introduced in its March 2012 budget. By the end of 2012, the government said it had already cut 16,220 positions, 9,390 of which were through attrition.

Challenges: Everyone who reaches out to government officials or departments believes their problem is the most important. There are also a number of different opinions on most issues that public service workers have to contend with. "Everyone human also has a different expectation," Mr. Farbrother says.

Why they do it: It sounds cliché, but Mr. Farbrother says people choose public administration to help make a difference in society. "They are interested in what they do and believe they are involved in building community," he says.

Misconceptions: That public service workers are lazy and work more slowly than people in the private sector. Mr. Farbrother says it's the process that often slows things down, not the people doing the work. "The reality is that if people want a say in the democratic process, then you actually have to provide them the time to provide that input," he says.

Give us the scoop: Are you a public sector worker in Canada? Write a note in the comments area of this story or e-mail your comment to and let us know what you would tell others who are interested in the profession.

Want to read more stories from our Salaries Series? Find more here.