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Difference Between Civil Service and Public Service

The terms civil service and public service seem to refer to very similar concepts but there is a significant difference between the two. Civil service is performed by a civil servant, a bureaucrat hired by the country’s government who works for the public sector; conversely, public service is performed by a public servant, a person appointed by a member of the government to serve the population and perform public duties. Civil servants are top ranked employees who work in various government’s departments and offices and whose duties vary according to their role and position. Public servants are not has high ranked and provide basic services to the population and to the most needy segments of society.

Difference Between Civil Service and Public Service

What is Civil Service?

Civil service is a service provided by the government to all citizens. It is performed by civil servants, highly skilled individuals who achieved their positions for merit, who operate in the interest of the general public. Some of the services provided for by civil service include:

  • Paying pensions and benefits;
  • Running and managing prisons;
  • Issuing driving licenses;
  • Representing the government in international organizations and in foreign countries; and
  • Managing employment services.

Civil servants are bureaucrat who need to be familiar with the country’s laws and regulations, and who must act in order to promote the highest interests of the country and of its citizens. Civil service allows the government to provide basic services to all citizens and to run efficiently all its various departments.


What is Public Service?

Just like civil service, public service is a service offered by the government to all individuals under its jurisdiction, including the most needy segment of societies. It is performed by public servants and includes services like:

  • Paramedics;
  • Fire brigades;
  • Police; and
  • Air force.

Aside from the members of the just mentioned official bodies, public servants are not necessarily skilled or qualified individuals. In fact, they can perform various tasks – including volunteering – that do not require particular abilities but that fall within the services offered to the citizens by the government. Such services should be available to all persons under the government’s jurisdiction, including the neediest individuals.

Difference Between Civil Service and Public Service-1

Similarities between Civil Service and Public Service

Civil service and public service are very similar concepts. In fact, both services are offered by the government to all citizens or to all persons under the government’s jurisdiction and both aim at improving the country’s social environment. The main similarities between the two include:

  1. Both jobs/services are linked to the government’s policies and are performed in the interest of the population as well as of the state itself;
  2. Civil servants and public servants are employed by the government – even though civil servants occupy the highest ranks; and
  3. Civil service and public service aim at making the country (any country) a better place, at promoting the image of the state within and outside its borders, and at improving general living conditions of the population.

What is the Difference between Civil Service and Public Service?

The main difference between civil service and public service concerns the degree of responsibility and the different tasks given to the public and civil servants:

  1. Civil servants are top class employees managing key governmental duties with the aim of improving living conditions within the country and of ensuring the smooth delivery of all operational tasks. Conversely, public servants occupy lower places in the rank and perform simpler tasks;
  2. Public servants like police officers and firefighters have to undergo various trainings to learn how to master their tasks, but not all public servants need to be highly qualified or trained. Conversely, all civil servants must be highly qualified and need to have both educational and professional experience; and
  3. Civil service is performed by the most skilled individuals who obtain their job by passing several tests and exams and are only appointed on merit. Conversely, public service can obtain their job by passing tests and interviews even if they do not have relevant educational or professional qualifications.

Civil Service vs Public Service

Building on the differences outlined and analyzed in the previous section, we can identify few other aspects that differentiate civil service from public service.

Difference between Civil Service and Public Service : Comparison Chart

  Civil Service Public Service
Salary and responsibilities Civil servants earn high salaries and have more responsibilities than public servants. Civil servants can become heads of key governmental departments and have a significant impact on the ways in which policies are implemented. Public servants may or may not have good salaries and they have generally less responsibilities than civil servants. Performing public service, in particular services for the neediest persons, can be done on a voluntary basis.
Financing Civil service is always financed by the central government and is publicly regulated. The government appoints the best candidates in its various departments; as such, civil servants can work in various ministries, governmental agencies and international governmental organizations (i.e. embassies, consulates, etc.) Public service is not always financed by the central government. Indeed, in most cases the government allocates funds to provide basic services to all citizens, but public service can also be performed by privates and can be done on a voluntary basis.

Summary  of difference between Civil Service and Public Service

Civil service and public service are services provided by the government to all citizens and to all individuals under the government’s jurisdiction. Civil service is performed by the highest skilled individuals who have the responsibility of implementing public policies, of providing services to the public and of serving the interests of the country. Conversely, public service is performed by individuals who do not need to be highly qualified and can be done on a voluntary basis. Civil servants include members of the government, members of various government’s department and members of embassies and consulates. Public servants include firefighters and police officers, but also volunteers and privates that provide services to the community and to the neediest segments of society.

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  1. Please I need a reference to this nice post

  2. So awesome a post
    It very revealing and self explanatory

  3. ThanKs alot for this

  4. Great explanation on the difference of these two.

  5. Trying to debate with someone. Is a teacher considered a public servant or a civil servant?

  6. Great explanation thanks alot

  7. 9ice 1. tnx a lot

  8. Awesome Article indeed.please I need a reference. Thanks

  9. Its perfectly clear.

  10. Nice

  11. Please cite examples

  12. Thank you

  13. Please tell me everything about civil service.

  14. Is a teacher or a lecturer(public schools) a public servant or civil servant

  15. Nice write up. But can we really classify teachers as public servants going by this piece. Because they are employed for their professional and academic skills and qualifications… Just thinking, any enlightenment?

    • Most the issues raised by this piece are not correct and are misleading…especially on areas of qualifications. Some public servants are highly professionals and competent that requires, high qualifications and are created to serve public needs.
      They are special Agencies such as Federal High Courts, Nigerian Nuclear Regulatory Agency, Nigerian Port Authority, Customs and Exercise, Police, Immigration,Military officers, Airspace Management Agency, Raw Materials Research and Development Council, Supreme court, National Assembly,the list are many,and are manned by competent and service oriented individuals. Infact they are to provide quick deliverable service as quick as posible, hence they were removed rlfrom civil service bureaucracy.. So the writer of this piece is not competent enough to talk on the two services which are not essily separated.

      Infact its in civil service that people with lower qualifications are tolerated than in public service.

      Yes,benefits of a civil servant in term of scope of activities is greater than that public servants, because they are pool staff that can be moved in all ministries. They serve as supervisor to Agencies and Parastatal of government,Therefore are considered mother of all services…..Thank you

  16. That good explanation of both two

  17. Great one thank you.

  18. Teachers can be classified as public servants because not all are qualified and experienced in the profession

  19. Teachers can be classified as public servants because not all are qualified and experienced in the profession


  21. I enjoyed doing my assignment with this soft copy!!!

  22. Arguing with my friends in 2021 about the difference between Public and Civil Servants.
    Glad to find this!

  23. This definition for civil and public servant does not apply in Australia. The term civil servant is not used. Instead government employees are generally known as public servants.

  24. Thanks so much,it is enlightening,clear and precise

  25. Going by what we learn, teachers are civil servants because of their professionalism

  26. I judicial service civil or public service


  28. 1.Why are Local Government employees referred to as Public Servants despite the fact that we have so many skilled professionals working there?
    2.Are teachers public servants?
    3.We have Environmental Health Officers working in the civil service of the state and in the Local Government. Are Environmental Health Officers Public or Civil Servants

  29. Very good I need a reference

  30. It ok for assignment but the full different is,not showing

  31. thanks for the explanation i can now defend this now any were any time.

  32. Civil servants are those mainstream ministries both at local government and other levels of government. The civil servant formed the excutive arm of government which guaranteed them of paroting the day-to-day affairs of the government administratively. While public servant are staff of the court, police, school and other government parastatals which at times, their assumption into office is by appointment rather than meritocracy. Unlike civil servant which is purely by meritocracy.

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References :

[0]Mosher, Frederick C. Democracy and the public service. Oxford University Press on Demand, 1982.

[1]Perry, James L., and Lois Recascino Wise. "The motivational bases of public service." Public administration review (1990): 367-373.

[2]"Image Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/24736216@N07/8558061454"

[3]"Image Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/lightasmagic/4317542240/"

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