If you are seeking a career as a civil servant, then you will likely need to take the civil service exam at one point before landing your dream position. Before you can take the civil service exam, first you will need to know who exactly can take the exam. You may also be wondering why you need to take the exam in the first place. We have all the details to help you understand who can take the exam and figure out if you qualify to take the exam yourself!
The civil service exam is created for individuals that are looking to start a career as a civil servant and who have already started the application process. Each area will be different regarding their qualifications. However, the majority of areas will require you to be 18 years old and a legal resident of the US. Some areas may have higher age requirements and may require you to be a resident of their area.
What is the Purpose of the Civil Service Exam?
In order to fully understand who can take the civil service exam, first it is important to understand the purpose of the civil service exam and why you may need to take this exam to start your new career. Without understanding the purpose of the exam, you may be confused on why you have to take it in the first place.
The purpose of the civil service exam is ensuring that the hiring process is equal and fair for all future civil servants. It also ensures that everyone who is offered a civil servant position has the basic knowledge that will be required to complete some of their essential job responsibilities. It helps make sure that all civil servants are taking the hiring process seriously and are prepared to start their new careers.
There are multiple specific job positions that fall under the civil servant category that may require you to take the civil service exam. Some of the various job positions that are examples of being a civil servant include US postal worker, administrative assistant for the city or state, school bus driver, law enforcement officer, civil engineer for the city, judge at the state courthouse, social worker, school teacher or registered nurse.
When it comes to the purpose of the exam, it is also important for you to know that exams may vary depending on where you reside. Who can take the exam and the qualifications can also vary depending on where you live. The exam can be different depending on if you are applying for work for a specific city, county, or state government. The federal government also can require a civil service exam, depending on the specific position that you may be applying for. To understand the specifics for your area, we recommend reaching out to a recruiter.
The actual content of the civil servant exam will likely vary depending on where you are taking your exam. However, many areas will feature similar subjects on their exams to help them get an overall understanding of your knowledge and see how prepared you are for your potential position. These subjects include writing proficiency, mathematics, clerical abilities, decision making and problem solving.
Although you may not use large amounts of a certain subject in your job responsibilities depending on your job title, it’s important to understand the civil service exam covers all of these subjects because the exams are created to fit multiple civil servant job positions. Even if you may not use math frequently for your position, there are multiple other civil servant jobs that will use math regularly. No matter what subject it is, we recommend not skipping over any areas and making sure you understand each subject.
Since the civil service exam plays such a large purpose in your overall career, we don’t recommend attempting to take the exam without studying. It is highly encouraged to make sure that you complete the proper amount of studying for each subject and make sure that you feel confident by the time you are scheduled to take your exam. You will never regret taking the time to prepare, but you will regret it if you fail to prepare enough.
Steps Required Before You Can Take the Civil Service Exam
Since the civil service exam is meant for those who plan on starting a career as a civil servant, many areas will require you to complete some beginning steps before you qualify to take the exam at all. These beginning steps act as the starting point in the journey you will go on during the hiring process of becoming a civil servant.
The very first step you need to take before you qualify for the exam is finding the specific position or multiple positions that you want to apply for. You can generally find a list of available positions as a civil servant by visiting your city or state’s government website. It is likely they’ll have a list of available positions for you to go through. Some areas will also feature job positions that may not be available right now, but will be opening soon. If you are flexible on the start date, you may also want to keep these positions in mind.
We recommend creating a list of the positions that you are the most interested in, including links to where you can apply for these positions. Once you are ready to start applying, you can work your way from the top of the list to the bottom. You want to make sure that you have an updated resume and cover letter before you start applying. Getting a list of updated professional references is also a great idea. This will make the application process go a lot more smoothly and also quicker as well.
Once you’ve applied for the positions you’re interested in, then you will likely need to pay any sort of fee that may be required to take the exam. The specific amount of the fee will likely depend on the area that you live in. However, the fee typically ranges between $15 to $30. This helps cover the standard costs associated with administering the exam. In most areas, the fee can be paid electronically with a credit or debit card.
Around the time that you pay any sort of fee required, you will likely also be required to submit your required documents for verification. This helps keeps your identity protected and ensures the correct person is taking the exam. Once your documents are turned in, then you have become qualified to apply for a specific exam date, and you can start preparing to take your civil service exam!
Qualifications for Taking the Civil Service Exam
Now that you have an understanding behind the purpose of the civil service exam and know what steps you need to take in the very beginning, it’s time to go over the other standard qualifications for the civil service exam. This will help you understand who can take the exam once the beginning steps have been completed since all civil servant positions will include a standard set of qualifications for the role.
When it comes to qualifications for becoming a civil servant or taking the exam at all, most areas will require you to be at least 18 years old, have a high school diploma and be a legal resident of the United States. However, you do want to keep in mind that each specific area may be different regarding what they require when it comes to your age and location.
For example: Some areas may require you to be a minimum of 21 years old, especially if you are applying for a position like becoming a corrections officer. Some areas may also require that you are a resident of either the city or county that you are applying for a position in. If you live in a different city, you may not qualify for some positions, depending on their qualifications. You can often find the specific requirements that your area may require by visiting the open job postings that you’re interested in.
To qualify for any civil servant position and to take the civil service exam, you will also be required to speak, read and write English clearly. This is due to civil servant positions being primarily based in English. You do want to keep in mind that you may stand apart or have an advantage if you speak an additional language, depending on the position. Some positions may even start you out at a higher salary if you speak more than one language. However, the base requirement is that you can fully and fluently speak, write and read English.
More detailed qualifications like your education and work experience will ultimately depend on the specific job position that you are applying for, outside of having a standard high school diploma or GED (which all positions will require). Each job position will vary regarding what they require for your higher education level and amount of work experience. There is no standard qualification you must meet in terms of higher education and work experience in order to take the civil service exam.
When you are applying for specific job positions as a civil servant, it is important to take the time to read through the qualifications and make sure you meet the required qualifications. By applying for positions that you are far from qualifying for, it may look like you didn’t take the time to fully read the job posting to your potential department, which will likely give off a negative impression. You can also risk wasting valuable time by applying for positions that you aren’t quite ready yet to obtain.
Can an Undergraduate Apply for the Civil Service Exam?
An undergraduate can apply to take the civil service exam. This is largely due to the fact that not all civil servant positions will require a college degree in order to qualify for the position, as we previously mentioned. There are some positions that will only require a high school diploma. Therefore, the majority of areas do allow undergraduates to apply for an exam date and take the civil servant exam.
When you are applying for various civil servant positions, it is essential that you thoroughly read through the list of qualifications. Different civil servant positions will have different requirements when it comes to your education level. Some may only require a high school diploma. However, others will require a minimum of a two-year college degree or a bachelor’s degree in a related field.
If you are planning on applying for more advanced positions as a civil servant, you should expect the job positions that you are applying for to require a bachelor’s degree. Undergraduates will likely not qualify for these specific types of positions. Higher level positions as civil servant do generally require higher levels of education, along with also requiring a higher amount of work experience as well.
If you are an undergraduate, we don’t recommend applying for positions that require a higher level of college education. By applying for positions that you don’t match the qualifications for, spending your valuable time preparing for the civil service exam and completing other valuable steps in the hiring process for such positions, you could end up prolonging the process of landing a civil servant position that you do qualify for.
We would discourage you from spending large amounts of time trying to get positions that you don’t meet the required qualifications for. Your time could be better spent applying for positions that are a better match for your current education level! There are likely multiple available positions as a civil servant in your area that only require a high school diploma.
Can a Felon Take the Civil Service Exam?
The specific requirements regarding a background check and a criminal record will ultimately depend on the exact position that you are applying for and the area that you reside in. Some positions and some areas may have much more strict requirements than other areas. For example: Most positions that involve either protecting the community (like a position in law enforcement) or any position involving caring or educating children will have much higher requirements when it comes to passing a background check.
In most areas, a felony on your record may not technically prevent you from taking the civil service exam, but it will likely prevent you from qualifying for most civil servant positions. Some areas may not run a background check or look at your qualifications before you apply for an exam date. Once you submit your application, pay the fee and provide documentation, they may automatically give you an exam date. Therefore, you could take the civil servant position with a felony.
However, if the qualifications for the position require a clean criminal background, we don’t recommend taking the civil service exam. The overall hiring process is not a quick one to become a civil servant. It will require you to spend large amounts of time applying for the position, providing the information needed, paying the fees and studying to take the exam. If the position is strict regarding their requirement on criminal backgrounds, then your time spent preparing may not be worth it in the end.
It is also important to keep in mind that some positions may not only disqualify you if you have a felony, but may also disqualify you if you have any other charges on your criminal background other than a felony. For example: There are many positions in law enforcement that will require you to have a clean criminal background, including no misdemeanors or smaller charges. To make sure you are valuing your time, it is essential to know what background requirements the positions you want to apply for have.
Many civil servant positions include a large amount of responsibility when it comes to the community and the members of your community. The department that you would potentially be working for needs to be able to trust you to keep the community safe. During the hiring process, the department hasn’t built up any sort of trust yet since they are likely just barely meeting you. Therefore, having requirements for a background check helps the department get to know you better and judge how well they can trust you in the future.
If you do have a criminal background, you shouldn’t give up on your goal of becoming a civil servant! It is possible that there are positions out there you may qualify for, especially depending on how long it has been since you were originally charged. For some job positions, they may disregard charges on a criminal background once a certain amount of time has gone by since the charge. We would recommend reaching out to a recruiter in your area to see if they can provide more clarification on what your specific area may require.
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Documents Required for the Civil Service Exam
Before you can take the civil service exam, there are documents that you will likely be required to provide. To begin, you will need to have an updated version of your resume and your cover letter, as we previously mentioned. You will not be able to apply for an exam date until you’ve submitted your job applications. Most job applications will want to see your resume and cover letter. They might also ask to see a list of professional references.
For many areas, there are additional documents on top of your resume and cover letter that will likely be required to be submitted before you can apply for your exam date. These additional documents are required for verification purposes, to ensure that the proper individuals are taking the exam and receiving the exam scores. You will likely need identification when you arrive on your exam day as well to verify who you are.
To make sure that you are ready to receive your specific exam date and take the exam, we recommend having your social security card, along with a valid state issued identification card or a driver’s license easily available for verification purposes. If you have misplaced either document, we recommend taking the time to get another copy as quickly as possible. Not having these documents available will prevent you from getting an exam date and moving on to the remaining steps in the hiring process until you can provide the documents.
Depending on the specific position that you are applying for, there may be additional documents that you need to have ready to take the civil service exam. If you are applying for a position that requires you to have a certain certification or degree, we recommend having copies of your certification or degree available in case your potential department wants to see it before you take the civil service exam.
While you are getting all of your documents together, it is a great idea to also print off a few copies of your resume and cover letter. You likely will submit these electronically when you are applying for positions. However, by printing off physical copies, you will be more prepared for the steps you will take after you take the civil service exam, like potential interviews. Printing your documents now puts you one step ahead in the hiring process.
If you really want to make sure you are ahead, you can also reach out to the recruiter that’s over the job position that you are applying for and ask if they would like you to have any other documents or information available before and when you take the exam. This will help you know what documents you may need to bring to the actual exam center and will help you stand out in a positive way.
Becoming a civil servant is an extremely rewarding new career! You will have the opportunity to know that you are making a positive difference for your community and that you are helping your community run smoothly. When you are looking into the new career as a civil servant, it is important to make sure that you meet the requirements for both the specific positions you’re applying for and for taking the exam.
By taking all of the correct steps in the right order and making sure you meet the specific qualifications for the job positions you are applying for, you will be on your way to becoming a civil servant and starting an exciting new journey!
What are the benefits of being a civil servant?
There are a large amount of benefits that come along with becoming a civil servant. When you become a civil servant, you get the opportunity of knowing that you are making a crucial difference in your community and helping the community run smoothly. These roles are vital parts that our government can’t properly survive without.
Most civil servant jobs come with large amounts of benefits like health and dental insurance, flexibility with paid time off and sick leave, other insurance like life insurance and disability. Plus, many civil servant positions also come with a sense of job security. Communities will always need civil servants to help keep everything running efficiently.
How long is the hiring process to become a civil servant?
The hiring process for becoming a civil servant will ultimately depend on the specific area that you are applying in. Each area will be different on how long they take for the various parts of the hiring process. For example: Some areas may require a longer length of interviews or they may take longer to provide you with your civil service exam scores, which could prolong the process. We recommend being prepared for the process to take a minimum of 4 weeks.
Typically, the process of becoming a civil servant can be longer than other positions you’ve applied for in the past due to the steps and requirements you need to pass along the way. The hiring process includes time to apply for positions, preparing for the civil servant exam, taking the exam and then going to interviews once you pass the exam. In some areas, it can take upwards of 8-12 weeks for you to complete the entire process.
Is there advancement opportunity as a civil servant?
There is a large amount of advancement opportunity for most positions included in the civil servant category. Since most of these positions are employed by the government, there is a decent amount of room for growth as you advance. You do want to keep in mind that your eligibility for advancement opportunities may depend on the years of experience you have in the specific job role and the education level you’ve obtained.
If you want to advance in your career as a civil servant, we recommend increasing your level of education, along with making the effort to learn new skills and stay on top of any new trends that may emerge related to your specific position. By regularly looking for ways to improve your skills and increase your knowledge, you will stand out when applying for higher positions!
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Please note: This blog post is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please consult a legal expert to address your specific needs.
Hi! I’m Shawn Chun and I’m so grateful that you’re here.
Civil servants are some of the hardest working, most generous people I know. I have been passionate about all types of civil service career paths for years now and enjoy sharing everything I continue to learn about them.
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