The civil service is a collective term for a sector of government composed mainly of career administrators hired on professional merit rather than appointed or elected, whose institutional tenure typically survives transitions of political leadership.

I copied this explanation of civil service from wiki, and I don't know what's career administrator and this explanation even makes me more confused. Could anyone tell me what's career administrator and what's civil service work that they usually do?

2 Answers 2


A career administrator in this context could be any number of managerial/administrative government jobs that are not appointed positions, such as people who work in the Social Security Administration, Customs and Border Protection, the Food and Drug Administration, etc. When a new President or Prime Minister is elected, they are often tasked with appointing people in very high positions of government, such as a Secretary of Defense or a Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. However, they are not tasked with appointing people in all positions of power, such as the ones I mentioned, for a number of reasons. If the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development is an appointed position, for example, which it is, all of the managers underneath the Secretary who were hired because of their qualifications could be considered career administrators in the civil service.


“Civil service” simply means government employees that are not elected or appointed, meaning they’re (at least in theory) independent of the political process. The term “administrators” refers to how they administer the policies set by politicians, and “career” because they stay employed in try at role as those politicians (and their policies) change over time.

In the US, this concept was developed about a century ago. Prior to that, all government employees were elected or appointed. Each politician who got elected would fire all the workers below him and replace them with his campaign supporters and friends. This, of course, led to rampant corruption as those employees had a strong motivation to keep their patron in power and do whatever he said, regardless of the law. Also, there was no consideration of merit, so these employees were often completely incompetent. (You can still see this system at work in many other countries, with the same problems.)

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