Government, Community & Emergency Services

Government, community and emergency services cover a vast array of specialised sectors that exist to support local communities in a number of ways.

Every state in New Zealand has localised government departments with groups of employers who help individuals, groups and communities within the state in different ways.

From helping individuals access benefits, healthcare and driving licences to develop policies that cover education, transport, healthcare, energy and mining, and many more!

Community services can be not-for-profit or profit organisations that support, educate, advocate and guide individuals and groups. This might be anyone experiencing homelessness, mental health barriers, disability barriers or addiction support.

Areas within community services include:

  • Volunteering
  • Youth Services and Child Protection
  • Youth Justice
  • Housing and Homelessness
  • Probation Services and Offender Rehabilitation
  • Adoption and Fostering Services

Emergency services cover the groups who support our communities to keep them safe. This includes the police force, fire fighting services, ambulances and first-responders.

At the heart of all of these sectors within the industry is a desire to help others and work as part of a broader team to aid and support others positively and proactively.

Depending on the area of the industry you might be interested in, there is many key strengths and characteristics that will set you up nicely for success, including:

  • Excellent communication skills
  • Strong team collaborator
  • Adaptable and flexible to handle changing situations
  • Superb problem-solving skills
  • The ability to remain calm in a crisis

And this is just the beginning!

Alongside specialised roles, the industry is supported by a robust system of support roles covering administration, marketing and communications, finance and accounting, business services and many more.

If being part of an organisation and team that is driven towards a common goal of supporting, developing and building cohesive communities sounds like something you’re interested in – this could be just the right industry to explore a career in for you!

What You Could Do

Roles across the industry are highly varied and include a mix of low-skilled, entry-level positions, highly-skilled roles, and professional roles requiring specialised knowledge.


Here’s a look at some of the top jobs you could pursue:

  • Firefighter: Firefighters are trained specialists who handle emergency situations. This is predominantly fires, but could also include search and rescue, high-angle rescue, motor crash scenes and marine accidents. Firefighters work as part of a core team to assess, resolve and manage situations in the fastest and most effective way possible. They have superb communication and problem-solving skills. It’s a demanding career but an exceptionally rewarding one!
  • Police Officer: Police officers have four primary responsibilities: enforcing the law, preventing crime, responding to emergencies, and providing support to the community they serve. All of these responsibilities are as important as the other. Police officers may work for specific segments within their local, such as road regulation or drug and alcohol management. Many police are keen to support their community and also complete regular outreach and educational duties in schools.
  • Government Policy Manager: Government policy managers work within governments to direct the creation of new policies and strategic plans. They lead teams of people in creating and maintaining cohesive policies that reflect the needs of the communities and individuals they serve. Government policy managers typically specialise in one area or department such as healthcare, education, transport or welfare.
  • Policy Advisor: Policy Advisers are responsible for providing advice on regulatory and policy issues. Like policy managers, they tend to work within one government department and become experts in that area. Policy Advisers analyse past policies and make recommendations on solutions for a variety of issues relevant to their department. These recommendations can then form the basis of new policies that meet community and governmental needs while adhering to legal requirements.
  • Community Services Worker: Community service workers support different individuals to become more independent in their lives. They may work with individuals who have various physical or mental disabilities, or support people who act as carers for other family members. They assist with everyday activities including personal care, feeding, chores and cleaning, as well as helping with mobility, attending appointments/activities and shopping. Community service workers help to tackle problems faced by their community, working to ensure everyone has access to nurturing environments to grow and connect.

These job roles are only just scratching the surface!

The best way to learn more and help form decisions about the roles available and what you might be suited for is to conduct as much research as you can and build a profile from there.

Graduate Outcomes & Gender Split

While a degree isn’t crucial for every role or career pathway into the industry, it can help to know what employment from this route looks like.

The Graduates Outcome Survey tracks graduate employment across different industry sectors.

Here’s a look at some graduate outcomes for government and community service degrees technologies:

  • Humanities, Culture and Social Sciences Graduates in Full-Time Employment: 60.9%
  • Humanities, Culture and Social SciencesGraduates in Employment Overall: 83.4%

Keep in mind that this doesn’t account for graduates working part-time and/or who may have continued to higher studies; these are promising percentages!

*Figures from 2020 survey results.

Gender Split

The gender split across the industry depends on the segment of the sector you work within.

There is an extremely even split across the industry of males and females :

Recent statistics indicate the split for manufacturing and production-based roles is:

  • 51% Male
  • 50% Female

Keep in mind there will be some areas where this might not always be the case, such as within the police and fire fighting services.

Leadership and senior positions with the government also typically tend to be male-dominated.

Average Salary

Current surveys in the sector indicate the median salaries for full-time roles in this industry as:

  • Firefighter Roles: $65,000-$80,000
  • Police Officer Roles: $65,500-$82,000
  • Policy Officer Roles: $92,800-$102,100
  • Policy Manager Roles: $123,00-$152,000
  • Community Services Worker Roles: $54,500-$69,800
  • Probation Officer Roles: $76,000-$82,000

Salaries are also determined by several factors, including:

  • The segment of the industry you work within.
  • Your job title and seniority.
  • The amount of experience you have.

Location, some rural areas may pay less than roles in main cities

Industry Growth

According to the Australian Industry and Skills Committee, the government, community and emergency services sector is a huge growth area for employment opportunities in general. Government departments and public services are often some of the highest sectors for employment in some Australian states and cities.

In particular, the community health care and social assistance industry is the largest employing industry in Australia.

In 2020, 1.7 million people were employed in this industry, which is projected to increase to more than 1.9 million by 2024.

Within the industry, employment levels for welfare support workers and service managers have an expected increase in employment numbers leading up to 2024.

Some of the priority in-demand skills for the industry include:

  • Communication – especially virtual collaboration
  • Self-management
  • Leadership and management
  • Language, Literacy and Numeracy
  • Customer Service

The community services sector is expected to grow more than other areas in the industry over the next five years, driven by a combination of the NDIS, government funding, income and donations.

The emergency services, especially firefighting, are always seeking suitable candidates to join. Recent years have seen an increase in bush fires. The emergency services anticipate growth in employment as they are called to handle more emergency situations due to natural disasters in the coming years.

Qualifications and Entry Pathways

For some professional roles, a bachelor degree can set you up well with the foundation of theory and knowledge to help you build a successful career in the industry.

Degree pathways you could pursue include:

  • Bachelor of Public Services
  • Bachelor of Public Administration
  • Bachelor of Community Services
  • Bachelor of Social Work
  • Bachelor of Psychology
  • Bachelor of Communications and Policy Work
  • Bachelor of Social Policy and Administration

For some pathways, vocational education and training (VET) courses can offer specialised and valuable springboards into the sector.

Relevant qualifications you could pursue include:

  • Certificate IV in Government
  • Certificate IV in Government (Court Services)
  • Certificate IV In Legal Services
  • Certificate IV In Social Work
  • Certificate IV In Youth Work
  • Certificate IV In Public Services
  • Diploma in Public Services

Other pathway options might include:

  • Scoring an apprenticeship or traineeship: You can start a school-based apprenticeship or traineeship from Yr 9 and work to gain industry-specific qualifications alongside your certificate of education and work experience.
  • Work experience once you leave school: If you leave school at 16, you can apply for work experience and school-leaver programs in entry-level positions and work your way up over time. Many organisations will also support you to gain further professional qualifications. You’ll need a robust skill set and good grades in Maths and English as a minimum.

Requirements will depend on the type of role you want and the company – so make sure you do some research.

Whatever your circumstances, grades or preferred way forward – there’s a qualification pathway that will work for you.

Best Places to Study

Where you choose to study will be dependent on a range of factors, but some universities are rated higher than others for specific subjects.

Some of the best-rated universities for public service studies include:

  • Australian National University (ANU)
  • University of Sydney
  • University of Melbourne
  • University of New South Wales
  • University of Queensland
  • Monash University
  • University of Western Australia
  • University of Adelaide
  • University of Technology Sydney

Where to Learn More

You can find out more about different pathways through professional bodies and organisations advocating for careers in the sector.

Some good places to start include:

And many more!

Each state will also have several professional organisations that can help you learn more about the industry, network, and develop your career.