Civil services the most challenging career

Civil Services-The Challenging Career

Why civil services is the most challenging career option in India. There are a plethora of opportunities that present themselves as you take the first steps into the professional world. There are paths that lead to great money, others to globe-trotting, and even a few that will test your physical mettle. But, none come close to the exciting challenges that a career in civil services brings with it on each day of the service.

The Selection in Civil Cervices

The tests start way before you become a civil servant—in the best of circumstances, almost two years before. Why is this so? It is because, to step into the shoes of a civil servant, one must first face the Civil Services Examination conducted by the UPSC. This exam is regarded as one of the toughest in the world due to the extremely poor selection ratio.

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Each year, the numbers of vacancies for over 24 services hover around the one thousand mark. The number of applicants that sit at the preliminary stage is around 4.7 lakhs. Only 14,000 (approximately) make it to the Mains stage. This is the most grueling stage.

Applicants have to write 9 subjective papers covering a wide range of topics—history, geography, science, political science, international relations and many more! Nearly 3,000 clear it. It is the personality test (not an interview) conducted by a board of highly experienced bureaucrats and professionals who determine the suitability of a candidate.

As said earlier, 1,000 make the final list, making the selection ratio nearly 1 in every 5000! For the topmost coveted services like the Indian Administrative Service the ratio is worse at around 1 in 25000! Thus, it requires at least a year of UPSC preparation and dedicated study followed by the exam procedure that too runs for a year.

The Service

The real trials are faced on the field, where you get to tackle the various problems in the country. A nation of 1.3 billion plus people spread across 2.4 million sq. km. will have the most diverse of challenges that a civil servant faces on a daily basis.

An IAS officer faces the hurdles of managing the administration of a district—be it in New Delhi or extremist affected jungles of Central India. The district magistrate must ensure that administration runs according to the laws of the land. They often work on very diverse issues. In an instance quoted by a DM, he was chairman of more than 140 committees in his district! An IPS officer on the other hand must be vigilant all around the clock as security is his concern.

A diplomat needs to juggle various languages and cultures without losing focus on the interests of his country. The challenges of the other services too are unique.

Work together to create executive machinery

Challenging career in India

These civil servants work together to create executive machinery that works for the betterment of the country. In times of crises, like a flood, a civil servant doesn’t get much sleep but typically has to be present for crisis management at all times.

There is a very impactful anecdote of the District Magistrate (IAS) and Deputy Superintendent of Police (IPS) going around a flood affected region on a motorcycle at an early hour, without any escort, to see that relief measures were being undertaken as required.

Myth about the civil service

A myth about the civil service is that civil servants get to enjoy a lot of perks. In the domain that they work, the perks are not a luxury, but a necessity.

Thus, if a civil servant’s vehicle is accompanied by a cavalcade, it is more so because she is out on a mission rather than as a show of power. A civil servant dedicates his or her life to the service of the nation.


The work doesn’t end at sixty! Civil servants are often called back from retirement for the wealth of experience that they have garnered over the course of their service. They regularly serve as advisors to the government and ambassadors to important nations. So a civil servant’s job does not stop like that of the others.

Position in the civil service

To conclude, a position in the civil service is not a monotonous 9 to 5 job behind a desk. Rather, it is the most dynamic career that one can follow. The challenges of being a perfectly oiled wheel in the giant Indian executive machine also provide invaluable learning throughout the career. Moreover, as the title specifies, the biggest challenge itself is that it is not a job but a service.

Anish Passi, Director at Neostencil, An Ed-Tech startup funded by the Times Group