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A Guide to Civil Service Exams

Pencils next to a notebook

Passing the civil service exam is your first step on the path to a rewarding career in federal, state, or municipal government. This exam, which varies depending on your target profession, tests your aptitude, skills, and knowledge pertaining to the role in question. Review this guide to civil service exams and prepare yourself to clear this important hurdle.

Who Has to Take a Civil Service Exam?

Professions that require a civil service exam as a benchmark for entry include roles with federal agencies such as TSA, the postal service, the FBI, the CIA, and the IRS. You'll also need a passing score to pursue a career in air traffic control, U.S. Customs, Foreign Service, government accounting, or the Secret Service. Some cities require the civil service exam for firefighters and law enforcement officials.

After you take the test, the hiring agency or organization will rank your score compared to other applicants who took the same test. With a continuous civil service exam, the agency will place your score on file for consideration when a future position opens. If you already have a professional civil service role, you can take a promotional exam to qualify for career advancement.

What Does the Civil Service Exam Cover?

While the test will be different for each profession, applicants usually take an oral and written exam, as well as a multiple-choice test. The questions cover math up to general algebra, coding, clerical skills, reasoning skills, and reading and writing ability. You may also have to take a test based on other skills, such as a physical fitness test for a security job or a software skills exam for an administrative role. You should complete as many questions as possible on this timed exam because you will not lose points for wrong answers.

Many civil service exams require a bachelor's or graduate degree in a related field. If you're interested in a career in civil service, the Tulane School of Professional Advancement offers several degree programs that can help prepare you for the public sector, including a Master of Public Administration, a bachelor's degree in Homeland Security Studies, as well as graduate degrees in Emergency Management, Cybersecurity Management, and Homeland Security Studies. To take the next step in your career, start your application today.

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