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FAQ: UK Civil Service Job Applications

Thanks for this post! As someone looking to apply to the UK Civil Service in the future, it's really useful to have a resource like this :)

One question I have is whether you have a sense of the value of a Master's program in public policy. In particular, are you aware of many/any positions where having a Master's is either required or would significantly increase the chances of a successful application? 

Law school vs MPP in Australia for those who have strong verbal skills but are weak at maths

No problem :)

Again I'll just flag I'm happy to have a call to discuss this with you!

2: I think it varies between law schools and my impression is Usyd might be just particularly harsh marks wise. For what it's worth, undergrad and JD students are marked together at Usyd. 12% getting HD's seem high to me (I think Usyd is minimum 1% and max 5%?) but sounds like that's just an exception to the norm. Also, I agree that philosophy is a great background (it is also mine!) though I have found I personally work about twice as hard for law and receive a grade on average marks 10 lower.

3:  Yep, I'm in undergrad. I've always aimed to work in the US/UK and have only recently been looking into Aus options, so my views  aren't very informed/considered.  For what it's worth, I have applied to a few jobs (e.g. UK Fast Stream) with the intention of not finishing my law degree if I was accepted.  I probably would at least consider the APS grad streams in the situation you suggest.

As for your last question, I think that it's very likely that if you're particularly suited for law and enthusiastic about it (which it sounds like you are) that there will be ways of using the vocation to have an impact in your career. Within Australia, for example, working for the ALRC seems very promising. I personally doubt those options would be in corporate law (aside from earning to give) or criminal law. Given those are the standard paths, I'd strongly encourage having a think about what the more impactful careers might be so that you can plan for them early on and not get swept up by the conventional route.

Law school vs MPP in Australia for those who have strong verbal skills but are weak at maths

Hi Douglas,

I'm currently studying law at Usyd with the intention of going into policy. Very happy to have a call if you think that would help! Just send through a message :)

I don't have work experience in government, nor do I have much sense of what an MPP involves or how they are viewed, but I do have a few thoughts/bits of information that might help:

  • For going into policy, most of what you study in a law degree will not be relevant. It does help develop a general sense of how the law works, what some of its difficulties are (from a policy perspective) and how legislation and regulations are interpreted by courts. I'm not sure how helpful that sense is, but my sense is not particularly.
  • It's particularly difficult to get good grades at a top law school (e.g. most students received ATARs of 99+ and the median marks are often 65-70), though my impression is it's easier in second tier law schools. Of my friends who studied law and economics, even those who were far stronger verbally, had significantly higher marks in econ than law (85 avg econ seems comparable to 70 in law for those with similar aptitudes). I don't know how comparable econ is to an MPP.
  • For policy careers, the advice I've received is that your experience is more important than your educational background. Good grades/degree might be a threshold requirement, but the predominant interest is in your ability to be able to discuss relevant work or extra-curricular experience. 
  • I'm not sure how to think about going into politics! I agree that law backgrounds seem common, and I imagine being involved in party politics and student politics at a prestigious uni might be helpful. 
  • I suspect even with lower aptitude for maths, the basic statistics and economics subjects should be manageable (if they are introductory) and at least I personally regret not having been able to study them as my sense is they are actually relevant to a significant amount of policy work.

I hope that helps!