Civil service is a term that is commonly used in identifying governmental functions in many different types of government around the world. The term is utilized in two similar but distinct manners. Just about every nation in the world today has at least one department of civil service as part of the overall structure.
One common usage of the term “civil service” has to do with the specific arm or branch of government service that oversees the hiring process. In this application, a specific department will set employment standards that are observed by the other departments that make up the government administrative arm. It is not unusual for the this department to develop and administer all examinations related to potential employment with the government in question. At the same time, the department may also define and oversee the criteria for merit raises and other employee benefits.
The second use of civil service is as a more general term. When this is the case, the phrase may refer to any of the many departments that make up a government. In most instances, this will be a sweeping application that will include all departments except the military arms of the government. However, there is some variance in just how broad the application will be. In some nations, civil service is defined as applying to any and all government entities, while in others the term is understood to mainly focus on departments concerned with clerical or administrative functions.
Persons who are employed in the field of civil service are often referred to as civil servants. The civil servant may be an employee of any federal, state, or local government. Traditions vary on this point. For example, it is not uncommon for employees of local municipalities in the United States to be referred to as civil servants. In the United Kingdom, the term is limited to government employees who are considered Crown employees, thus excluding city or county employees.