Public service jobs are essential to the success of any municipality. These jobs provide crucial services to the population, such as road building, emergency response, and energy supplies.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the U.S. national median salary as of the fourth quarter of 2019 was $936 per week, or $48,672 per year, for the 118.3 million full-time workers in the country. It's well established that the portion of these jobs that make up the private sector are the higher paying ones. However, many public service jobs pay far more than the median national salary and typically come with good benefits, regular pay increases, and job security. The following are seven high-paying public service jobs with their salaries as of May 2018.

Power Plant Operators, Distributors, and Dispatchers

The supply of energy is an essential need in the operation of any locality. As humans, we rely on and often take for granted the electricity that supports every moment of our lives. We expect it to be there without a second thought. Power plant employees are the ones that ensure electricity is constantly supplied in a safe and efficient manner. The operators of these plants work the technology that turns coal, nuclear fuel, or natural gas into electricity while the dispatchers and distributors ensure that the electricity is delivered to the end-user. The median salary for power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers is $83,020 a year. To become one, a high school education and on the job training are required. Nuclear plant workers additionally need a license from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Some companies require the "Power Plant Maintenance and Plant Operator" exams offered by the Edison Electrical Institute.

Health Educators

Health educators work with the public to educate them on good health practices, health hazards, and health-related issues. They typically work alongside health professionals and help those in need in a variety of ways, from personalized care to knowledge programs to the design and implementation of health programs needed in a community. The median salary for a health educator is $54,220. The requirements to become a health educator are a bachelor's degree but some employers require the "Certified Health Education Specialist" exam and some require a master's degree in a specific health-related discipline.

Urban and Regional Planners

Urban and regional planners deal with the design and development of the physical area of a town or city. They work with developers to determine land use, population accommodation, environmental impact, and other areas that affect the surroundings of a locality. They also work with the communities to determine what works in their best interest and what the local population desires. This can take the form of revitalizing outdated facilities and the construction of green areas. Urban and regional planners make a median wage of $73,050. Educational requirements to become an urban and regional planner are a master's degree in urban and regional planning. The programs need to be accredited by the Planning and Accreditation Board.

Civil Engineer

Civil engineers are responsible for the creation of the infrastructure of a town or city. They build items that allow a municipality to operate smoothly. A civil engineer focuses on the design, construction, and operation of roadways, sewage systems, bridges, and airports. The median annual salary for a civil engineer is $86,640. A civil engineer requires a bachelor's degree, and for senior positions, typically, a higher education degree. They may also need a license from ABET.


The job of a firefighter certainly does require a lot of training, experience, and exposure to the obvious dangers associated with fire-fighting. To become a firefighter, one usually needs a high school diploma and an emergency medical technician certificate. The median annual salary for firefighters is $49,620.

Refuse and Recyclable Material Collector

Waste removal from garbage containers into a dump truck is not a glamorous job but is one that is essential to public health. Salaries in this job vary greatly depending upon the region. The median salary for this job is $40,560. Illinois is the highest paying state for this job, paying $57,680 but can be as low as $25,000 in some other areas. This is certainly a high-paying job considering that it requires little skill or training, though it certainly does have its share of drawbacks in the form of long hours, early start times, and unpleasant working conditions.

Medical and Health Service Managers

Doctors may do the actual health work, but it is the medical and health service managers that ensure all medical facilities operate without issues. These individuals are responsible for the budget, staff, equipment, and records of a medical facility, which includes hospitals, clinics, and public health facilities. The median annual salary for this job is on the higher end at $99,730. A bachelor's degree usually suffices for such a role but sometimes a master's degree is required, depending on the facility.

The Bottom Line

The public sector has a multitude of well-paying jobs that support a variety of industries and skill sets. One of the main reasons that public service workers can end up earning so much is that they receive regular salary increases with the number of years of service they put in, and many have unions to represent them in collective bargaining.

Keep in mind, however, that not all public service jobs are highly paid when compared to the private sector - public defenders for example - but the service and support that they provide to the betterment of a community is rewarding for many public service employees to make up for the difference.