Politicians, from the local to the federal level, have the rewarding job of creating government policies and seeing many of them come to fruition. These are the individuals who are partly responsible for the structure within society. A public servant also works to encourage the best interest of the public. Although politicians and public servants are similar – in fact, politicians are considered to be one type of public servant – they also have some notable differences.
A common definition of a public servant is an individual who makes public well-being her life's work. Police officers, firefighters, military service members, city clerks and public works officials are well known examples of public servants. When you think of a public servant, teachers, social workers and charity volunteers may also come to mind.
When you think of the politicians, you may think of the president, mayor, governor or congresswoman. Politicians are surrounded by consultants, media relations officials, fundraisers and schedulers. These individuals, who are politicians in their own right, help those in political office to maintain a positive image, to stay informed, to research any background information pertaining to a potential law and to draft documents. The political office holder delegates responsibilities to her support team.
A public servant may be promoted into a higher position by a higher ranking authority. To obtain a higher position, a person who holds a traditional political office, such as a mayor or governor, cannot receive a promotion – she must campaign and be elected for that position as well. Some individuals who hold political offices have the power to make laws, whereas some public servants may enforce laws, but generally do not create them. Politicians are held accountable for the decisions they make and policies they contribute. When a police officer or military service member makes a decision, she is generally following protocol and accountability lies with a higher authority. Additionally, the term public servant covers a wider scope of careers and individuals than the term politician, which is limited to individuals who run for public office and those who support them.
Politicians and public servants are similar in that a politician is a public servant. However, a public servant is not necessarily a politician. Both politicians and public servants work to improve the quality of society and public welfare and both may be elected into their positions. Both positions have associations with local, state or federal governments, and women play an integral role in both politics and in public service. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, as of the time of this publication, women are 50 percent more likely to work in the public sector, in government positions, than men are.
A charismatic leader who is highly educated and comfortable in the public eye would prefer the position of a politician. The ideal politician is also comfortable with being held accountable for the impact policies and regulations have on the general public. Those who would rather be out of the public eye, yet still help promote public interest would prefer the position of a public servant.
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