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Civil Servant vs. Public Servant: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 2, 2023
Civil servants work for government departments, while public servants work in the wider public sector including local authorities and public agencies.

Key Differences

Civil servants are individuals employed by government departments or agencies and serve the government of the day, implementing its policies and ensuring that public services are delivered effectively. They operate within governmental structures, ensuring that the policies devised by elected officials are put into practice. Civil servants might have a more stable job situation since they primarily work within the bureaucratic structures of government.
In contrast, public servants encompass a broader category that includes civil servants but also expands to those working in publicly funded organizations, such as educational institutions, healthcare facilities, and local authorities. Public servants could be anyone from teachers, police officers, doctors in public hospitals, to civil servants. They serve the public directly, providing essential services and ensuring the smooth operation of public functions and responsibilities. The work of public servants directly intersects with the public, as their roles focus on providing essential services to the community.
Despite their differing definitions, civil servants and public servants share the common purpose of serving the community. They both adhere to specific codes of conduct and ethical guidelines, ensuring that the services they provide meet the needs and expectations of the public. Their roles are crucial in maintaining the societal structures that uphold and protect communities and their inhabitants.
While both categories focus on serving the public, the ways in which they do so can vary significantly. A civil servant might work on creating and implementing policies, while a public servant, like a doctor or a teacher, engages more directly with the community, offering services that allow for the practical application of such policies. Their functions and interactions may differ, but both are fundamental pillars that ensure the functioning of a society.
The distinction between the two can sometimes blur, especially considering that civil servants are technically public servants due to their role in serving the community. However, the inverse is not always true, as not all public servants are civil servants. Recognizing their specific roles, responsibilities, and spheres of influence is vital in understanding the unique functions and impacts that both civil and public servants have within a societal structure.

Comparison Chart


Works in government departments/agencies
Works in wider public sector

Employment Scope

Limited to government entities
Includes various public-funded organizations

Direct Public Interaction

Sometimes limited
Often direct and regular

Policy Implementation

Primary role
May not be directly involved


Tax inspector, Diplomat
Teachers, Doctors, Firefighters

Civil Servant and Public Servant Definitions

Civil Servant

Civil servants are individuals employed by the government to implement policies.
The civil servant processed the passport application efficiently.

Public Servant

They may work in various publicly funded organizations, such as schools or hospitals.
The public servant, a schoolteacher, prepared an innovative virtual learning module.

Civil Servant

Civil servants adhere to a strict code of conduct and ethics.
The civil servant refused a gift, adhering to ethical guidelines.

Public Servant

Public servants work in the public sector, providing essential services to communities.
The public servant worked overtime during the crisis to provide support.

Civil Servant

They often work behind the scenes, ensuring policies are practically applied.
The civil servant analyzed data to improve public service delivery.

Public Servant

Their roles are vast and varied, encompassing numerous professions and duties.
The public servant, a doctor, provided critical care during the pandemic.

Civil Servant

Civil servants are non-political and work for any governing party.
The civil servant diligently served different administrations impartially.

Public Servant

Public servants ensure the practical application of policies in society.
The public servant advocated for improved public facilities in the neighborhood.

Civil Servant

They operate within government structures, ensuring smooth public service delivery.
The civil servant organized a public consultation meeting on new policy proposals.

Public Servant

Public servants often have direct, regular interactions with the public.
The public servant, a police officer, helped maintain order during the event.


Are all civil servants public servants?

Yes, all civil servants are public servants because they serve the public, but not all public servants are civil servants.

What defines a public servant?

A public servant is anyone who works in the public sector, providing services to the community, and can include employees in various public-funded organizations.

What is a civil servant?

A civil servant is an individual employed by a government department or agency to implement policies and administer public services.

Can a teacher be considered a civil servant?

Typically no, a teacher is a public servant but not usually a civil servant because they do not work for a government department or agency.

Who employs civil servants?

Civil servants are employed by government departments or agencies.

What roles do public servants have in society?

Public servants perform various roles, such as teachers, doctors, and police officers, providing essential services to the community.

Can a civil servant work in a school?

Typically, civil servants do not work in schools; educators in schools are public servants.

How does a public servant serve the community?

Public servants serve the community by providing various essential services, such as education, healthcare, and safety.

Do civil servants work directly with the public?

Some civil servants work directly with the public, while others may work behind the scenes in policy implementation and administration.

Are public servants government employees?

Some public servants are government employees, while others may work in publicly funded organizations like schools or hospitals.

What is the main role of a civil servant?

The main role of a civil servant is to implement government policies and administer public services.

Can a doctor be a civil servant?

A doctor could be a civil servant if employed by a government health department but is generally considered a public servant.

What sectors can public servants work in?

Public servants can work in various sectors, including education, healthcare, safety, and more.

Do public servants have a duty towards policy implementation?

While public servants ensure the practical application of policies by providing services, they might not be directly involved in policy implementation like civil servants.

Are civil servants allowed to engage in political activities?

Typically, civil servants are restricted from engaging in certain political activities to maintain impartiality in their roles.

Are public servants and civil servants paid by the government?

Civil servants are paid by the government, while public servants may or may not be, depending on their specific employment sector.

Can a civil servant also be a public servant?

Yes, all civil servants are inherently public servants as they serve the public through their roles.

Is a politician a civil servant?

No, politicians are elected officials and not considered civil servants, who are non-political employees.

How are civil servants different from bureaucrats?

"Civil servants" and "bureaucrats" are often used interchangeably, but bureaucrats might imply higher-ranking officials within governmental administrative departments.

Do public servants have codes of conduct?

Yes, public servants typically adhere to specific codes of conduct and ethics pertinent to their respective roles and sectors.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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