Reasons to Work in a State Capital City

Why You Want to Work in the City

Wisconsin State Capitol Building in Madison
Henryk Sadura / Getty Images

Capital cities generally offer more state government jobs than any other metropolitan area in a state. A state capital provides plenty of opportunities for those who want to work in state government—or any level of government for that matter— and it offers other benefits as well.

Increased Pay

Almost all state agencies are headquartered in the state capital, and individuals who work there tend to make the most money. People in front-line positions at headquarters earn more than front-line personnel in field offices. This happens for several reasons:

  • Central office personnel support and sometimes even direct the actions taken by field staff. Front-line central office staff often outrank front-line and even supervisory field staff. Front-line supervisors in the field might give up management responsibilities to take on a central office job.
  • Front-line central office staff report to managers with broader spans of authority. Managers in the central office often have authority over some aspect of statewide operations.
  • Central office managers strive to balance consistency with flexibility. Field managers must have the freedom to address individual situations that come to them, but there should be some consistency among the levels of service that citizens receive in different parts of the state. A field manager’s authority is typically limited to a defined geographic area.
  • Central office staff tends to have more tenure. These positions are promotions for field staff employees, and they're often hired to fill central office positions. Those with proven track records within the organization stand a better chance of getting hired for a central office job than those with little or no experience within the organization.

More Job Opportunities

State governments can offer a diverse variety of jobs over the course of individuals' careers. Drastically different agencies can be headquartered in the same office building in capital cities. You can get a completely different job with a totally different agency simply by being hired by someone on another floor—and your daily commute won't change.

Jumping from agency to agency will get you pay raises, but you're unlikely to move into greater management roles. Upper-level managers tend to be promoted from within an organization or agency. Hopping around will help you find the agency with the culture and opportunities best suited for you, however.

Local Government Jobs

Capital cities, surrounding suburbs, and county governments also provide local government jobs. Larger populations mean greater demand for firefighters, police officers, teachers, and other local government workers.

Lobbying Firms

Lobbying firms often maintain their headquarters or offices in capital cities. They're busy year-round, but they reach a frenetic pace when legislators are in town. These firms value individuals who have intimate knowledge of the people and inner workings of government agencies relevant to their lobbying efforts.

Federal Agencies

Federal agencies like the Internal Revenue Service, Department of Agriculture and Department of Veterans Affairs have field offices in capital cities as well. State capitals provide a good base of operation for federal field offices.

Educational Opportunities

Capital cities often have more than one university. For example, the University of Texas at Austin, Texas State University-San Marcos, Southwestern University, St. Edward’s University, and Concordia University are all within a 30-mile radius of the Texas Capitol Building.

Universities located near large populations of government employees seek to capitalize on that market by offering online and night school programs as well, particularly for the degrees and certifications most often needed by government workers. Master’s programs in public administration, public affairs, and social work are common among those tailored to meet the needs of public servants.

Proximity to the Political Action

Working in a state capital provides a front row seat to the interaction between state politics and public administration, and it's often more than a front-row seat. Central office staff analyzes bills under consideration by the state legislature. Those analyses make it into the hands of agency leaders as they prepare to testify about those bills. Requests for data and public records come through the central office as well.