The civil service been a part of the public service is a body responsible for planning, giving advice, and implementing policies and government ministries and departments. These employees are called civil servants. Government ministries are headed by ministers or commissioners and assisted by directors general or permanent secretaries, as well as other departmental heads.
The civil service modeled after the British civil service is usually hierarchical in structure and divided into five classes. At the top of the pyramidal structure are the administrative and professional classes, followed by the executive class, then the clerical and technical grades and the sub-clerical and sub-technical class (Note that the structure of the civil service varies from country to country).
1 – Administrative Class
The administrative class comprises the administrative officers of the civil service. In the past, this was the class that produced the permanent secretaries in the civil service. The permanent secretary is the professional head and the chief administrative officer of a ministry.
The administrative class advises the minister and assists in the development and implementation of government policies. There are about eight grades in the administrative class and they range from Administrative Officer Grade 1 (Director) at the top to the Administrative Officer Grade VIII at he lowest level. The minimum entry qualification into the administrative class is a good first degree in the Humanities, Physical and Social Sciences. Appointment is usually by competitive examinations and interview .
2 – Professional Class
The professional class comprises professionals like lawyers, doctors accountants, engineers, architects, statisticians, teachers and scientists.
Members of this class offer advice to the government on matters that are within their areas of competence and assist in the execution of government programmes. The minimum qualification for entry into the class is a relevant first degree.
In the past, the relationship between the professional and administrative classes was characterized by conflicts especially because the permanent secretary was appointed from the administrative cadre alone.
The executive class comprises the executive officers, technical officers, personal secretaries, contidential secretaries, technologists, nursing officers and other intermediate grades. The executive class, as the name implies, puts into effect the various policies and decisions of government.
In Nigeria, for example, the minimum qualifications for recruitment into this class used to be the Higher School Certificate or its equivalent. But because of the rapid expansion in higher education in the country, preference is now given to university or polytechnic graduates who cannot make the grade for recruitment into the administrative and professional classes.
4 – Clerical Class
The clerical class is a large group of junior officers who perform essentially routine and mundane duties in the civil service. In this class are clerical offmers, typists, craftsmen and drivers. Holders of Secondary School Certificate or Trade Test Certificates or equivalent qualifications are recruited into this class. It is common nowadays for degree or diploma holders to compete for positions in this class.
In the sub-clerical class are various cadres such as messengers, office assistants, cleaners, watchmen, labourers, dockworkers and garden boys. This class provides manual labour in the service. The major requirements for entry into this class are First School Leaving Certificate and physical fitness.
Promotion from one grade to another in this class is generally slow. For a staff to be considered for promotion from the grade of messenger to senior messenger in the Ghana Civil Service, the candidate must have served for a minimum of 15 years in that grade. Although lesser periods are stipulated for promotion from one grade to the other In this class in Nigeria, in practice, it take a minimum of five years to move from one grade to the other. Indeed, ther have been cases of people who joined the service as Cleaner on Grade Level one (the lowest grade in the service) and retired as Senior Cleaner on Grade Level 2 after putting in 35 years of service.