IAS - Career Prospect and Preparation Review  

Choosing a prestigious and remunerative career is not a difficult task. But, translating that dream into reality initially needs adequate guiding information. Experiences indicate realistic choice of career primarily depends on right assessment of resources that one can muster along with proper planning, determination, tireless efforts and intense studies to make the dream a reality. Adequate and useful information in the bud is necessary to prepare oneself for negotiating hurdles during the career or avoid imbalances in real life. So, aspirants should have details of the dream-profession and many things must be considered and analyzed properly before finally choosing a challenging career like IAS. Otherwise, time, labor and money may be wasted.

General Information about IAS

Indian Administrative Services or IAS is one of the most challenging careers in the public sector in India. IAS cadre is a powerful tool of the governments ( Central and States ) to implement their policies. IAS officers handle considerable powers for framing and supervision of government programs and expenditure of public money within the boundaries of relevant Indian laws. However, bright academic record is not essential to enter the competition for IAS. Any Indian citizen, with a simple graduation degree from a recognized university and not less than 21 years of age, can sit for the Preliminary Exam of IAS. Upper age limit for General Category is 30 years, for OBC 33 years and for SC/ST 35 years. General candidates are allowed to compete up to 4 times and OBC candidates up to 7 times. There is no restriction about number of attempts for SC/ST candidates. Notification is usually published in November/December and Preliminary Exam is conducted in next May (tentative) each year. Nearly 750 candidates are directly recruited from more than five lakh candidates (2011-12 Report).

Syllabus and Preparation for Preliminary Exam

In brief, there are two papers for Preliminary Exam. viz. i) General Studies and ii) General Aptitude where each question paper is objective type/multiple choice and carry 200 marks. General Studies Paper mainly contains Indian Constitution, Panchayati Raj, Poverty, Environment, Physical Geography and Current Events while General Aptitude Paper contains Communication Skill, Basic Numeracy, Logical Reasoning and Analytical Ability.

The Preliminary syllabus clearly indicates examinees should have clarity of concepts, analytical mind, quick decision making power to choose the correct alternative and, of course, diversified knowledge. Success in the Preliminary Exam requires social consciousness, basic knowledge about Constitutional Bodies besides conversant with NCERT text books of standard VII to XII. Hence, 12th Standard pass-out stage is a very good age for starting preparation.

Syllabus and Preparation for the Main Exam

IAS Main Examination syllabus includes 9 papers (total marks- 1750) with emphasis on general studies. It contains subjects as diverse as Indian Heritage, History and Geography of the World, Social Justice, International Relations, Ethics, Disaster Management and Economic Development. Since all the Main Exam papers are descriptive, examinees should have depth of understanding in various subjects and ability to express in clear and coherent manner. Choosing the single optional subject should be guided by familiarity with the subject and easy availability of study material. Besides, good language skill is a basic requirement for the exam.

IAS toppers suggest preparation for Preliminary and Main exams should be a combined effort. Beginners should have a clear idea about various stages of the exam and regular reading of a standard newspaper along with periodic reading of Economic and Political Weekly, Yojana and RBI publications will help. Focus should be concentrated on increasing fundamental knowledge of various subjects. Previous question papers also help to understand the trend, if any, and correctly choose exact study materials. But the most important thing, as one topper has suggested, is planning of the study, practice and testing of individual's preparation in continuous mock tests. What is to be kept in mind that one failure should not end the dream of an IAS aspirant. From a failure one should learn to fight more effectively next year.

Interview: IAS interview carries 275 marks. Patience and positive state of mind during the interview are key to success. Interviewees should be able to reply quickly, clearly and precisely on different subjects. The interview is also a personality test.

Placement and Designation: After selection, candidates are allocated to "cadres" and there is one cadre in each Indian state. IAS postings are based on some strict and intricate rules to ensure officers from different states serve far flung areas which differ from each other climatically, culturally and linguistically. But this guideline may not be followed every time and everywhere for different reasons. Most IAS officers start their careers as District Magistrate or District Collector. At the top level, Under Secretary, Joint Secretary, Deputy Secretary and Cabinet Secretary posts are adorned by IAS officers.

Salary and Facilities: In the entry level an IAS officer at present gets a pay scale up to Rs. 39,100/- which means the gross pay is not less than Rs. 51,000/-. At the senior most level (Cabinet Secretary) the salary at present goes up to Rs. 1,80,780/- (including fixed basic pay of Rs. 90,000/- ). Besides salary an IAS officer is entitled to get a very good accommodation, government cars, free electricity & telephone along with security guard, gardener, servant and cook. Above all, IAS cadre enjoys high social prestige in India.

Responsibility and Hurdles: Responsibility of an IAS officer is also very significant. The IAS cadre is an important machinery to implement different government decisions and schemes and the officers are answerable to state legislature and parliament for any irregularity that may occur. Promotion in IAS is subject to satisfaction of certain conditions and transfers are sometimes connected to nature of relations with political masters. Unofficial pressure of different interest groups against official norms and ethics sometimes becomes real problem for the cadre. At the same time the officers must have enough moral strength to refuse different allurements of the profession.

However, IAS cadre gets the opportunity to serve millions of under privileged countrymen. The service is also an opportunity to fight increasing corruption in our country. So, we conclude, that choosing IAS as profession demands careful review of lot of things.

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