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Realists are usually interested in 'things' - such as buildings, mechanics, equipment, tools, electronics etc. Their primary focus is dealing with these - as in building, fixing, operating or designing them. Involvement in these areas leads to high manual skills, or a fine aptitude for practical design - as found in the various forms of engineering.

Realists like to find practical solutions to problems using tools, technology and skilled work. Realists usually prefer to be active in their work environment, often do most of their work alone, and enjoy taking decisive action with a minimum amount of discussion and paperwork.

Salary Range
€79k - €103k
Career Zone

In Summary - Civil Service - Principal Officer

Part of the top management process in the Civil Service reporting to the Assistant Secretary.

Career Sectors

Civil Service - Principal Officers typically work in the following Career Sectors:

Civil & Public Service
Government, Politics & EU

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The Work - Civil Service - Principal Officer

Principal Officers are key participants in the top management process of the Public Service who generally have responsibility for managing a major policy development, business planning or service delivery unit within their Department. Specific duties and responsibilities include:

  • Formulating and developing policies, business plans and expenditure budgets
  • Providing advice on emerging policy proposals to Assistant Secretaries, Secretaries General, Ministers and Government
  • Preparing legislation and providing expert advice to Ministers and members of the Oireachtas
  • Monitoring policy formulation, strategy, legislative and regulatory development of a range of state, semi-state, private sector and national organisations
  • Representing the State on EU, Anglo-Irish and Cross-Border bodies and participating at meetings of international organisations where decisions reached may be of vital importance to Irish economic and social well-being

Interests - Civil Service - Principal Officer

This occupation is typically suited for people with the following Career Interests:


Administrative people are interested in work that offers security and a sense of being part of a larger process. They may be at their most productive under supervisors who give clear guidelines and while performing routine tasks in a methodical and reliable way.

They tend to enjoy clerical and most forms of office work, where they perform essential administrative duties. They often form the backbone of large and small organisations alike. They may enjoy being in charge of office filing systems, and using computers and other office equipment to keep things running smoothly. They usually like routine work hours and prefer comfortable indoor workplaces.


Enterprising people like situations that involve using resources for personal or corporate economic gain. Such people may have an opportunistic frame of mind, and are drawn to commerce, trade and making deals. Some pursue sales and marketing occupations. Many will eventually end up owning their own business, or in management roles in larger organisations. They tend to be very goal-oriented and work best when focused on a target. Some have an entrepreneurial inclination.


The Social person's interests focus on interacting with the people in their environment. In all cases, the Social person enjoys the personal contact with other people in preference to the impersonal dealings with things, data and ideas found in other groups.

Many will seek out positions where there is direct contact with the public in some advisory role, whether a receptionist or a counsellor. Social people are motivated by an interest in different types of people and like diversity in their work environments. Many are drawn towards careers in the caring professions and social welfare area, whilst others prefer teaching and other 'informing' roles.



Strategic Thinking - Contributes to the shaping of strategy and policy development in own area of responsibility, consistent with the strategies of the Department/ Government.

Contextual Awareness - Identifies and keeps up to date on key departmental, sectoral, national and international policies and economic, political and social trends that affect own role.

Analysis/ Problem Solving - The ability to rapidly assimilate information, discriminate between relevant and irrelevant information, and to see through to the core issues.You must haYo

Decision Making & Judgment - Uses sound judgment in coming to conclusions and in communicating with others.


Interpersonal Effectiveness - This area has to do with managing critical relationships and the ability to relate effectively with a diverse range of people internal and external to the department.

Communication - Makes an impact through fluent and articulate communication skills.


Planning & Managing Resources - Ensures that objectives are met by translating overall strategy into meaningful objectives that demonstrate a clear understanding of what is required and that others can relate to.

Managing & Developing People - Provides others with clear guidelines and indication of expectations. Sets high standards and monitors and supports in order to ensure delivery. Delegates wisely, inspires, motivates and challenges others to perform to their potential.

Commitment to Quality Results - Initiates and takes personal responsibility for delivering results on key work activities, even in difficult situations. Is willing to take control of situations and is visibly involved.


Flexibility & Change Orientation - Implements change taking a solution-focused and creative approach to dealing with problems. Identifies barriers to change and works to overcome them.

Initiative - Is capable of proactively identifying and implementing appropriate improvements /changes in own area of responsibility.

Full details of the specific PAS competency requirements for  Principal Officer are available here.

Entry Requirements - Civil Service - Principal Officer

Clerical Officer is the first step to a career in the Civil Service and the Executive Officer grade is the entry level to junior management in the Civil Service.

Progression through the management levels of the system are to Higher Executive Officer, Administrative officer, Assistant Principal and Principal Officer.

There are two routes to promotion in the Public Service:

External via the Civil Service-wide promotion process. The Public Appoiontments Service (PAS) and arrange:

  • Open Competitions (open to existing Civil Servants and non-Civil Servants)
  • Special Open Competitions relating to specific groups e.g. disabled persons
  • Confined competitions which are open to existing Civil Servants only

Non-External (Internal) via the promotion processes within individual Departments

  • An interview-based system operates for promotion. This comprises of a competency-based competitive interview, for all grades up the level of Principal Officer.

Following the lift of the moratorium, the Civil and Public Service are recruiting at various levels. Check www.publicjobs.ie for current vacancies. You may register a profile on the public jobs website and set up job alerts on your profile. You will then be notified of vacancies as they arise.

Last Updated: April, 2015

Pay & Salary - Civil Service - Principal Officer

Salary Range (thousands per year)* €79k - €103k

Data Source(s):

Last Updated: April, 2015

* The lower figures typically reflect starting salaries. Higher salaries are awarded to those with greater experience and responsibility. Positions in Dublin sometimes command higher salaries.

Labour Market Updates - Civil Service - Principal Officer

No shortages have been identified for this occupation.

National Skills Bulletin 2018

Useful Contacts - Civil Service - Principal Officer

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