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The term civil service has two distinct meanings:
- Branch of governmental service in which individuals are hired on the basis of merit which is proven by the use of competitive examinations.
- Body of employees in any government agency, except the military.
A civil servant or public servant is a civilian career public sector employee working for a government department or agency. The term explicitly excludes the armed services, although civilian officials will work at "Defence Ministry" headquarters. The term always includes the (sovereign) state's employees; whether regional, or sub-state, or even municipal employees are called "civil servants" varies from country to country. In the United Kingdom, for instance, only Crown employees are civil servants, county or city employees are not.
Many consider the study of civil service to be a part of the field of public administration. Workers in "non-departmental public bodies" (sometimes called "QUANGOs") may also be classed as civil servants for the purpose of statistics and possibly for their terms and conditions. Collectively a state's civil servants form its Civil Service or Public Service.