How to Become an IAS Officer

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How to Become IAS

Indian Administrative Officer (IAS) is a Civil Service in India which is of a very high rank. The exam is conducted by Union Public Service Commission. This exam is one of the toughest exams conducted in India. It is one of the three arms of All India Services along with the Indian Police Service (IPS) and Indian Forest Service (IFS). Those selected for these services can work for the Government of India, States Government, or any of the various Public Sector Undertakings.

What is IAS?

  • IAS was previously called as Imperial Civil Service (ICS) and it was founded way back in 1858 during the British Rule in India. Post-independence on 26th January 1950, it was renamed as India Administrative Service (IAS).
  • To achieve the IAS one needs to pass an exam conducted by the Union Public Service Commission of India. The exam is conducted every year and lakhs of aspirants try their luck by rigorous study and hard work. After clearing the exam, the candidate has to attend an interview or series of them to ensure their candidature. The interviews are conducted by the UPSC Panel Board Members.
  • The interviews are arguably different from their kind and the questions are asked to test the capability of the candidate or to know the personality traits of the candidates.
  • The Chairman of the Board and the other three experts in their field form an interview panel. 

Way to IAS

Since becoming an IAS is not an easy job it is essential for the aspirants to know about the process if one wants to know how to become an IAS officer. Every year UPSC conducts the Civil Services Examination (CSE) to decide on candidates for more than 20 services (IAS, IPS, IFS). The data indicates that on an average eight lakh students apply for CSE and on an average five lakh students attend the exams.

The process of selection of candidates is done through a preliminary exam, main exam, and interview/personality test. To understand how to become an IAS officer in India you must know about the UPSC Civil Service Examination. There are two groups ‘A’ and ‘B’ under which your services can be posted.

Also, Read: How to Become an IFS Officer?

Various Civil Service Categories:

  • Indian Administrative Service
  • Indian Police Service
  • Indian Foreign Service
  • Indian Audit & Account Service “Group A”
  • Indian ‘P & T’ Accounts and Finance Service “Group A”
  • Indian Revenue Service (Customs and Central Excise) “Group A”
  • Indian Defence Accounts Service “Group A”
  • Indian Revenue Service (I.T.) “Group A”
  • Indian Ordnance Factories Service “Group A” (Assistant Works Manager, Administration)
  • Indian Postal Service “Group A”
  • Indian Civil Accounts Service “Group A”
  • Indian Railway Traffic Service “Group A”
  • Indian Railways Accounts Service “Group A”
  • Indian Railway Personnel Service “Group A”
  • Post of Assistant Security Commissioner in Railway Protection Force “Group A”
  • Indian Defence Estate Service “Group A”
  • Indian Information Service (Junior Grade) “Group A”
  • Indian Trade Service “Group A”
  • Indian Corporate Law Service “Group A”
  • Armed Forces Headquarters Civil Service “Group B” (Section Officer’s Grade)
  • Delhi, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep, Daman & Diu, and Dadra & Nagar Haveli Civil Service “Group B”
  • Delhi, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep, Daman & Diu, and Dadra & Nagar Haveli Police Service “Group B”
  • Pondicherry Civil Service “Group B”
  • Pondicherry Police Service “Group B”

Having understood where you can be deputed we will now try to understand how to become an IAS officer step by step. The UPSC board releases the notification about the prelims of the IAS exam. The number of vacancies in each department is also mentioned in the notice. One who wants to appear for the exam has to apply on the official website upsc.gov.in. Candidate and apply for the exam of his preference.

Eligibility Criteria for Exam:

  • Candidate must be Indian Citizen
  • Age limit 21 to 32 years
  • Graduate in any stream

Number of attempts allowed:

Depending on the candidate’s category, he or she can attempt UPSC exams as follows

  • General/ Unreserved Category – 6 times (till the age of 32)
  • OBC/NCL & OBC NCL PwD – 9 times (till the age of 35 years)
  • General PwD – 9 times (till the age of 32 years)
  • SC/ST – No limit (till the age of 37 years)

Examination structure:

The UPSC board conducts three exams and from the date of notification to completion, the process normally takes 14 to 15 months.

  • Preliminary CSE – The prelim is carried out n the month of June and is the first step of the selection process. It is an objective type of exam. Those who clear prelim can appear for the main exam
  • Main CSE or Civil Services Main examination is conducted in September. This is a subjective type of exam with two subjects. Candidates can choose the subjects for which they want to appear. Subjects vary from languages to mathematics to political science.
  • Those who qualify are then subjected to the interview round. This is also called a personality test and is done to judge the candidate on all aspects. This step is said to be the toughest of the process.

After these three exams, the merit list of marks is published by UPSC. Those who top the merit list are chosen as IAS based on the number of vacancies. Usually, it’s the top 45 who will make it to the IAS selection though the number is not fixed. The selected candidates are posted as ‘sub-divisional magistrate’ on a probationary period. This is a mandatory initial posting applicable to all new IAS officers. The successful candidates need to undergo training at the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration in Mussoorie, Uttarakhand. All the IAS officers are appointed by the ‘President of India’.

The success ratio of the UPSC CSE exams is as low as 0.01%. By seeing the ratio one can easily understand the complex nature of the study needed to clear IAS. The dedication in study for IAS officers, world around update knowledge, and hard work can only show the dim light of the path to IAS.

While you learn about how to become an IAS officer in India, it is essential to know the responsibilities too. In India, as an IAS officer, you might face tough issues if you are not able to gel yourself with the system. After taking those efforts to be an IAS, if you think the rest of the life is comfortable, unfortunately, it is not so. There are some fields in which you may not have people crossing your path, but most of the fields are.   

History and Reforms of IAS:

As we have seen earlier, the IAS was initially Imperial Civil Service (ICS), formed by the British Government ruling in India. The purpose of forming ICS was entirely different than that of any independent country. British wanted to run their government for better trading in India and for that they wanted some Indian nationals to be loyal to the British. They were offered a good payment and they needed to work as British government servants. Many Indian freedom fighters got the education but they found it is completely in favor of the British, hence did not accept any government job. The civil services then were classified into three categories – covenanted, uncovenanted, and special civil services. The covenanted type was largely occupied by British nationals with higher posts. The uncovenanted civil service was introduced for Indian nationals for long-term administration. The special category was for Indian Forest Service, Imperial Police, and Indian Political Service.

After the Parliament of the United Kingdom passed the Government of India Act 1919, the Secretary for the State of India was split into two parts, All India Services and Central Services. The renamed Indian Civil Service was one of the ten All India Services. On the importance of sustaining the All India Services post-independence, the statement from Shri Vallabhbhai Patel in the Constituent Assembly of India holds great importance. He said

“There is no alternative to this administrative system. You will not have united India if you do not have a good All-India Service which has the independence to speak out its mind, which has the sense of security that you will stand by your work. If you do not adopt this course, then do not follow the present constitution. Substitute something else, these people are the instrument. Remove them and see nothing but a picture of chaos all over the country.”

After the partition, the Indian Civil Services became Indian Administrative Service and has remained so till now. The IAS exams are so difficult that only 180 candidates clear from a lot of over 1 million applicants. The officers who cleared the UPSC selection process are called as direct recruits. Some officers are also recruited from State Civil Service and in very rare cases, are recruited from non-state civil service. The ratio of 2:1 is maintained between direct recruits and promotes.

Between 1951 to 1979, the selected IAS candidate was required to submit two additional papers as well as three optional papers (instead of two as in other civil services) to become eligible for Indian Administrative Service or Indian Foreign Service. These two additional papers of the post-graduation level would give higher status for the IAS or IFS. Later these two additional submissions were removed but the higher status requirement remained the same.

Allocation Policy:

If you want to know how to become an IAS officer, then a thorough knowledge of the subject is needed. The study for the IAS officer is desired not only to clear the exam but also to know about the posting policies of the government.

According to the announcement of the Central Government of India in 2017, the allocation policy of the new IAS cadres is revised. Before 2017, a candidate did not have the option to choose his reference location. They were posted all over India according to the available category. In 2017, however, cadre can first select the zones of preference in descending order, and then he selects the cadre preference from each zone. The candidate can prefer his second cadre preference from every preferred zone. Once selected, any changes in the same are not permitted. Hence the candidate should be very clear while selecting the zone and cadre.

Thus, recruits will remain in their allocated cadre or may work for the Government of India.

Zones under current allocation policy:

  1. Zone-I:- Arunachal Pradesh-Goa-Mizoram and Union Territories (Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Rajasthan, and Haryana
  2. Zone-II:- Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, and Odisha
  3. Zone-III:- Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh
  4. Zone-IV:- West Bengal, Sikkim, Assam-Meghalaya, Manipur, Tripura, and Nagaland
  5. Zone-V: – Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Kerala.

Roles and Responsibilities of an IAS Officer:

  • To implement union and state government policies at the grass-root levels.
  • To maintain law and order
  • To collect revenue and work in court matters related to revenue and crime
  • To handle field positions as sub-divisional magistrate, additional district magistrate, district magistrate, and divisional commissioner and act as a mediator between the public and the government.
  • To handle administration and daily proceedings of the government including the formulation and implementation of policy.
  • At a higher level in the Government of India as a joint secretary, additional secretary, special secretary, or equivalent, to take final decision on certain matters in consultation with the relevant minister-in-charge.

Career Graph:

The initial roll of each IAS officer remains to be a sub-divisional magistrate (SDM). However, as per the new designation of ‘assistant secretary’ announced in 2015, they can be posted in Delhi on a three- month assignment under a training regime. This was done to give early exposure to the IAS officers about the central functions. As per this training program, the new IAS officers need to work on projects in their respective areas. Out of these, 36 are selected to present in front of all secretaries of the Government of India. 16 of it is selected to go before Cabinet Secretary and the final 8 are selected to present in front of the Prime Minister.

Upon completion of this project, the posting is done in a district as a ‘district magistrate’ and ‘collector’. Typically this tenure lasts many years. After this only the officer may get promoted to head a state as a ‘divisional commissioner’. The pay-scale starts from Rs 56,100 while working as ‘sub-divisional magistrate’ to Rs 2, 50,000 which is the highest level of ‘Cabinet Secretary’. Though the pay-scale seems less, the perks for the IAS officer are lucrative.

Summary of the path to IAS Officer:

  • How to apply for IAS officer: – The candidate needs to fill the online form @upsconline.nic.in before or on the last date. Pay the fees as per the category of the candidate.
  • How to become an IAS officer after graduation: The same first step needs to be followed as above.
  • Examination: – The date of the exams will be declared by the UPSC board. You need to get your hall ticket online or in person. A hall ticket is a must to appear for the exam. You need to clear the preliminary exam to be eligible for the main CSE.
  • Syllabus for IAS: – The prelim consists of two components 1. General studies and 2. Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT) each paper of 200 marks.
  • General Studies: – Consists of various subjects as Indian Polity, Geography, History, Indian Economy. Science and Technology, Environment and Ecology, International Relations, and related current affairs.
  • CSAT:- Comprehension, Decision-making and problem solving, Communication skills, Logical reasoning, General Mental ability, Basic numeracy
  • IAS Main Exam:- There will be six papers in the main exam for IAS
  • Paper I – Essay (medium of candidate’s choice)
  • Paper II – General Studies – I (Indian Heritage & Culture, History & Geography of the World & Society)
  • Paper III – General Studies – II (Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice & International Relations)
  • Paper IV – General Studies – III (Technology, Economic Development, Biodiversity, Security & Disaster Management)
  • Paper V – General Studies – IV (Ethics, Integrity & Aptitude)
  • Paper VI – Optional Subject – Paper I
  • Paper VII – Optional Subject – Paper II (Candidates can choose the subject of their area for the optional paper)

Based on the above information the aspirant can plan the study for the IAS officer

  • Preparation for Interview/Personality Test:- One must keep the following tips in mind for the preparation of an interview.
  • Early preparations
  • Know who you are
  • Recite your resume by reading multiple times
  • Maintain a positive attitude
  • Be high on self-confidence
  • Talk truth
  • Work on your communication skills
  • Avoid lengthy conversation
  • Read daily newspaper as well as google world news
  • Practice your hobbies well
  • Study more about your optional subject
  • Keep graduation subject knowledge update
  • Take a stand based on your knowledge. Do not look bias or open the controversial subjects
  • Essential to have a thorough knowledge of your district and state
  • Do not panic or frustrated. The answer can be ‘I have no idea about it’ if you can’t answer some questions
  • Understand the questions properly
  • Don’t believe the rumours about the selection process
  • Keep the thinking process simple. Most answers can be given using common sense.
  • Maintain high social traits.
  • Body language must not indicate the nervous status
  • Dress appropriately.
  • Must have a thorough check on the documents you carry.

Final Words

There are many good job opportunities in India, however, having a precious one is everybody’s dream. Being an IAS officer may not be everybody’s dream but surely it is a very high profile duty one may be performing for the country by becoming an IAS officer. After the above session of how to become an IAS officer step by step, many may have already started study for IAS officer. The path is not so easy but then the fruits are. One thing you must keep in mind that you can be a proud Indian and a trend-setter considering the power acquired by the IAS. Those who can handle the power appropriately are only destined to be the role model for others.

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