Career in Indian Administrative Services

IAS is the short form of Indian Administrative Service. It is one of the prestigious services among the 24 services like IPS, IFS etc for the which the UPSC conduct Civil Services Examination (CSE) for selecting the candidates. An officer selected into the Indian Administrative Service gets exposure in very diverse roles like the collector, commissioner, head of public sector units, chief secretary, cabinet secretary etc. Not only the experience and challenges but also the scope of making positive changes in the life of millions in India makes IAS a unique career choice.

Duties and Responsibilities of an IAS Officer

Being on the highest level of administrative services in both the State and Central Government, the various level of IAS officers have almost similar duties with increasing responsibility as level increases from a Junior Officers to a much Senior of the level of Under Secretary, District Magistrates, Directors of public enterprises and Directors of government departments to the Secretary.

Their duties involve:

  1. Planning in their district, making decisions on action to be taken.
Making plans on drawing board and modifying them as and when required.
  2. It is the IAS Officer's responsibility to implement the policies made in the best possible way and ensure rules and regulations are followed.
  3. IAS Officers must also supervise the progress of a wide range of projects, from the public to the corporate sectors.
  4. IAS officers are also responsible to monitor funds allocation and proper utilization for various projects, assuring that the funds are used for the intended purposes.
  5. IAS officers must assess projects, make recommendations and provide relevant information about projects, especially to parliament as and when called for.
  6. Besides all these routine responsibilities, IAS Officers will represent the government of India via boards of public corporations or institutions at national or international forums.

IAS officer Career prospects

Hierarchy in the Indian Administrative Services at the Central level.

Designation Time in Service
Under Secretary 4 years
Deputy Secretary 9 Years
Director 12 Years
Joint Secretary 20 Years
Additional Secretary 30 Years
Secretary 34 Years

Hierarchy of the Indian Administrative Services at the State level.

  • Deputy Secretary/ Additional District Magistrate: Entry Level of the Services
  • Joint Secretary/District Magistrate/Deputy Commissioner: 6 Years
  • Special Secretary: 9 Years
  • Secretary: 16 Years
  • Principal Secretary/ Financial Commissioners: 24 Years
  • Chief Secretary (TOP MOST POST): 30Years


  • There is no equivalent post of Cabinet Secretary in the State Administration.
  • The time span given above is the time period to reach to the designation given against it. But surely 
this is not the only criteria to reach at a particular designation.
  • Reach at an equivalent position in the Central administration takes longer than in the State 
administration because there are lesser vacancies at the central level than at the state level.

How to become an IAS officer?

Even though the exam to be undertaken is popularly known as IAS exam, it is officially called UPSC Civil Services Exam. The UPSC CSE consists of 3 stages – Prelims, Mains, and Interview.

Civil Services Examination(CSE)

UPSC (Union Public Service Commission) is the government agency responsible for selecting the right candidates for this service. Every year only around 1000 candidates are selected for all the 24 services combined. The number of candidates who applied for UPSC Civil Service Exam was about 9 lakhs in 2016, out of which around 4.5 lakh candidates appeared on the exam day.

This exam is widely considered as the toughest exam in the world, considering the exam duration (extends 1 year), depth of the syllabus and the competition involved. The first stage of the exam – Preliminary (objective) – is usually conducted around June, while the second stage, Mains (written), is conducted around October. Those who clear Mains will have to face interview/personality test during the March-May period. The final result usually comes in June.

IAS Exam Eligibility Criteria

The educational qualification needed to appear in UPSC CSE is a degree (graduation) in any subject.

IAS Exam Number of attempts permitted

The number of attempts permissible for a general category candidate in UPSC CSE is 6. For OBC candidates the number of attempts permitted it 9. SC/ST category candidates will have unlimited attempts till they attain the upper age limit to appear for UPSC CSE.

IAS Exam Age Limits

The minimum age to appear for UPSC Civil Services Exam is 21 years. Upper age limit for General category is 32 years, for OBC it is 35 years while for SC/ST it is 37 years.


A citizen of India, or a subject of Nepal, or a subject of Bhutan, or a Tibetan refugee who came over to India before January 1, 1962, with the intention of permanently settling in India, or
a person of Indian origin who has migrated from Pakistan, Burma, Sri Lanka, East African countries of Kenya, Uganda, the United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi, Zaire, Ethiopia and Vietnam with the intention of permanently settling in India.

IAS Syllabus

A good understanding of UPSC syllabus and exam pattern is the first step for all freshers. The Civil Services Preliminary exam comprises of two compulsory papers of 200 marks each (General Studies Paper I and General Studies Paper II). The questions will be of multiple choice, objective type. The marks in prelims will not be counted for final ranking, but just for qualification for the main exam.

A candidate’s rank in UPSC Civil Service Exam depends only on the mark scored in Main and Interview. The written examination (main) will consist of the following nine papers, but only 7 papers will be counted for final merit ranking. For the rest two papers, the candidate should secure minimum marks prescribed by UPSC each year. The main exam has 1750 marks while interview has 275 marks.