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Public service motivation, prosocial behaviours, and career ambitions

Jaclyn Schede Piatak (Department of Political Science & Public Administration, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Charlotte, North Carolina, United States.)

International Journal of Manpower

ISSN: 0143-7720

Article publication date: 1 August 2016




The purpose of this paper is to examine the behavioural consequences of public service motivation (PSM) and how motivation relates to an individual’s call to serve both inside and outside of the workplace. More specifically, this study examines whether and how PSM relates to prosocial behaviours – volunteering and giving – and career ambitions to work in the government or non-profit sector among public affair graduate students.


Logistic regression is used to examine the PSM link using a composite of the 40-item scale, each of the six dimensions – commitment to the public interest, civic duty, social justice, attraction to policymaking, compassion, and self-sacrifice – and the five-item scale from the Merit Principles Survey. The analyses draw upon data from a unique online survey of 122 graduate students in Master of Public Administration and Master of Public Policy programmes.


The results indicate that people with higher levels of PSM are more likely to want to work in public service and volunteer. However, mixed results were found for the relationship between PSM and giving charitable donations and career ambitions to work in government and no link was found for career ambitions to work in the non-profit sector.


This paper answers calls to examine the dimensions of PSM and examines Perry’s (1996) original conception. The results provide practical implications for human resource managers as well as non-profit and public managers in recruiting and retaining employees and volunteers.



Piatak, J.S. (2016), "Public service motivation, prosocial behaviours, and career ambitions", International Journal of Manpower, Vol. 37 No. 5, pp. 804-821.



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