ias introduction

How to become IAS/IPS/IFS/IRS officer

Yashwant Kale General, UPSC 4 Comments

What is IAS?

IAS is the short form or the abbreviation of Indian Administrative Service. It is one of the prestigious services among the twenty four services like IPS, IFS, IRS, etc. The Indian Administrative Service is the premier administrative civil service of the Government of India. These exams are conducted by the UPSC (Union Public Service Commission ) for selecting and interviewing deserving candidates. IAS officers hold key and strategic positions in the Union Government, States and in PSUs (public sector undertakings). One interesting feature is this –

IAS is the permanent bureaucracy in India.

It forms an inseparable part of the executive branch of the Government of India. This enables continuity and neutrality to the administration.

Unlike other civil services candidates, a person once appointed to Indian Administrative Service (IAS) or the Indian Foreign Service (IFS) becomes ineligible to re-appear in the Civil Services Examination conducted by Union Public Service Commission.

Do you know why? Because there are no higher civil services other than aforementioned two services under Government of India.

There are three All India Services. They are the Indian police, forest services and finally the IAS. Person employed in any of the three All India Services can be employed by both the Union and the State Governments.

After a person is selected and clears all the rounds of the exam, he / she will be posted in any of the indian services on probation. After probation as Sub-Divisional Magistrate and confirming to the service, an IAS officer is given the administrative command of entire district and thus he is then known as the District Collector.

A person who works in the administrative service for a longer period of time and reaches the heights of his / her career, they are then given the position of a head of a whole department in the Government of India and later entire Ministries of Government of India and its States. IAS officers also represent Government of India at international levels in bilateral and multilateral negotiations. On deputations they are also required to work at Intergovernmental organizations like World Bank, United Nations and / or its Agencies, etc. IAS officers play a key role at various levels of administration in conducting free, fair and smooth elections in India under the direction of Election Commission of India.

The Civil services examination is no doubt one of the most difficult exams conducted in India. One aspiring to be an civil services servant must at least start preparing two years prior to taking the prelims.

Nirmal Kumar Mukherjee who retired as Cabinet Secretary in April 1980, had been the last Indian administrative officer who had originally joined as an ICS in 1944.
Did you know? At the time of the partition of India the Indian Civil Service was divided between India and Pakistan. The part which went to India was named the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) and the part which went to Pakistan was named the Civil Service of Pakistan (CSP).

 How to become an IAS officer

Recruitment to the Indian Administrative Service is done through an extremely competitive examination called the “Civil Services Examination”, organized by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC). Getting into IAS is an easy task. With right attitude and approach one can easily crack the exam. The exam or the UPSC Civil Services Exam consists of three stages. They are




According to statistics and to get a gist of how tough the exam is – in 2012 over 5,00,000 candidates applied for this exam from which 170 were finally recruited into the Indian Administrative Service. Of all the civil services jobs, the IAS is generally the first choice of most Civil Services aspirants. It is because of the prestige and diversity of career the job offers. What makes getting into IAS difficult is the limited number vacancies and first preference by most of the candidates. In the 2011 batch, of the 425 selected candidates, 370 indicated IAS as their first preference while 25 chose IFS, 15 chose IRS and the remaining 15 chose IPS.

Now that you have some idea about the competition of the exam, let us discuss about the procedure and stages involved in the exam. The Civil Services Examination is a grueling three – stage process. The entire process spans about twelve months.

Preliminary Exam – Candidates have to first appear for the preliminary examination. It has two papers. The candidates are tested on subject areas such as economics, politics, history, geography, environment, awareness of current affairs, reading comprehension, logical reasoning and basic quantitative / numerical skills. In general parlance, this exam is referred to as prelims. Only those who qualify in the preliminary exams are eligible to proceed to the second stage.

Mains Exam – This is referred to as the Main exam and in general parlance is known as Mains. Those who have qualified to appear in the Mains are supposed to appear for and take exams for nine papers in the Mains exams. The candidates here are tested on subject areas such as Indian and World history, constitutional law, international relations and multilateral bodies, World geography and Administrative ethics. Those who successfully clear the Mains papers can assume that they have won half the battle.

Interview – The other half battle is one would have to face the toughest of the interviews ever – the interview conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) to all the eligible candidates. The interview questions usually last about an hour. The candidates are tested for their wit, knowledge, adaptability, ingenuity, cognizance, skill etc. After this gruesome battle, the officials prepare a final list of recommended candidates who they feel are eligible. This list is then forwarded to the Government of India where the final lists are decided. After the final decision, the list of finalists is released.

How many times can I attempt the exam?

Many people are often confused with the number of attempts they can attempt the civil services exam. Yes, there is a limit to the number of times you can attempt the exam. The minimum age to appear for IAS Exam is 21 years at the time of registering for the exam or as per the date mentioned in the examination notification. The upper age limit for the General category candidates is 32 years while that for Other Backward Castes (OBC) candidates is 35 years.

The number of attempts permissible for a general category candidates in the UPSC Civil Services Exam is SIX.
A good understanding of the UPSC syllabus and the exam pattern is the first step towards success for all the freshers.

Allocation and Placement

After being selected, candidates are then allocated to “cadres.” There is one cadre in each Indian state, except for three joint cadres: Assam – Meghalaya, Manipur – Tripura, and Arunachal Pradesh – Goa – Mizoram – Union Territories (AGMUT).

Insider-Outsider ratio

The “insider-outsider ratio” which means the ratio of officers who are posted in their home states is maintained as 1:2. as ‘insiders’. The rest are posted outsiders according to the ‘roster’ in states other than their home states.

Till 2008 there was no choice for any state cadre and the candidates, if not placed in the insider vacancy of their home states, were allotted to different states in alphabetic order of the roster, beginning with the letters A,H,M,T for that particular year. For example if in a particular year the roster begins from ‘A’, which means the first candidate in the roster will go to the Andhra Pradesh state cadre of IAS, the next one to Bihar and then to Chhattisgarh, Gujarat and so on in alphabetical order. The next year the roster starts from ‘H’, for either Haryana or Himachal Pradesh and continues in the order mentioned before. This is an highly intricate system has on one hand ensured that officers from different states are placed all over India. On the other hand it has also resulted in wide disparities in the kind of professional exposure for officers. When we compare officers in small / big and also in terms of developed and backward states, as the system ensures that the officers are permanently placed to only one state cadre. The only way the allotted state cadre can be changed is by marriage to an officer of another state cadre of IAS / IPS / IFS. One can also go to his home state cadre on deputation but for a limited period only after which one has to invariably return to the cadre allotted to him or her before.

The centralising effect of these measures was considered extremely important by the system’s framers. But it has received increasing criticism over the years. In his keynote address at the 50th anniversary of the Service in Mussoorie, former Cabinet Secretary Nirmal Mukarji argued that separate central, state and local bureaucracies should eventually replace the IAS as an aid to efficiency. There are also concerns that without such reform, the IAS will be unable to move from a command and control strategy to a more interactive, interdependent system.

Functions of A Civil Servant / Officer

A civil servant / officer is responsible for the law and order and general administration in the area under his work. Typically the functions of an IAS officer are as follows:

● To handle the daily affairs of the government, including framing and implementation of policy in consultation with the minister in-charge of the concerned ministry

● Implementation of policies and which requires supervision for better execution.

● Implementation also requires one to travel places where the policies are being implemented.

● Implementation also includes expenditure of public funds which again requires personal supervision. It is because the officers are answerable to the Parliament and State Legislature for any irregularities that may occur.

● In the process of policy formulation and decision making, officers at various levels like joint secretary, deputy secretary make their contributions and the final shape to the policy is given or a final decision is taken with the concurrence of the minister concerned or the cabinet depending upon the gravity of the situation.

Appointments to other Organizations / Bodies

Like previously mentioned, IAS officers can be appointed in autonomous organizations and / or their subordinate organizations / PSUs / UN Organizations / other international organizations such as World Bank, Asian Development Bank in various positions. They also serve as Personal Secretaries to Ministers in Central Government. Also there is a provision for deputation of IAS officers to private organizations but for a fixed tenure.


Like mentioned previously, most IAS officers start their careers in the state administration at the sub – divisional level as a sub divisional magistrate. They are entrusted with the law and order situation of the city along with general administration and development work of the areas under their charge.

Salary Structure

Below you will find the grade positions along with their salary pay scale for the civil servants.

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Now that you are aware of the dedication and efforts required from your end to succeed in the civil services examination conducted by the UPSC, follow our series of articles to be followed for tips and guides on how to prepare, preparation strategies, learning material, syllabus and more.


Comments 4

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