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How to become an IAS Officer after graduation?

A career as an Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer is one of extreme prestige and one of the most coveted careers in the country. It comes with great responsibilities and powers and with the low number of vacancies each year that hardly reaches four figures, the clearing probability is around 1 in a million. Hence, the exam is one of the most difficult recruitment exams of its kind in the country. You need to prepare thoroughly and manage a strict schedule to crack it.

There are two ways to become an IAS officer:

  • You can get promoted from the position of Provincial Civil Service (PCS) officer. Every state has its own procedure and the average time frame for getting promoted varies from state to state. For instance, PCS officers in Tamil Nadu may get promoted within just over a decade, while PCS officers from Bihar may take around 20 years or more to get promoted as an IAS officer.
  • Clearing the civil services examination conducted by the Union Public Services Commission (UPSC). The exam recruits different types of officers for positions in the government. Depending on your rank in the exam, you may get recruited as an IAS, Indian Police Service (IPS), Indian Foreign Service (IFS), Indian Revenue Service (IRS) officer.

Role and responsibilities of an IAS officer

Depending on the posting, location, and department, an IAS officer may have to perform various tasks. Most of the work involves administrative duties of a district, department, area, or formulating policies, implementing them, heading Public Sector Undertaking (PSUs), and so on. The power of an IAS officer is vast and comprehensive:

  1. A sub-divisional magistrate who looks after development work, general administration, and law and order under his jurisdiction at the beginning of the career. 
  2. The most prestigious post held by IAS officers is usually Deputy Commissioner, District Collector, or District Magistrate.
  3. Implementation of development schemes
  4. Head of Departments in PSUs or duties as they come in the role of a State Secretariat
  5. Formation and implementation of policy under the relevant ministry
  6. Personal supervision of government expenditure on public projects
  7. Regulation enforcement due to the power granted by Drug Licenses Act, Arms Act, Essential Commodities Act, etc.

Eligibility Criteria

You need to fulfill three factors to be eligible for attending the civil services exam conducted by UPSC. it includes:

  • Nationality
  • Educational Qualification
  • Age Limit


Candidates who are a citizen of India with a valid ID can attend the exam. Apart from that subjects of Nepal or Bhutan and Tibetan refugees who came to permanently settle in India after 1962 are also eligible. However, they require a certificate of eligibility from the Government of India. A person of Indian Origin (PIO) who has migrated from countries like Burma, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, etc for permanently settling in India are also eligible.

Educational Qualification

If you have a degree from a Government of India recognized institute or an equivalent qualification you’re eligible for the exam. Moreover, students in the final year of graduation can also attend the exam.

Age Limit

The age limit for this exam is between 21 years to 32 years. However, there are relaxations for backward castes and those who aren’t in the general category. The upper age limit for people who aren’t in the general category:

  • SC/ST – 37 years
  • OBC – 35 years
  • Ex-Servicemen – 35 years
  • Disabled Defence Services Personnel – 35
  • People with Benchmark Disability – Economically Weaker Section (EWS) – 42 years

The total number of attempts for the exam remains 6 for the general category. For other categories, it is usually a maximum of 9 attempts.

IAS Exam

As mentioned above, there is no IAS exam. Instead, candidates with satisfactory ranks in the civil services exam conducted by the UPSC are recruited as IAS officers. There are six stages to this exam.

Stage 1 – UPSC Prelims

This round consists of two pacers – General Studies I and General Studies II also known as the CSAT (Civil Services Aptitude Test). This round is held for screening candidates and satisfactory scores qualify you for the Main exam. Each paper on this round has a total of 200 marks and you get 2 hours for completing the MCQ papers. 

Syllabus for General Studies I:

  • History of India and Indian National Movement
  • Current affairs of international and national importance
  • World and Indian Geography
  • Indian Governance and Polity including the political system, public policy, constitution, rights issues, etc
  • Economic and Social Development including subjects like poverty, sustainable development, social sector initiatives, etc
  • Biodiversity, Climate Change, and Environmental Ecology

Syllabus for CSAT:

  • Communication and interpersonal skills
  • Comprehension
  • General mental ability
  • Analytical ability and logical reasoning
  • Decision making and problem-solving
  • Numerics and data interpretation

You have to appear for both the papers to avoid disqualification and a minimum score of 33 percent secures you a seat for the Main exam.

Stage 2 – UPSC Mains

For the Mains, you will be tested on a total of 9 descriptive papers with two optional papers. Each paper has a total of 250 marks, except for the language papers that hold 300 marks. However, marks from the language papers are only for qualification and don’t contribute to your ranking.  

1. One Indian Language Paper – This paper tests you on your grasp over any one of the major Indian languages of your choice. The paper tests your comprehension and writing skills along with your command over the language and vocabulary in the same.

2. English Paper – The paper tests your comprehension and writing skills along with usage and vocabulary of the English language.

3. Essay Paper – This paper requires you to write an essay on any of the given topics in a medium or language of your choice.

4. General Studies I – This paper tests you on your knowledge of the history, culture, and geography of both India and the world. You are also tested on Indian heritage. The subjects are vast and you may be asked about anything from personalities in the 18th century to the effects of globalization on modern India.   

5. General Studies II – The second paper on general Studies covers topics related to social justice, international relations, constitution, Indian polity, and governance.

6. General Studies III – This paper tests your knowledge of biodiversity, climate change, disaster management, and technology. It can even include things like the effect of farm subsidies, and MSP (minimum support price) and its impact on the agricultural sector. You may get questions on infrastructure and investment models as well.

7. General Studies IV – The 7th descriptive paper is designed to test you on topics of Integrity, Ethics, and Aptitude. It includes things like work culture, code of ethics, the contribution of philosophers to society, and more. 

The final two papers are optional and you get to choose from one of the subjects. The list of optional subjects is very long and ranges from anthropology and agriculture to physics and zoology.

Also See: Indian Police Recruitment | UPSC Recruitment

Stage 3 – UPSC Personality Test

When you clear the Mains exam, you will be interviewed personally by the UPSC board. Apart from knowledge, you will be judged on many things including leadership quality, ability to handle stress, clarity of expression and thought, general awareness, etc. clearing this round secures your name in the final merit list published by the UPSC.

Tips for preparation

The Civil Services Exam held by UPSC is one of the toughest, if not the toughest exam in the country. Hence you can’t have a lax attitude if you want to crack it.

  • Divide your syllabus into an achievable study plan with a realistic time limit. Resolve yourself to stick to the plan and take the help of friends and family for the same.
  • Long study hours are common. However, it’s also important to take occasional breaks and avoid burnout. You want to keep your mind and body in an optimum state to absorb as much knowledge as possible with the highest efficiency.
  • Go through the prior year question papers and figure out your strategy accordingly
  • Participate in mock exams and time yourself to get through the paper without stressing yourself.
  • Current affairs play a huge role in the exam and hence it is important to stay updated with daily newspapers, magazines, online articles, and more such relevant sources of information.
  • Don’t doubt yourself and have more confidence in your abilities. Remember that you have numerous attempts and it’s important to maintain a steadfast effort with your custom strategy.

IAS Officer Salary

Since the 7th Pay Commission’s implementation, the slab system has been abolished and officers get a handsome take-home package at the end of each month. The basic salary of an IAS Officer starts from Rs 56,000 per month and can climb up to Rs 2,50,000 for someone who is in the position of Cabinet Secretary.

Apart from the salary, you also get allowances for transport, house rent and more. Moreover, your water and electricity bill is also subsidized and you get remuneration for household staff. After you are recruited as an IAS officer you are also trained at the government’s expense at the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration.