Indian Administrative Service & Provincial Civil Service

In India, IAS(Indian Administrative Service) and PCS(Provincial Civil Service) which are also known as State Civil Service, are very important pillars of the Indian government administration. Both are considered among the most popular services in India. Growth in the number of applications for these services is seen every year. Despite the career opportunities that have emerged in the private sector and the self-employment-related field in the last few years, the Indian young generation has a lot of passion for administrative services like IAS, IPS, PCS, etc.

IAS and PCS both are services of similar work profiles. Both services provide the best opportunities to do public service, like working for the basic facilities of the public like food, water, shelter, electricity, and sanitation. education. etc. But still, there is a lot of difference between these two services. IAS officers could serve in both center and state administration. In the state administration, a PCS officer mostly worked under the guidance of an IAS officer.
Many people have this doubt about these services that both the services IAS and IPS have SDM as their entry-level designation, then what is the difference between the two? Why is there so much difference between IAS and PCS officers that even after clearing the PCS exam, many PCS officers prepare to clear the IAS exam?

In this article, we will discuss the difference between IAS and PCS. To understand this topic better, first of all, we will talk about the basic functions of IAS & PCS one by one. After that, we will do their little counterparts on some dimensions in which they are different from each other. The contents of this article will include

  • IAS & its functions
  • PCS & its functions
  • Role and responsibility
  • Exam pattern & syllabus
  • Appointment, transfer & removal
  • Designation and promotions
  • Salary, perks & benefits
  • Conclusion

IAS & it’s functions

IAS is one of the most desirable and top career options in India. To become an IAS officer, one has to clear the civil service exam which is conducted by the union public service commission. This exam is conducted every year to fill the vacancies of other All India and central level services like IPS, IFS, IRS, etc. along with IAS. Every year more than 10 lakh applications are received for this exam of UPSC, out of which only 180 candidates make it to the final list of IAS officers.
The main job of IAS officers is to implement the policies and laws made by the government at their level and to frame new policies and plans as per the orders of the government.

PCS & its functions

PCS is also a very famous, respected, and important service which is separate for each state. A separate exam is conducted by the State public service commission of each state, for the recruitment of their PCS officers or state civil service officers. Lakhs of applicants apply for this exam for a very limited number of vacancies.
The responsibility of the PCS officers is to implement the policies and schemes of the state government at a smaller, branch level. These officers initially take charge of the administrative work at the block level. Apart from this, PCS officers also work to spread awareness to the public about the schemes and benefits availed by the government.

After discussing the basic things about the services, now let’s talk about the difference in these services, based on some dimensions.

Role and responsibility

If we compare, then an IAS gets more powers than a PCS officer. Usually, the authority of a PCS officer is always less than that of an IAS officer. PCS officers are appointed to very important positions in departments of state government. But we always have an IAS officer, on the top post of these departments, heading the department. That is, the final call on all the big and most important decisions of the department is of the IAS officer only. PCS officers always work under the guidance of an IAS officer. However, they are also given complete independence for some particular work, but still, their senior IAS officer can override all their decisions.
In some special conditions, when the head of the state executive, i.e. the Chief Minister of the state, appoints a PCS officer as an Officer on Special Duty. In that case, the power of that PCS officer increases a lot. Because to fulfill their special duty, they get authority and independence of many things.

Exam pattern & syllabus

The selection process of both IAS and PCS, both services is of 3-Tier

  • Tier 1 – Prelims
  • Tier 2 – Mains
  • Tier 3 – Interview

In Civil Service Exam, Tier 1 – the Preliminary stage consists of two papers, conducted in one day,

Name of the PaperNo of QuestionsMarks AllottedTime AllottedNature of Exam
Paper I: General Studies1002002 hoursThe score will be considered for Cut-off
Paper-II: CSAT(Civil Service Aptitude Test)802002 hoursQualifying Nature- Candidates will have to score 33% to qualify for CSAT.

Both the papers comprise objective-type questions with MCQs (Multiple-Choice Questions). While CSAT is qualifying in nature, the marks obtained in the General Studies paper determine selection for the mains examination.

Tier 2 – Mains of Civil Service Exam

PaperSubjectDurationIAS Total marks
Paper ACompulsory Indian language3 hours300
Paper BEnglish3 hours300
Paper IEssay3 hours250
Paper IIGeneral Studies I3 hours250
Paper IIIGeneral Studies II3 hours250
Paper IVGeneral Studies III3 hours250
Paper VGeneral Studies IV3 hours250
Paper VIOptional I3 hours250
Paper VIIOptional II3 hours250

All of the mains papers except for the language papers A and B are of a merit ranking nature, which sums up to a total of 1750. It is mandatory to score at least 25% in papers A and B. On the basis of the scores mains, approximately 2,5 times people of the total vacancies of the CSE, get the call letter for the next level.

Tier 3 – Interview, which of 275 marks, in which the personality test of the candidate is taken.
Then by combining the Tier 2 and Tier 3 marks, a merit list out of 2025 marks is prepared. And on the basis of that merit list, final recommendations for various vacancies are proposed.

UPSC civil service exam is conducted at the central level, so its exam pattern & syllabus is common for all the candidates of the states in the country. But in the case of PCS, their exam is conducted according to the states. There are 4 papers in the mains exam in some states, 5 in some, and 6 in some states. Somewhere the language exams are of qualifying nature and elsewhere not. In this manner, different patterns are followed in each state.

If we talk about eligibility criteria,
In Civil Service Exam
Age Limit: The candidate must be a minimum of 21 years of age for all categories.
Category wise age limit, relaxation, and maximum attempts-

  • General Category & EWS: 32 years; 6 attempts.
  • OBC (NCL): 32 + 3 years; 9 attempts.
  • SC/ST: 32 + 5 years; unlimited attempts.
  • Ex-Servicemen Commission Officer: 32 + 5 years + (3 years, if OBC or 5 Years, if SC/ST).
  • Persons with Benchmark Disabilities: 32 + 10 years; Gen/OBC Person with Benchmark Disability(EWS category)- 9 attempts & SC/ST – unlimited attempts.
  • Jammu & Kashmir Domicile: 32 + 5 years + (3 years, if OBC or 5 Years, if SC/ST); Number of attempts depends on the reserved category.

In the case of the PCS exam, each state can have its own separate eligibility criteria. In some states, the maximum allowed age is up to even 40 years, for the general category.

The minimum Education Qualification requirement is the same whether it is CSE or PCS exam. A Candidate must hold a Graduate degree from any of the Universities incorporated by an Act of the central or State Legislature in India or other educational institutions established by an Act of Parliament or declared to be deemed as a University under Section 3 of the University Grants Commission Act, 1956 or possess an equivalent qualification.

Appointment, transfer & removal

The selection process of IAS officers comes under CAT(Central Administrative Tribunal), whereas the selection of PCS officers comes under the jurisdiction of SAT(State Administrative Tribunal). Therefore the appointment of an IAS officer is done by the president while the appointment of the PCS officers of a state is done by the governor of that state.
When IAS officer is deputed to the centre, then all the authority related to them is with the central government only. But when an IAS officer is posted in a state cadre, then he is working under that state government. Therefore all the subjects related to them like the department in which they will work, the time till they will work, all these are decided by the state government. That’s why we often get to hear that there is a lot of political interference in the work of an IAS officer. The state government can suspend an IAS officer but that too for a very short time period. Despite these factors, the state government doesn’t get the power to terminate an IAS. An IAS officer is appointed by the president, that is why only the president can dismiss him from his service, that too on the advice of the union council of ministers. But if we talk about the case of PCS officers, then their transfer, suspension, removal, etc., all such powers related to them are with the state executive.

Designation and promotions

The entry of an IAS and a PCS officer into the state administration may be at the same level as SDM (Sub-Divisional Magistrate), but after that the whole story is different. Promotions are very fast in IAS while very slow in PCS. After approximately 8 years of service (including training), an IAS officer gets a chance to become a DM(District Magistrate) which is also known as the District collector. But it takes around 20-25 years for a PCS officer to reach an equivalent level. However, after a minimum of 12 years of service, PCS officers definitely get a chance to get promoted in IAS by clearing the departmental exam conducted by UPSC. The time period to be eligible to get promoted in IAS differs from state to state. In some states, this is even more than 20 years. IAS and PCS designation are not comparable. IAS officers are recommended for one of the top administrative posts in India like the Cabinet secretary, Finance secretary, education secretary, etc. Almost all the secretary-level posts in the state government are also occupied by the IAS officers. PCS officers mostly get administrative posts at the branch level of the ministries and departments.

Salary, perks & benefits

Both the services kick start from matrix pay level 10, whose basic salary is Rs 56100, and TA, DA, HRA, etc. extra. The salary of an IAS officer is fixed by the Centre but paid by the state government. All the IAS officers in different states across the country get similar salaries at even levels. But in the case of PCS officers, their salary is fixed by the state itself. That’s why their salary can vary a lot from state to state.
If we talk about all the perks and benefits, the officers get in these services, then there is not any fair comparison between them, because IAS officers are far ahead in the facilities they get during the service. And since the promotions are also fast in IAS, their matrix pay level also increases very quickly.


It can be said that both IAS and PCS are very good career options from the perspective of public service. But when it comes to the comparisons, then IAS has more powers than PCS, to impact the masses with their work, that is, they get more opportunities to bring about a change in the society at a larger level.

Share this:

You May Also Like

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *