Indian Engineering Services versus Indian Civil Services

UPSC engineering services examination/what is engineering services

Many IAS candidates, especially engineering graduates wonder if they should try their hand at both the civil services and the engineering services exams. Both the exams are conducted by the UPSC every year. As you are probably aware, the UPSC civil services exam (CSE) recruits candidates into the civil services as IAS, IPS, IFS, IRS and other services to cater to the administrative needs of the country in various capacities and departments. The UPSC engineering services exam (ESE) recruits officers to cater to the technical and engineering needs of the country. Read on to know more about the CSE and the ESE.

Though both are group ‘A’ gazetted officer jobs, the profiles of the IAS (or IPS/IFS, etc.) and the IES (Indian Engineering Service) officers are quite different. The IES is a very specialised and technical service. The IAS is more of a generalist. An IES officer functions in technical areas like roads, railways, manufacturing, defense, construction, public works, telecommunications, power, etc. An IAS officer is expected is hold diverse portfolios in his/her career. An IPS officer works in the police department whereas an IFS officer works in the foreign service. Only engineering graduates from recognised universities are eligible to take the ESE. In certain posts, even post graduates with certain specialisations (wireless communications, radio engineering, electronics or radio physics) are eligible.





Nationality: Indian citizen

Nationality: Indian citizen

Education: Any Graduate

Education: Engineering Graduate

Age limit: 21-30 with relaxations for reserved communities

Age limit: 21-30 with relaxations for reserved communities

Conducted by




Online through UPSC’s official website

Online through UPSC’s official website

Application Fees

Rs. 100/- (Fee exempt for female and reserved candidates)

Rs. 200/- (Fee exempt for female and reserved candidates)

Exam Scheme

Three stages: Prelims, Mains & Personality Test

Three stages: Prelims, Mains & Personality Test


Vast and diverse 

Limited. Confined to engineering disciplines

Prelims Stage

Two papers: GS Paper I and CSAT

Two papers: General Studies and Engineering Aptitude Paper (common) + Engineering Discipline (Specific discipline)

Mains Stage

Nine papers

Two papers

Job nature

Deals more with public. Diverse and general.

Deals less with public. Technical and specific.

Preparation Time (on an average)

10-12 months

7-8 months

Average number of Vacancies




If you are an engineer, should you try for both the exams?

The answer depends upon you and what sort of a career you wish to have. If you are interested in engineering and the like, you should attempt the ESE. If you are interested in both services and have opted for an engineering subject as your CSE optional subject, you can also attempt the ESE. But remember that in the civil services you only have electrical, mechanical and civil engineering subjects. Electronics & Telecommunications is not offered here.

If you do not like your engineering graduation subject, it is better to forget about the ESE and focus on the civil services with a social sciences subject as your optional.

IES vs IAS power

An IAS officer commands more respect in society and is more ‘famous’. Even though the pay scales are more or less the same, an IAS officer’s domain and authority cover more diverse areas. If you become a diplomat (IFS), you can even go on to become Ambassadors. And the highest position an IAS officer can aspire to is the Cabinet Secretary. The ESE is relatively low profile. If you like to work with less political interference and maintain a low-key, the IES is a good option for you. Of course, there are many notable IES officers who have been awarded high civilian awards by the government for their yeoman service to the nation. Names like Narinder Singh Kapany, E. Sreedharan and K. C. Banerjee need no introduction.

If you opt for the IES, you can work in both civil and defense arenas especially in the Indian Ordnance Factories Service, Military Engineer Services, Indian Naval Armament Service, Corps of Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (EME), Indian Army and the Indian Naval Stores Service.

Choose wisely. This is a decision you must ponder over well. Know about the job nature and think about what kind of a career you desire. Ideally, the preparation must be simultaneous only if you have engineering as one of your optionals in the civil services exam. Otherwise, your efforts might not bear fruit because of a lack of direction.

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