It is difficult to select a particular choice of civil service before knowing details about it. Indian Administrative Service and Indian Foreign Service are the glamour of all types of civil service posts. For both posts, candidates have to go through exams. Specific physical requirements and medical clearance are also required. 

Both job roles are well established and renowned in society. But it is confusing when one is asked to choose one only as a career. Here one can get a guide about the truth behind two job roles and acceptability.

IAS Officer

The Indian Administrative Service (IAS) is the administrative arm of the Government of India’s All India Services. The Indian Administrative Service (IAS), together with the Indian Police Service and the Indian Forest Service, is considered India’s main civil service. Members of these three services work for both the Indian government and individual states. IAS officials may also be assigned to a variety of government agencies and foreign organisations.

The IAS is a permanent bureaucracy of the nation, and an inseparable part of the executive of the Government of India, as it is in other nations with a parliamentary system of government. As a result, the bureaucracy remains politically apolitical and ensures the ruling party or coalition’s administrative continuity.

How to Become an IAS Officer?

Every year around 4 to 5 lakhs aspirants dream of becoming an Indian administrative officer. Out of these, only a select few make it to the final list. To become an IAS officer, one needs to qualify for the UPSC exam conducted every year. The IAS syllabus is huge and one needs to work hard for achieving a good rank.

Life as an IAS Officer

The Indian administrative officers get luxurious bungalows with staff for accommodation.  There are lots of facilities they enjoy like cars, drivers, fuel subsidies and so on. Their family members also get benefitted from other facilities like medical, school and education of children and so on.

Also Read: Life at LBSNAA, Mussoorie: IAS Training, the Institute, and Extracurricular Activities

IFS Officer

The Indian Foreign Service (IFS) is a government-run organisation. It is one of India’s most prestigious civil services, and it serves as a symbol of the country’s international presence. It is part of Group A of the Central Civil Services, which is part of the executive department of India’s Ministry of External Affairs. 

The service is in charge of diplomacy, marking India’s presence in various international organisations, and managing India’s foreign relations. 

It is an organisation of career diplomats who work in over 162 Indian diplomatic missions and international organisations around the world. They also work in the Ministry of External Affairs’ headquarters in Delhi and the Prime Minister’s Office.

How to Become an IFS Officer?

To become an IFS officer in India, a candidate has to crack the foreign service exam that is conducted by the Union Public Service Commission every year. A candidate has to meet the eligibility criteria required for this foreign service officer test, prepare well for the IFS syllabus and then get a good rank on it.

Life as an Indian Foreign Service

An Indian foreign service officer is also very busy like an IAS. This officer has also benefited from these things like an Indian administrator. But an IFS officer must be travel-friendly. Indian foreign service officers need to travel much more frequently than Indian administrative officers.

Also Read: Life of an IFS Officer: How to Become an IFS Officer in India? Read Now to Know More

Difference Between IAS and IFS

Exams for recruitment to the All India Services include the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) and the Indian Forest Service (IFS) (AIS). These two, together with the Indian Police Services (IPS), are in high demand when it comes to landing a top-level government post in India. 

The apex government recruitment agency, the Union Public Service Commission, administers all of these exams. While there are some similarities between the IAS and IFS recruiting tests, there are also some significant variations between the two.

Difference One 

The eligibility conditions for applying to the IAS and IFS examinations range dramatically. Candidates with a bachelor’s degree in any discipline are able to apply for the Indian Administrative Services as long as they meet the other requirements. 

To apply for the forest services, an aspirant must have a graduate degree in forestry, agriculture, or a graduate degree or engineering, in one of the following subjects: animal husbandry and geology, chemistry, statistics, botany, mathematics, veterinary science, physics, and zoology.

Also Read: Highest Post in UPSC: Find Out the Top Ranks in IAS, IPS and IFS

Difference Two 

The level of competitiveness is the next noticeable distinction between the IAS and IFS tests. It is often understood that passing the IAS is the toughest task. IFS, on the other hand, has a higher level of competitiveness. 

This is due to the reality that the volume of vacancies in the IFS has traditionally been smaller than the IAS, resulting in a vast number of applicants competing for fewer slots in IFS recruiting. For example, the UPSC has advertised 796 IAS openings in 2020, compared to 90 IFS vacancies.

Difference Three

The Commission gives separate admission cards to applicants for both IAS and IFS, despite the fact that the preliminary screening and shortlisting of candidates is done through a single competitive examination. Now that students who acquire such admits are eligible for the Prelims and then the Main exam, subtle distinctions in the exam patterns of IAS and IFS can be seen. 

When it comes to selecting optional subjects for the IAS Main examination, for example, there are as many as 26 possibilities to choose from. However, only 14 subject selections are available for the IFS Main test.

Difference Four 

After the appointment of candidates who make it to the final merit list, the most significant disparities between these two services become apparent. IAS candidates are eligible to serve as cabinet secretaries at the pinnacle of their careers. Candidates who are selected and appointed for IFS jobs, on the other hand, have the possibility to advance to the highest level of a state’s forest department, the chief.

Difference Five 

When it comes to the functions and responsibilities of an IAS officer and an IFS official, there are significant variances. The execution of the National Forest Policy is a fundamental responsibility of an IFS officer. An IAS officer, on the other hand, is a full-fledged bureaucrat who enforces government regulations and serves as an administrative authority.

Also Read: Do Indian Foreign Service Officers also have Himalayan Trekking as part of Their Training like IAS Probationers?

Can We Apply for Both IAS and IFS?

The Indian Forest Service (IFoS) and the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) are both all-India services that are recruited through UPSC examinations. In reality, interested students can apply for both exams at the same time on the UPSC’s official website. 

Both the administrative service and the forest service have identical prelims exams. Only in the later stages (mains and interview) does the process become divided.

Career Comparison 

The IFoS is a lucrative career option for those interested in government employment, even though the Indian Administrative Service has a better profile in India and is certainly associated with greater rank. There are no right or wrong answers here; it all relies on the individual’s interests and abilities. 

#The forest service is a wonderful career choice if one enjoys working with trees and wildlife. 

#If one doesn’t want to spend the majority of their career in a forest, don’t join the forest service. Depending on one’s field of work, they may be assigned to a town.

#The Indian Administrative Service is a better choice if one seeks variety in their profession. 

#In our society, the IAS has a better social status. 

#Both services have comparable benefits and pay. 

#Poachers and smugglers will be one’s adversaries in the forest service. 

#As a forest officer, the officer (and their family) will have VIP access to the country’s wildlife reserves and national parks.

Salary Structure: IAS vs IFS 

IAS has a good amount of pay scale which is almost the same as an Indian foreign service officer. But the salary of the latter is higher than that of the former because an Indian foreign service officer gets more allowances than an Indian administrative officer. IAS is All India Administrative Service and IFS is All India Foreign Service. The latter one gets much more attention when it comes to paying scale.

IAS Salary

Other than the fact of this being a very prestigious job, the salary that this position offers is also very lucrative. Even though the Indian administrative officer post offers a nice compensation amount, the profile accompanies a tremendous cluster of duties.

The basic IAS salary is ₹ 56,100. Allowances like Dearness Allowance (DA), House Rent Allowance (HRA) and Travel Allowance are provided extra.

Also Read: Salary of an IAS Officer: How Much You Can Earn per Month after Clearing the UPSC Exam?

IFS Salary

In the case of the salary of an Indian foreign service officer, it goes around ₹ 60,000 per month. This amount of an IFS salary includes all the allowances. If an officer gets posted outside India, then his/ her salary might go up to ₹ 2.40 Lakh, but this varies from country to country and other allowances.

Also Read: IFS Officer Salary: UPSC Indian Foreign Service Income and Perks


Foreign job roles need more mental flexibility for moving around the world for service to the government. Administrative service does not need to move around that much like the former one. So, being an IFS one should be mentally prepared about the job role, family and other concerned things of life. Diplomatic presence in consulates, embassies, and war-ridden countries is common in IFS’s life.

IAS or IFS: Which is Higher or Senior?

Candidates choose their service based on their aspirations, ability, and UPSC rank at the end of the day. If a candidate wants to serve in India and have a direct good impact on people’s lives while also contributing to the country’s growth, the IAS is the best option. 

If a life of travel and adventure appeals to the individual, as well as meeting people from many cultures and regions, foreign services may be a good fit. 

Candidates must keep in mind that there is no correct answer to the question, “Which is better: Indian Administrative Service or IFS?”

Both services contribute to the development of the country and protect the country’s interests in their respective ways. The decision to pursue IAS over IFS is totally based on an individual’s aptitude and interests.


Candidates who love to influence people and are travel-oriented should go for the foreign service officer test. Indian foreign service officers have other options to influence people and the country. It has power in international deals and trade. But they cannot control the rules and factors of the Government of India which an Indian administrative officer can do. So, power lies in two divisions for IFS and Indian Administrative Service.

Why Most Candidates Choose IAS?

#In comparison to IFS or IPS, Indian Administrative Service is the favoured option of over 95% of candidates (in their DAF). 

#IAS officers have a considerably greater impact on policy formation at the federal and state levels than other officers. IAS officers include, for example, the chief secretary of each state and the Cabinet Secretary of the Union. 

#When it comes to exercising power, IAS officers have more discretion, and IAS officers receive the fastest promotions of any public service in India. 

#An IAS official, particularly as DM, has significantly more social recognition and status than other officers. 

#Another crucial feature is the ability to advance more quickly.

Why Most Candidates Don’t Choose IFS?

#In 2017, the first officer assigned to the IFS was ranked 17th, and only five officers were among the top 100. In 2016, there were just seven IFS officers in the top 100. 

#Uprooting one’s life is far too difficult, especially nowadays, when both men and women work outside the home. 

#Aspirants can’t simply ask their spouses to quit their work and accompany them around the world for their job. 

#A change in aspirant demographics has also played a role.

IAS Eligibility Criteria 

It’s crucial to remember that every effort that one makes on the Prelims exam counts. Aspirants’ attempts will be counted even if they have already taken one of the tests. This is also one of the most common reasons for prelims exam absence. 

Only approximately half of those who fill out the application form show up for the test. Candidates’ attempts will not be counted if they fill out the exam form but do not show up for the exam.

Age Limit

The UPSC examination has a set number of tries and eligibility conditions in terms of age. The age limit and a number of attempts for each category are as follows:


Upper Age Limit

Maximum Attempts 




Economically Weaker Section (EWS)








Unlimited (Up to age limit

Defence Services Personnel



Persons with Benchmark Disability



Educational Qualifications

The UPSC does not discriminate against applicants based on their degree grades. As a result, the Indian Administrative Service eligibility requirement does not include a minimum qualifying percentage. The following are the UPSC eligibility requirements for the UPSC test in terms of educational qualifications: 

The candidate must have earned a bachelor’s degree from a government-approved institution. 

Aspirants who are in their last year or awaiting results are also eligible to take the UPSC preliminary examination.


The UPSC has set the eligibility criterion for all services in its announcement. Citizens of foreign nations are eligible to apply for UPSC if they meet specific criteria, which are outlined on the official website. It’s worth noting that the eligibility conditions for the applicant’s nationality: The candidate must be an Indian citizen.

IAS Exam Pattern


#The objective type or Multiple Choice Questions are used in the IAS Exam (Prelims) (MCQs) 

#In the IAS Exam, there is ‘Negative Marking’ for each erroneous answer, but only in the Prelims stage. Negative marking for false answers will be 1/3rd (0.66) of the question’s allotted marks. 

#In the IAS test, the GS Paper II (CSAT) is a qualifying paper, and applicants must achieve a minimum of 33% in this paper to advance to the next level, the Mains. 

#In the Indian Administrative Service Exam, blind applicants are given an extra 20 minutes for each paper (Prelims).

Also Read: IAS Syllabus for Prelims and Mains 2021. Find Out the Minimum Marks to Qualify the Mains





Compulsory Indian Language

3 Hours



3 Hours



3 Hours


General Studies 1

3 Hours


General Studies 2

3 Hours


General Studies 3

3 Hours


General Studies 4

3 Hours


Optional Paper 1

3 Hours


Optional Paper 2

3 Hours


Interview or Personality Test



Grand Total 




Candidates who pass the Indian Administrative Service Mains stage with the required cut-off marks go to the IAS final step, which includes a Personality Test or an Interview with UPSC Board Members. The Commission will deliver an e-summon to the aspirants who qualify for the last step for a face-to-face discussion session with the board members.

In this phase, the board evaluates the candidates’ personality qualities and asks questions on their hobbies, current events, general knowledge, situation questions, and other topics to see if they are suitable for a job in the public service. Only the UPSC Bhavan in the capital of the country, New Delhi will conduct the personality test.

Facts about IAS and IFS Officers

#After 1947, the current paradigm of Indian civil service was established. 

#In 1864, Satyendranath Tagore became the first Indian to enter the Indian Civil Service. 

#An Indian Administrative Service officer’s highest position is Cabinet Secretary. 

#R Pillai was the first Cabinet Secretary, serving from 1950 to 1953. 

#After independence, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel envisioned civil services uniting the entire country. 

#Anna George Malhotra was the first woman to hold the position of IAS officer. 

#P. Sivasankara Menon served as India’s first Foreign Secretary. 

#Despite not being an IFS, Vijay Lakshmi Pandit was India’s first female diplomat. #Ambassador Beno Zephine N L is an IFS officer who is completely blind. 

#Kiran Bedi is the first woman to join the Indian Police Service (IPS).

 IFS Eligibility Criteria


The nationality of an aspirant must be either of the following:

#Citizen of India

#Subject of Nepal

#Subject of Bhutan

#A Tibetan refugee for permanent settlement and who arrived in India before January 1, 1962.

#Migrant from any of the following countries for permanently settling in India:

Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Burma, East African countries of Malawi, Kenya, Zaire, the United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia, Uganda, Ethiopia and Vietnam. 

Age Limit

The age requirement is 21 years old. The maximum age is 30 years old as of August 1st of the examination year.

#For SC/ST candidates, up to a maximum of 5 years. 

#For OBC candidates, the maximum time limit is three years. 

#For candidates from the state of Jammu and Kashmir, the maximum period of service is 5 years. Personnel in the Defence Services may be sentenced to up to 5 years in prison. 

#Ex-servicemen, including Commissioned officers and ECOs/SSCOs, who have completed at least 5 years of military service and have been released, can serve for up to 5 years. 

#For ECOs/SSCOs who have completed a 5-year initial period of military service, the maximum period of assignment is up to 5 years. 

#Blind, deaf-mute, and orthopedically crippled people can get up to ten years in prison.

Skills Required

#Decision-making ability 

#Good communication skills 

#Excellent knowledge about current affairs and foreign nations

#Leadership ability 

#Good analytical ability

Facts to Know: Responsibilities of IAS Officer

#Candidates will have the power to manage the complete developing effort of the area under their supervision once they are in this position. Aspirants also have the power to guarantee that law and order are upheld at all times. 

#After this level, they will be sent to the district level as a district magistrate or deputy officer as an Indian Administrative Service officer. 

#The officers have important responsibilities here, as well as the authority to implement programmes that will propel the district you’re in charge of forward. 

#They could potentially work as a state secretariat official or as the leader of a Public Sector Unit.

#One could be posted as the Joint Secretary, Cabinet Secretary, Deputy Secretary, Additional Secretary, and/or Under Secretary when working at the central level. 

#While they will develop and implement policies in the areas of finance and commerce, the final choices will be made by the minister with whom they will be working.

Also Read: What are the Duties and Responsibilities of an IAS Officer? Here’re the Functions and Duties of an IAS

IFS Exam Pattern

There are three rounds to the Indian Forest Service Exam. A candidate must pass one level before moving on to the next. The following are the details:


The IFS prelims test is similar to the UPSC IAS prelims test. The GS I and CSAT papers are both objective in nature. 

Because there are fewer slots for the IFoS exam, the cutoff is higher than for the IAS exam. 


The IFS mains exam has six papers. 

All of them are explanatory. Each paper is given a three-hour time limit. 

Candidates must select between two optional subjects.

Mains Exam Papers List



Total Marks 

Paper 1

General English


Paper 2

General Knowledge


Paper 3

Optional 1


Paper 4

Optional 2


Paper 5

Optional 3


Paper 6

Optional 4


Optional Subjects


#Agricultural Engineering

#Animal Husbandry & Veterinary Science


#Chemical Engineering

#Civil Engineering



#Mechanical Engineering






Candidates cannot apply for this combination 

#Agricultural Engineering and Agriculture 

#Forestry and Agriculture

#Chemical Engineering and Chemistry 

#Statistics and Mathematics

#Animal Husbandry & Veterinary Science and Agriculture 

#Of the Engineering subjects namely, Chemical Engineering, Agricultural Engineering, Civil Engineering and Mechanical Engineering – not more than one subject.

Also Read: Indian Foreign Services Syllabus: Click here to Know all about the UPSC IAS & IFS Exam


#The interview will be worth 300 points in total. 

#The candidate’s general awareness, communication skills, intellectual curiosity, critical powers of observation and absorption, mental balance and attentiveness, initiative, tact, and leadership capacity will all be evaluated. 

#A Board of Directors will interview the nominee here. 

#The interview will be followed by a physical examination. Male applicants must complete a 25-kilometre walk or run in under 4 hours, while female candidates must complete a 14-kilometre walk or run in under 4 hours.

Facts to Know: Responsibilities of IFS Officer

#Representing India at high commissions, embassies, consulates, and multilateral organisations around the world 

#In the country where the officer is stationed, the officer is responsible for safeguarding India’s national interests. 

#Improving and encouraging friendship between India and the country in which the officer is stationed, including non-resident Indians and people of Indian ancestry. 

#Informing about events in other countries that may have an impact on India’s policy 

#The position of IFS officer is both exciting and demanding.

#To represent India at worldwide forums and platforms, as well as in the countries to which they have been sent. As a result, an IFS officer is a critical link in India’s foreign policy and the development of all diplomatic and commercial ties with other countries. 

#They have been designated to handle and administer all diplomatic relations between India and the country. 

#To establish, maintain, and expand economic cooperation between India and other countries. 

#To keep the Indian MEA office up to date on the latest events.

Also Read: Indian Forest Service Recruitment 2021: Everything You Need to Know About IFS

Frequently Asked Questions 

Which Profile Serves the Nation Better?

Officers recruited for both job roles serve the nation. A foreign service officer serves the nation going beyond its boundaries and territories. An IAS officer serves the country from within the nation. It depends upon the candidate which one to select.

Why IAS over IFS India?

The vacancy of the Indian administrative service is broader than that of the foreign service officer test. To be a foreign secretary or an officer one needs to have more skills particularly in managing foreign deals, the economy of the country concerning foreign trades, war-related issues, and much more communication-oriented professionalism. 

Most of the candidates are unable to have that much versatility. So, IAS is preferable for most of the candidates to foreign service exams.

Are IAS Officers Holders of Diplomatic Passports?

No, they cannot have a diplomatic passport. The foreign service officers have to travel to many countries for service and international relations. They are given diplomatic passports for such reasons.

Is it Possible for IFS Officers to Obtain Diplomatic Passports? 

When sent abroad, IFS officers are issued diplomatic passports of a maroon colour. IFS officers typically serve for two to three years in foreign assignments before returning to the Foreign Ministry for another assignment. An IFS officer must use a normal blue passport if they travel overseas on personal business.

Is it Possible for IFS to Become IAS? 

It is not possible for a candidate who has joined the Indian Administrative Service/IFS to sit for the Civil Services Examination again. As a result, an IFS officer cannot become an IAS officer and vice versa. The government may send IAS and IFS officers on deputation to other departments based on service requirements from time to time. 

Is There a Difference Between the IFS and IAS Exams? 

Officers in the IFS and Indian Administrative Service are chosen through the same examination, the Civil Services Examination. After the UPSC merit list is declared, cadres and services are awarded according to the UPSC’s Cadre Allocation Policy.

Also Read: What Advantage do Small-cadre Services (like IFS and IA&AS) enjoy over Large-cadre Services (like IPS and IAS)?

What are the Advantages of Working for the IFS? 

An IFS officer usually receives incentives based on the country in which they are stationed. These are the following: 

#Allowance for travel to a foreign country 

#Self- and family-protection insurance 

#Housing provided by the government in safe regions. 

#A vehicle for commuting.

Is it True that IFS Officers Have a Lot of Power? 

IFS officers are important in their own manner, even if they lack the widespread administrative abilities that an IPS or IAS official would have. Regardless, they shape India’s foreign policy and have a lot of power over other departments that are linked to their work.


It can be said that Indian foreign service and administrative service both are powerful, respected and diligent. But there are some differences between these two posts. If one feels it is suitable then one can select it. The educational qualification of both officers is the same. But they differ skill-wise. Being an Indian administrative officer can be an achievement, but being an IFS can be like a dream comes true.

Also Read: IAS vs IPS vs IFS: Selection, Power, Salary Difference among Different UPSC Posts

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About the Author

Akshay Palande

Akshay Palande is a passionate teacher helping hundreds of students in their UPSC preparation. With a degree in Mechanical Engineering and double masters in Public Administration and Economics, he has experience of teaching UPSC aspirants for 5 years. His subject of expertise are Geography, Polity, Economics and Environment and Ecology.

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