Which one is better in UPSC – IAS or IFS?


We generally receive a lot of queries regarding which Grade A services should be opted by the aspirants in the UPSC examination. This may seem a far fetched query as the question of joining any service arise only after you clear the first stage of the UPSC examination i.e. the Preliminary examination stage. But one should remember that it is important to be clear about your objectives and form the right opinion based on true facts. Between IAS (Indian Administrative Services) and IPS (Indian Police Services), most of the aspirants are clear about the respective job profiles, but when it comes to a comparison between IAS and IFS (Indian Foreign Services), a lot of aspirants are confused about the jobs, responsibilities and the cadre structure of these services.

Comparison between IAS and IFS –

  • First of all, we should remember that IAS is an All-India Service, while IFS is a Central Service. The difference between the two is that in the former you may be deployed at the Centre, State or a UT and you’ll work at the respective cadre, whereas in the latter you’re an employee of the Central Government.
  • The Indian Administrative Services open a plethora of opportunities for you because there are no limits to the job opportunities that may be assigned to you in various departments. You may be posted anywhere in India and may work in several departments with a huge responsibility. You may face political pressure because you’re in direct contact with the political boss at the helm. Whereas in the Indian Foreign Services, the officers are generally posted at the Ministry of External Affairs and work under it for their entire service period both domestically and abroad.
  • In the case of IAS, the cadre strength is generally more than six times that of the cadre strength of the IFS every year. This means that only the top cream of the UPSC rank holders are generally eligible for IFS, of course, all this depends on the service preference of the rank holder.


  • An IAS generally serves domestically and enjoys a privileged relationship with the politicians and develops ground-level understanding of the society and politics of India. Whereas an IFS generally serves abroad and represents India at the Indian missions abroad such as in consulates, embassies, high commissions and other multilateral international institutions like the United Nations.
  • It is alleged that the IAS is an all-encompassing cadre having a hold over the real power structure at both the central and state-level politics. The IAS association holds considerable clout in politics and no government whether at the centre or at the state could disassociate itself with the wishes of the IAS lobby. It is the strongest lobby in the entire bureaucratic machinery of India. As compared to the IAS lobby, IFS association is not too strong to influence political decision making of any government because of their job responsibilities and accountability being restricted to a particular ministry.

Therefore, if you are fond of serving at the Indian missions abroad and influence the international mood in favour of India through your diplomatic service, then IFS is the right choice for you. If you wish to remain attached to your roots and serve the people of India domestically by staying conscious of the ground level realities, then you should opt for IAS. It is all a matter of choice and there is no such concept of one service being inferior or superior to another. After all, both of these services are destined to contribute to a better India that we all dream of today.

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