This article examines the effect of parental socialization and interest in politics on entering and staying in public service careers. We incorporate two related explanations, yet commonly used in different fields of literature, to explain public sector choice. First, following social learning theory, we hypothesize that parents serve as role models and thereby affect their children’s sector choice. Additionally, we test the hypothesis that parental socialization leads to a longer stay in public sector jobs while assuming that it serves as a buffer against turnover. Second, following public service motivation process theory, we expect that ‘interest in politics’ is influenced by parental socialization and that this concept, in turn, leads to a public sector career. A representative set of longitudinal data from the Swiss household panel (1999–2014) was used to analyse these hypotheses (n = 2,933, N = 37,328). The results indicate that parental socialization serves as a stronger predictor of public sector choice than an interest in politics. Furthermore, people with parents working in the public sector tend to stay longer in their public sector jobs.