Civil service employment often comes with generous benefits, particularly with regard to retirement. However, resignation and retirement are two very different things--resignation is just a matter of putting in your notice and ceasing to arrive at work each morning, while retirement is a more complicated matter of making sure you meet the right criteria.
You can resign today if you like, even if you just started working yesterday. However, resignation does not generally come with any kind of benefits--it is a choice to cease working and therefore is not rewarded. If it was, you could resign after a year of employment at age 29 and collect benefits, which is not a sustainable system.
Retiring from civil service, on the other hand, often comes with benefits. Federal employees, for example, receive a pension based on how long they worked for the federal government--provided they meet age and seniority criteria. If they do not meet these criteria, then they are resigning and are not eligible for the pension.
There is also a different process for each of these methods of ending employment. Resigning is a matter of handing in a resignation letter and clearing out your desk; once you do, your relationship with your employer is over. Retiring, on the other hand, involves more paperwork and is a longer process. It is not the end of your relationship with your employer but rather a change to it.
- retirement at last image by Pix by Marti from Fotolia.com