working for the government vs private

When you’re looking for a job, there are two primary avenues that you can take. You can either search for a role in the private sector or look for a government job, which can be one of the state or federal level.

There are pros and cons to each path, but there are a few main areas of compensation that most people are interested in when choosing between working for the government or a private business.

When weighing your options between government jobs versus private jobs, you’ll want to know about the salary, job satisfaction, location, job security, and benefits that each sector provides its employees.

Read our guide on How to Apply for Federal Job

Private Sector Jobs

The types of jobs in the private sector are varied, so the type of experience that you can have in a private-sector job is varied, as well. In terms of pay, however, there are exciting things to note.

Pay

First of all, the way that pay for private-sector jobs stacks up to government jobs varies depending on education level.

Mainly, the lower the level of a person’s education, the better off financially they are in a government job.

On average, government jobs geared toward people with a high school education paid about 21% more than private-sector jobs. But as education increases, the payout flips.

People with bachelor’s degrees earned about the same amount of money regardless of whether they worked in government or the private sector. However, as people’s education rose to the doctoral level, people working in the private sector made more money than people working in government jobs.

Check out Government Jobs Without Experience

Job Security

Job security can vary dramatically in the private sector, according to the company and industry, and it can vary depending on the economy.

For instance, during the Great Recession, employees in many industries in the private sector were laid off because companies were struggling.

Now, the economy is much stronger, so it’s much less likely that an employee will be laid off. When companies lay off their employees, quite often, low-level employees are often some of the first people to be laid off, especially when their jobs can be outsourced at a cheaper rate.

Location

Depending on the industry that you work in, you might be able to find your desired job in almost any area of the country.

For instance, if you work in the healthcare field, hospitals, assisted living centers, and other healthcare facilities are within commuting distance regardless of where you live.

There are, however, some industries in which it might depend on the job that you want.

For example, while you can find a job in technology in most midsize to large metropolitan areas, it might be challenging to find one in a small town, so you might have to commute to the nearest medium-sized town.

Also, in many jobs, if you want to work at the forefront of an industry, you might need to relocate.

Benefits Packages

In the private sector, the quality of benefits that you will receive is variable and will likely depend on the company and industry.

The most common type of bonus that private-sector jobs offer is health insurance. Usually, a company will even pay for a portion of the insurance, which is generally around 65% of the premiums.

Other types of benefits that private-sector jobs often offer are tuition assistance for further education and retirement plans.

Paid holidays, sick time, and medical leave are three other benefits that are often included in private sector jobs.

Job Satisfaction

Because of the diversity of jobs available and the wide range of workplace cultures, job satisfaction can vary greatly, too.

But the main reason why employees decide to leave government job for private sector is the excitement of new life and challenges. Transformation in values may lead to opening your own business or choosing a new career path.

Besides, the data from surveys show that private-sector employees need less time and effort to become competitive in the job market while federal workers require years to climb the career ladder.

Federal Job

Government jobs are either offered by the state that you live in or the federal government. Some of the most well-known types of federal jobs include Postal Service mail carriers, foresters, and aerospace engineers.

Pay

The pay for federal employees is extensive and dependent on the exact position.

For instance, a Postal Service mail carrier has a median income of about $57,000, whereas an aerospace engineer has a median income of about $105,000. These two jobs, however, require vastly different work experience and education backgrounds.

Someone working as a Postal Service mail carrier only needs a high school diploma or GED, but someone working as an aerospace engineer must have at least a bachelor’s degree, and about 39% of aerospace engineers have a master’s degree.

The pay for a Postal Service mail carrier is quite high when compared to a job that requires an equal level of education and is at a comparable level within the organization. Someone working in the private sector might make the state’s minimum wage.

Read more about GS Federal Payscale

Job Security

One of the benefits of working for the federal government is job security. It’s almost impossible to fire a government employee.

Historically, layoffs have been low for federal employees, but depending on the economy and administration, however, layoffs can vary.

For instance, in January of 2019, it was announced that federal workers could be laid off after a furlough of 30 days.

Check out Government Job Interview Questions and Answers

Location

Depending on the exact position that you want, you might be able to find a federal position almost anywhere in the country.

Working for federal government agencies also gives you options if you’re going to transfer because you need to move.

A good example is a Postal Service mail carriers who needed everywhere. Some jobs, however, are much more challenging to secure and might require you to relocate.

Discover Best Jobs in Federal Government

Benefits Packages

There are many benefits of federal employment, and when working for the federal government, the benefits package is a big one.

The  benefits packages for federal employees is very clearly laid out.

Federal government job benefits include sick leave and annual leave, which is earned every pay period. The obtained amount is dependent on the length of time that the person has been employed.

In general, both sick and annual leave is generous, with employees earning about a month of paid annual leave starting in the fourth year of employment.

In addition to the amount of paid time off that federal government, workers can accrue, they also get many holidays off.

Federal workers also receive health insurance, and the federal government pays 70% of the premiums for the employee.

Federal jobs also provide life insurance and retirement plans. There are also some benefits that government jobs offer more often than private-sector jobs, such as smoking cessation programs, on-site professional development opportunities, and financial advice.

Read our guide How to Create a Federal Government Resume

Job Satisfaction

Job satisfaction at the federal level is partially dependent on the department and which factors employees are asked to consider.

Employee engagement is a crucial factor for work productivity and higher results. Comparing government jobs vs private jobs satisfaction, surveys point out several factors as communication with management, professional recognition, and compensation package.

As reported by National Research Center data, 70% of federal employees consider their job useful for society. And less than 50% are happy with salary, professional development, and communication.

Furthermore, approximately 40% of federal workers in the study, which was conducted in October of 2016, reported that they planned on leaving or retiring by 2020.

State Jobs

The specific benefits can vary between each of the states.

For instance, the estimated salary of a parole officer in Wisconsin is between $50,000 and 62,000 per year, whereas the expected salary of a parole officer in Mississippi is between $44,000 and $55,000.

Because each state might have its plans for payment and benefits, the data is highly variable.

Furthermore, job satisfaction in all of the states is not often studied. There are, however, some general trends compared to private-sector jobs.

Check out FBI Federal Resume Template

Pros and Cons of Working for State Government

There are a few pros and cons of government jobs, and most of them relate to salary, benefits, job security, and the time that it takes to accomplish work in a government system.

Pros:

  • Job Stability: Although there are times when government workers can be laid off, it generally takes much longer to reach this point because of government regulations. There’s also more notice, usually. Government workers will be put on furlough before they are laid off, but private-sector workers often don’t receive any notice.
  • Lower earnings: Private sector executives generally make more than their government sector counterparts because there are caps on the amount that government employees can make. That’s why some executives leave government jobs for private-sector jobs.
  • Time off: Government jobs offer generous paid time off.

Cons:

  • Red tape: Although red tape makes layoffs come slowly, it can also slow down the system when there’s needed change, which can affect job satisfaction.
  • Lower earnings: Private sector executives generally make more than their government sector counterparts because there are caps on the amount that government employees can make. That’s why some executives leave government jobs for private-sector jobs.
  • Pay raises take time: Getting a raise is usually not as simple as setting up a meeting with your boss and asking. Government red tape can slow down this process, too.

The variety of available jobs are differentiated in both the private and public sectors.

The benefits of a government job can sometimes outweigh the negatives, but it’s a personal decision.

You might also wonder, “Is it better to work for state or federal government?” This, too, can be dependent on the state in which you plan on working and the type of job that you want to hold.

When you’re trying to decide between working for the government versus the private sector, weigh your options carefully, and plan your career carefully.

professional resume writerJim Madson

Jim is an executive resume writer who stays abreast of the newest trends in the employment industry. He develops high-performance resumes to build a successful career.
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