Are You an Overpaid Govie?

If you’re a govie, you’ll appreciate the recent Wall Street Journal article that challenges this implication.

Results from the Census Bureau’s real world Survey of Income and Salary Program Participation (SIPP) showed that most federal workers who are looking to cash in on their skills by leaving federal employment will end up disappointed. Here’s what they found:

The average federal worker shifting to a private job actually accepts a small salary reduction of around 3 percent. Similarly, private sector workers who move to federal jobs don’t take a pay cut. They get a first-year raise averaging 9 percent, well above the raise other workers get when they switch jobs within the private sector.”


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Henry Brown

NOT surprised that the Heritage Foundation, nor the Wall Street Journal are choosing to use those numbers that A. aren’t available to the public yet from the SIPP and B. are choosing to ignore other numbers/surveys which over the past 2 years which provided somewhat different numbers… C. chose to ignore that at this time in the economic cycle real income and salary’s have moved in non-standard ways.

John Evans

Henry is right, and I’ll add that comparisons of averages are meaningless. Uncle Sam doesn’t do fast food or retail. The only valid comparison would be between the same or substantially similar jobs, performed by similarly educated employees of the same age and tenure in their job. The Bureau of Labor Statistics actually does valid comparisons, and they consistently find the exact opposite. It’s laughable to give any credence whatever to these two ludicrous findings by highly partisan organizations which have repeatedly demonstrated a consistent bias.

Henry Brown

Interesting related COMMENTARY from Internet Evolution:
Underpaying Workers Is Not a ‘Skills Gap’

Since 2009, I have observed organizations seeking incredibly precise and sophisticated skills for their many IT positions, but not paying the appropriate compensation to go along with them. At first, I chalked it up to the state of the economy: Perhaps, due to the increased supply of highly skilled-workers, wages had dropped. But as the economy improves, I see this trend continuing.

Organizations often want IT workers with high-level certifications such as CISSP, ITIL, Six Sigma, PMP, and others — but these organizations also want to pay salaries that are well below market value. When asked to explain, the usual response is: “This is what we can afford.” Asked if they are having trouble filling the positions, the response is: “Yes, we have interviewed several people within the range and found them to be unqualified. We have been unable to fill the position for several months.”

Tiffany Taylor

I keep hearing that feds are overpaid, but the truth is I took a pay cut when I came to the government 4 years ago. I took a pay cut for a job that had more responsibility than the job I was leaving. I took it because the job was what I wanted, but it definitely hurt my salary, and continues to do so. My colleagues who’ve also transferred in from the private sector have similar experiences. Maybe unskilled laborers make more in the federal government, but for jobs that require a high level of skill and multiple degrees, the private sector is the way to go. Once the economy picks up I will probably try to find a new job outside of government.

Ginny Ivanoff

A friend of mine just left fed work for a private sector job: he got a significant pay increase (he was a GS-13, rest of US scale).

Mark Hammer

What is largely missing from the analysis is the motivation for switching sectors, the career stage the individual is at, and the line of work they are in. Public sector wages are compressed, such that entry-level and blue-collar work, similar to what is found “out there”, is compensated a bit better, while work in the white-collar and upper ranks is compensated a bit less than comparable work in the private sector. So, depending on where and when you leap from (and why), what you leap to may be different in pleasant or unpleasant ways.

Of course, folks like the AEI and HF will tend to look at the overall workforce without making such distinctions, simply because their lens tends to be one of “there’s too much government, and here’s the price tag to prove it”. How much justification is there for such an analytic approach? Begrudgingly, a little. I say this because, even though many middle and upper-level positions are not compensated as well as in the private sector, the fact of the matter is that they make up a relatively modest share of all federal public sector employment. There is a vast population of people doing the same sort of office work they’d do in an insurance company, at an accounting firm, or in the back office of a grocery chain, who ARE being paid a little more than they might be for the same work at those employers.

Keena Cauthen

I must say I disagree with this premise. I can honestly say this, as my husband and I are both in similiar jobs, requiring similiar education levels, experienc levels, etc… with the only difference being I work for the government and he works for a private company. My husband will not ever come to the government for employment because of the significant pay cut that he would have to take (over $20K a year, probably closer to $30K) and the extra benefits that we supposedly have as government employees he is also getting, or something comprable. In addition, I work harder than he does (not bragging or anything… this is factual). I hit the ground running and barely have time to turn around throughout the day, as our office is like an assembly line — number, numbers, numbers — cases keep coming and you have to keep up or else. He spends a good bit of most of his day surfing along. Long lunches, coffee breaks, etc are the norm… interspersed with some high stress, long hour days. If I detailed my day vs his, and didn’t tell someone which of us was the government employee, I know that most asked would get it wrong. I do make a good salary for what I do, and do not complain… but I also know that my husband gets paid a heck of a lot more in the public world for doing less work, to which I also do not complain.