The Differences in Government Employee Compensation

I wanted to share some results of our salary survey culled together by our researcher Greg Timpany. Compensation in terms of base salary varies significantly within the different levels of government. In the 2013 IT salary and skills study, we took a look at the different areas of IT personnel in the government and compared them to their peers across all industries. Here is what we found..

Respondents from the public sector, including federal, state, and local, accounted for twelve percent of the overall response for the United States and Canada (n = 1,423) with the United States being three out of four government respondents (n = 1,048). The responses ranged throughout the three government branches with 46% (federal) and 54% (state and local).

In the US, the split between federal and the other branches was nearly 50/50, however in Canada a greater percentage of respondents came from the local and province levels (62% compared to 38% for the federal government).

IT professionals working on the civilian side of the federal government average $83,549 in base salary annually. Those who are in defense and homeland security average $80,600. Colleagues on the state/province and local levels earn an average of $71,150 or 17% less than federal civilian IT employees and 13% less than IT professionals involved with defense.

How does this compare to IT employees across all industries? The average salary for US and Canadian IT employees is $78,649. Federal civilian employees exceed that by 6.2%, defense and homeland security employees exceed that by 2.5%, while state and local government IT professionals trail the national average by 9.5%.

In terms of salary change over the prior year, 51% of those in the federal IT space saw a salary increase compared to 45% overall. State/province and local government IT employees were on par with the average of 45% receiving a raise. However, they were more likely than other groups to see a decrease in salary (13% vs. 6% overall). This was due to economic conditions primarily where the organizations sought to avoid layoffs through salary reductions.

Salary aside, those in the government sector continued to train in order to stay current on changing technologies. Over 90% of government IT employees reported pursuing IT skills training in the prior year. This was on par with industry averages. Looking deeper, they were slightly ahead of industry norms for training on project management (32% compared to 27% overall) and on par for business process improvement (approximately 32%).

However, when it came to training for the purpose of certification, government employees at the state/province and local levels were below the norm (48% compared to 68% for federal level and 60% overall). Budgetary issues at the local and regional government levels are the likely driver for this discrepancy.

Government IT employees, at all levels, felt training was a benefit to both their career and the organizations they work for. Over two-thirds of respondents in the government IT space stated the training they took provided direct and measurable benefit to their organizations. From a personal standpoint 80% believed training will benefit their career, while 87% felt they took away a new sense of skills and knowledge. Less than five percent indicated the training was not worth their time.

Key training areas include:

  1. Federal: Microsoft (37%); Security (28%); CompTIA (26%); Cisco (23%); Networking (21%); Project Management (18%)
  2. State/Province and Local: Microsoft (43%); Networking (17%); Cisco (16%); VMware (16%); Security (16%)

The reasons why government IT employees train varies widely depending upon the level of government they work for. Over 70% of respondents, regardless of where they are employed, reported staying current with technological trends while developing new skills was their main reason for training. Outside of this, federal IT employees were more likely to report training to: prepare for career certification (59%); career advancement (58%); comply with mandates (46%); and to increase compensation (42%).

IT employees at the state/province and local levels were more apt to report training to: prepare for a new hardware or software deployment (52%); career advancement (48%); certification preparation (45%); and work with cutting edge technology (42%).

Government mandates such as 8570 have led more federal IT employees in the United States to pursue specific certifications. This is evident in the percentage of federal respondents who have received a certification in the last 12 months (40% vs. 21% for other government levels and 29% overall). Conversely, state/province and local government IT employees were more than twice as likely to have reported not receiving a new certification within the prior five years compared to federal IT employees (24% vs. 11% for federal).

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Jerome P. Dion

The title of this post is mesleading, as IT is a narrow slice of “Government Employee Compensation.” It is doubling misleading in that, at least in the Federal sector, the IT employees are managers and policy makers, not the on-the-ground IT systems developers, coders, installers and help desk people. I suspect that state and local government IT provision strucutures are different than the Federal sector, and different still form the private sector. A lot of apples, oranges, and bananas in this comparison.