Do Govies Make More $?

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This topic contains 15 replies, has 12 voices, and was last updated by  Darryl Perkinson 8 years, 7 months ago.

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  • #108226

    Steve Ressler

    There’s been lots of articles on whether govies make more than private sector. Some argue almost double (USA Today Article)

    The Atlantic did a great article discussing Pampered Public Employees.
    They heard both sides of the story but I think there were some interesting gems and nuances that I wonder if others think are true.
    Couple good quotes from article (read original article here):
    Government promotes faster, and at a younger age, than the private sector. The federal government is saying “our senior accounts earn less than a senior accountant in the private sector.” But somebody who might be a junior accountant in the private would be senior in federal government. For many people, getting more responsibility at a younger age is a reason to go to the government.

    The pay gap difference between federal and private jobs is not uniform. In general, the pay premium is very large for low skilled workers, and small or negative for highly skilled workers, like your SEC regulators. But most people don’t have MDs or PhDs. Up through a Masters, you’ll find on average that people make more in the federal government, especially at the low end with folks like paper clerks.

    What do you think?
    -Do you get more experience at younger age in gov’t?
  • #108256

    Darryl Perkinson

    In answer to your question I think that some agencies are having to promote faster thus putting younger federal workers in positions with less experience than in the past. A huge reason for this effect is the retirement of the “boomers” as predicted several years ago. While the economy has lessened the original estimates of the masses leaving we are witnessing an “experience drain” that has an effect. When you remove a hundred experienced people with thirty plus years experience and ask a younger fed with five years experience to replace them there will be an impact. It is my personal view that we need to do a better job of mentoring our younger feds to meet the challenges we are asking them to face.

  • #108254

    Jenyfer Johnson

    I “earned” my GS-11 at the age of about 30, after working about 8 or 9 years for the federal government. I was in charge of the entire Hazardous Waste program for a Naval Shipyard in CA. Believe me, I didn’t feel overpaid. I got a TON of experience from the “old guys” on the job and the old “learn while you earn” program, as we called it.

    It’s a number of years later and I now have 26+ years federal service, I’m a top-step GS-11 and I am in charge of the Hazardous Materials and Waste Program for an Air Force Base in SC. I am considered one of the best in my command by my HQ after working at my base for 16 years. Do I think I am overpaid for what I do? No, not by a long shot! I manage two programs and get paid for one! There are Environmental Engineers, GS-12s, that are only managing one program and they make more than me!

    My personal opinion of the studies that have come out lately is that they are skewed by some agencies that are overloaded with SES positions. Take a look at some bases and the lower-level, working level folks…I don’t think we’re all “raking in the bucks” like these studies would have the public believe.

  • #108252

    Steve Ressler

    I think Jenyfer has a fair point.

    Things vary a lot in terms of DC vs field in terms of how quickly people get promoted and how experienced they are. At least in DC, I would probably agree that you can move up quicker as a fed w/ more experience than as a private sector contractor (who may make more money).

  • #108250


    A few articles referenced here on GovLoop on just this topic:

    State/Local Gov’t (Bloomberg):

    Fed. Gov’t (Hertiage report):
    Fed. Gov’t (employees & contractors/2011 Budget):

  • #108248

    Henry Brown

    IMO the Phrase “numbers don’t lie Liars use numbers” fits rather well….

    Would offer that someone with an agenda could use the same numbers to arrive at a different conclusion

    Depends rather significantly on the individual situation, including location, skill sets, economy and ???!!! plus a combination of same

    “most studies” of this type are usually unable to include the rather non-tangible benefits, such as degree of responsibility, teleworking,

  • #108246

    Marco Morales

    According to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), as of 2005, permanent full-time civilian federal employees were 47 years old, on average, and each had about 16 years of federal service. The distribution of those federal employees’ ages suggests that more than 60 percent of them were between 40 and 59 years old in December 2005. That finding has led some observers to warn of an impending wave of retirements in the government’s full-time permanent workforce. So if the current pace of turnovers continues, the government may face the challenge of hiring a large number of new employees. The OPM expected a peak in federal retirements in the full-time permanent workforce between 2008 and 2010 and has concerns about the institutional knowledge that will be lost with those retiring employees. What does this mean? The federal government needs new and younger qualified people to fill its depleting ranks.

  • #108244

    Jaime Gracia

    Also to be kept in mind is that compensation includes not just salary, but benefits which are both tangible and intangible. Private sector benefits are pretty spartan when compared with federal, so I believe there is legitimacy to this argument when looked at holistically. If you are lucky enough to even have benefits in the private sector, you have very little job security. You can be a top performer and still be laid off, where as in the government you can be a bottom-feader and still not be held accountable.

    Promotions certainly do occur faster in government, as I have seen people put into positions of responsibility with little training or experience, simply because they where there. This is just being set up for failure, but no doubt causes impact to the organization.

  • #108242


    @Jaime – well said. People forget the ENITIRE package. Plenty of employers not offering disability insurance, healthcare reimbursement plans, EAP’s, lunch-n-learn seminars, etc. In fact, people forget that 65% of our nation is employed by small businesses! Promotions are far and few between, and an automatic annual salary increase doesn’t typically happen in private sector (they’re paying for performance!).

    One thing though, at least at the state/local level — people no longer have that job security — those darn budget woes!

  • #108240


    On the bright side of the retirement wave – it’s an opportunity for a positive disruptive change, whether it is throughout the intelligence, acquisition or even IT community, there are new ideas being brought in. Unfortunately, there is a lot of tacit knowledge that is being lost – but I have seen a lot of retired folks come back as a consultant or contractor, which helps.

  • #108238

    Henry Brown

    The Numbers aren’t exactly true for the private side either! Stock Options, 401K, IRA contributions, Commissions, and bonus’s are just a few that come to mind that are difficult at best to track and compare to the public sector. And are at least somewhat related to the economy.

    Would offer that Job Security, although good in the federal sector isn’t exactly a given. I have been through 3 Reduction’s in Force/Outsourcing in this past 10 years. And some of my co-workers have been through a fourth one.

  • #108236

    Sara Cooke

    Not only is job security not a given at the local level, but neither are salary increases or the benefits. In the past three years our city (and many others in our area), have had reductions in force, salary freezes, hiring freezes, reduction in retirement benefits and changes to health insurance. Not surprisingly with the economy as it is, there’s a push to cut costs even more.

  • #108234


    Sara – Sounds like you’re describing Arizona…we can definately relate!

  • #108232

    Chiara McDowell

    I haven’t been in Government as long and I also have gone through a RIF (found my own position). The only reason the salaries are in the news is because we are in a recession. Five years ago, government salaries weren’t being mentioned because everyone was doing well. I’m in the professional series and I still make less than my private counterparts. I also have less benefits when it comes to 401K, dental, vacation benefits and bonuses. Also, I have worked in the private sector and certain businesses have their own poor performers that stay on board because they are related to the owner or have other connections.

  • #108230

    John Daley

    I did the IEEE salary survey this year, and it told me the same thing it does every year: I am about 10% underpaid. In my organization, most people clump at the GS-13 level, so that’s great if you’re in a field where that’s considered high pay, not so great in my field. The benefits are good, but the pay is only fair. Fair as in “between good and poor”.

  • #108228

    Natia Johnson

    I believe government employees have better ‘package’ deals than contractors.

    I’ve been a government contractor since May 2007 and have been told I have a high salary for my age. I’ve applied to at least 50 government 1102 positions, in which I was referred several times, but was never selected. After speaking with several government employees, I realized that I may have to take a pay cut to get my foot in the door. Now that I’m clear as to how fast I can increase my salary and pay grade, I am willing to take a pay cut. However, it still seems like a $5k to $8k pay cut is not enough for me to get a government job. At times I feel like I am being punished for working so hard at a young age.

    Does anyone have any advice or encouraging comments for me?

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