Uppers and Downers of Working for the Government
Like any industry, there are pros and cons for working for the government. Most government employees I have spoken to are quite content with their jobs. They find them interesting and challenging. Indeed, many stressed the fact that their job was not going to be downsized like many private industry jobs have been during 2009.
Uppers of working for the government
Service. There can be personal satisfaction in knowing that you are serving your country. Whether it is the Marine Corps or the Peace Corps, government agencies provide a host of benefits to American society that agency employees from all areas of the government take pride in.
Education. Having the opportunity to work in a field that interests you and being able to learn about it will increase your future earning potential. As I’ve mentioned, in some respects you need to know more about your field than a private business employee would since the agency is overseeing their work. The private sector prides itself on efficiency and division of labor--meaning that in the private sector you will oftentimes learn one aspect of what the business accomplishes and learn it well. However, since regulatory agencies must ensure private businesses comply with rules and regulations, it necessitates that a regulator learn many different aspects of an industry. In this respect you will learn much on the job that you would likely not be exposed to in the private side of the economy.
Job security. Job security. Job security. Need I say more? Unlike many businesses, the federal government is in no danger of going out of business any time soon.
Future career path. Normally, an entry-level agency position will turn into a great experience that can translate to other jobs in government or work in the private sector. In short, the government is a great place to start even if you have long-term ambitions of working in private industry.
Lifestyle. There are not many jobs that will give you as many vacation and personal days as the federal government and pay as well.
Downers of working for the government
Pay. The pay can be comparatively low, especially for agency employees with a master’s, doctorate or law degree. Even with the highest education possible, the salary for a government employee will max out at only about $150,000 a year. Workers in comparable positions in the private sector requiring the same credentials might earn three or four times that much.
Prestige. Except for the highest positions in the federal government, government workers generally do not command as much respect as other professions. Financial industry employees, private lawyers or corporate managers tend to garner more prestige in society versus government workers who are seen as bureaucrats.
Moving. This is one downer that may be a plus for some people. Many of the jobs involve moving to Washington, D.C., or possibly a mid-career move in order to move up the ladder. Moving can be hard on your family and other aspects of your personal life.
Work challenge. This ultimately has a lot to do with your personality. The work can possibly be tedious and boring—the business of government is not always very exciting.
Bureaucracy. Though not all stories about the red tape and complexity of the federal government are true, many of them are. In many respects you are just a bureaucrat in a bureaucracy, especially in D.C. in the regulatory arm of the government.