Working in Government: Pros, Cons, and Types of Jobs

Working in Government: Pros, Cons, and Types of Jobs

If you’re beginning to hunt for your dream job, you have to make a multitude of choices to narrow down your search, from deciding if you want to freelance or work as a traditional employee. Would you love to work a hybrid remote schedule or in an office full-time? How about working for a smaller startup or a Fortune 500 company?

Another consideration is deciding if you’d prefer to work in the private or the public sector. Government jobs have several benefits that can make them very attractive. As with most choices, however, there are also some sacrifices that government employees make. We’ve listed out some of the biggest pros and cons of government jobs for you to consider.

The Pros of Government Jobs

While each role and division of the government will have unique perks, here are some of the most common advantages of working in the public sector vs the private.

Exceptional Benefits

Health insurance coverage for government jobs is often the best workplace policy you can find. Depending on the branch of government you work in, you potentially could have zero personal costs. And depending on the extension of government, there’s a possibility of insurance coverage through your retirement years. Vacation and other compensation categories are also frequently superior to those you can find in the private sector.

Retirement Income

Yes, retirement is a benefit. However, retirement is such a great perk it’s worth mentioning on its own. Most government roles include an impressive pension package. This can be an excellent perk, as consistent retirement is shifting to investment accounts in the private sector.

Work Flexibility

You don’t need to live in Washington, DC, to work for the government. There are flexible government jobs found throughout the U.S. and abroad. And many government roles were remote or offered alternative schedules even before remote work gained popularity.

Work-Life Balance

Of course, you’ll be expected to work hard during your workweek, but outside of your schedule, there is generally little overtime required. Observed Federal holidays are a standard, and vacation accrual is very generous. As more and more people are discovering, work-life balance is often one of the most essential factors in long-term career happiness, so this might weigh heavily in favor of a public sector role.

Making a Difference

If you have a passion for supporting the health and welfare of a specific population or environment, there’s probably a role in government that would support that. From helping to maintain national parks and wildlife to supporting vulnerable youth at the local and national level, there’s a government job for almost any passion you have.

Student Loan Repayments

Many government roles are eligible for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. There are specific criteria for different functions, but you’ll have a portion (or possibly all) of your student debt eliminated if you’re eligible. This can make an enormous impact on your ability to save for retirement and meet the cost of living.

The Cons of Government Jobs

As with any job decision, there are potential downsides to government jobs. Here are a few areas where you’ll probably find the private sector has the upper hand.

Lower Earning Potential

Compared to the private sector, government roles have a salary cap that is frequently lower. While you’ll often start at a comparable salary, the higher-paid positions that your career grows into will give you less financial freedom down the road.

Seniority Carries More Weight

Most government roles are hierarchical in structure, meaning that there is no fast track, even if you are an above-average performer diligently applying yourself. Seniority with the organization carries the most value, and you’ll have to wait until your tenure ages you into a competitive position.

Revolving Leadership

While not all positions are tied to the political cycle, many rules and regulations for government workers are determined by who is holding office. Beyond the high-profile positions, this includes locally elected officials who might have different priorities than the last leader. For employees who seek a consistent long-term mission, this might be challenging.

Government Shutdowns

It’s worth mentioning that the legislature determines government budgets at every level. High-level government shutdowns have halted pay for government employees until new funding has been passed. And yes, there’s a law requiring you to receive your back compensation, but you’ll need to have a nest egg to help you through any interim periods.

What Types of Government Jobs Are There?

Once you’ve weighed the advantages and disadvantages of government jobs, if you determine that a job in the private sector fits your career goals, chances are there’s one for you.

Many people equate government roles solely with Federal jobs, but every local and state public entity also requires support. This ranges from customer service and data entry jobs at courthouses to payroll departments and other administrative support roles. Modern IT jobs are also needed for social media channels and network administrators, to name a few.

Regardless of your career focus, there’s a good chance you can choose a fulfilling career in the public sector.

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