Work­ing in the Pub­lic vs. Pri­vate Sec­tor

The Washington Post Sunday - - TECH JOBS -

In most ar­eas of the coun­try, look­ing for a new tech job starts with a look at job place­ment Web sites, some calls to your con­tacts in the in­dus­try and brush­ing up your re­sume. In the D.C. area, look­ing for a new tech job of­ten be­gins with ask­ing your­self the ques­tion: “Pub­lic or pri­vate sec­tor?”

When most peo­ple in the D.C. area are con­sid­er­ing a pub­lic sec­tor job, they con­sider work­ing for the fed­eral govern­ment. The fed­eral govern­ment is the largest em­ployer in the nation, and as of 2008, about 15 per­cent of the fed­eral govern­ment’s em­ploy­ees lived in the D.C. area ac­cord­ing to the Bureau of La­bor Statis­tics. Hir­ing at the fed­eral level is ex­pected to in­crease by 10 per­cent by 2018.

Is sta­bil­ity and a good work/ life bal­ance what you want? A fed­eral job might be for you. Do you pre­fer higher com­pen­sa­tion

and the op­por­tu­nity to work on more cut­ting-edge projects? A job in the pri­vate

sec­tor might be a bet­ter fit.

Fed­eral em­ploy­ment has many ad­van­tages. Tech jobs are not al­ways sta­ble and of­ten in­volve long hours. Fed­eral em­ploy­ment is tra­di­tion­ally a very safe choice. You do not have to worry about your com­pany los­ing fund­ing, fail­ing to sell a prod­uct or get­ting bought out.

“I tell my clients, if they can get a govern­ment po­si­tion, take it,” Su­san Hein, owner of re­cruit­ment firm The Job Mar­ket, Inc., in Po­tomac, Md., said. “The pri­vate sec­tor is of­fer­ing more money, but it's not as sta­ble.”

The health­care and re­tire­ment ben­e­fits that fed­eral jobs of­fer are some of the best and most sta­ble in the coun­try. A fed­eral job pro­vides a good op­por­tu­nity for tech work­ers who are concerned with job se­cu­rity and main­tain­ing work/life bal­ance.

Some fed­eral tech work­ers cite the job sat­is­fac­tion they feel from serv­ing so­ci­ety as a con­tribut­ing fac­tor in their choice to work for the govern­ment.

“There's a lot of fulfillment in do­ing some­thing that's for the greater good. We're help­ing peo­ple,” Gavin Goode, an IT spe­cial­ist for the Cen­ters for Medi­care and Med­i­caid Ser­vices said.

The pri­mary rea­son for choos­ing a pri­vate sec­tor tech job over a govern­ment tech job is com­pen­sa­tion. Pay for some fed­eral jobs can be as much as 26 per­cent lower than a com­pa­ra­ble pri­vate sec­tor job, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Trea­sury Em­ploy­ees Union.

An­other draw for techies to pri­vate em­ploy­ment is the technology it­self. Pri­vate sec­tor tech jobs typ­i­cally of­fer the op­por­tu­nity to work on more cut­ting-edge projects and use bet­ter equip­ment. Pri­vate sec­tor com­pa­nies are mo­ti­vated to make a profit and have less red tape to cut through when fi­nanc­ing new projects.

“Govern­ment tech is ei­ther bleed­ing edge or 20 years out of date,” Corey Chris­tian, a lead en­gi­neer at FICO, said. “There are some jobs that are bleed­ing edge, but they're few and far be­tween.”

When con­sid­er­ing a pub­lic or pri­vate sec­tor tech job, it is im­por­tant to fig­ure out what is most im­por­tant to you. Is sta­bil­ity and a good work/ life bal­ance what you want? A fed­eral job might be for you. Do you pre­fer higher com­pen­sa­tion and the op­por­tu­nity to work on more cut­tingedge projects? A job in the pri­vate sec­tor might be a bet­ter fit. Con­sider the ad­van­tages and dis­ad­van­tages of both when you look for your next tech job.

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