Every year, a number of graduates eschew the private sector to pursue careers in government. Unfortunately, stereotypes about government work keep many from pursuing this rewarding path. Government jobs provide a number of benefits to employees that private sector employees do not have.
A serious draw for many is the job security a government job can provide. All other things being equal, public sector jobs are not as precarious as private sector jobs. After all, any company can go bankrupt, but a government going bankrupt is much, much rarer. Layoffs are similar. While sweeping layoffs are possible in the private sector, the frequency of such layoffs is much lower in the public sector. For employees who worry if their jobs will be there the next day, government employment can provide that security.
Like private sector jobs, public sector jobs provide opportunities for career advancement. The federal government alone employs around 2.8 million people, and that large "corporation" provides multiple opportunities to adjust your career path along the way.
Even in a field such as disaster management, there are numerous federal agencies that employ skilled professionals. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is by far the largest, but smaller government entities need employees with the background and experience that disaster and emergency management programs can provide. Government jobs in this area include emergency management specialists, disaster recovery managers and program coordinators.
Steve Ressler, writer and government employee, puts it succinctly: "the government generally provides a solid vacation package (20 days for feds a year once you serve 3 years)." But that vacation package is often supplemented by holidays: government employees observe all federal holidays, and state and local governments may have additional holidays they observe. It's no wonder that government jobs score high on work-life balance measures.
The common stereotype of a government worker is someone trapped in a cubicle, buried under mountains of bureaucratic paperwork. The reality is much different. According to a survey of FEMA employees conducted in 2007, "92.1 percent felt their individual work was important."
Such a high percentage demonstrates that emergency management professionals find their work important, and important work gives employees purpose. Knowing your daily work helps others and saves lives goes a long way toward a feeling of overall job satisfaction.
Wherever there are people, there is government. So, the choices of where to live are nearly endless. Federal government jobs are located all over the U.S. Smaller state and local governments provide employment opportunities too. Further, some positions in disaster and emergency management involve travel. Sometimes the best place to be for a disaster is on the ground, helping people.
One of the most prevalent stereotypes about government work is that it pays too little. On average, many private sector jobs pay larger salaries for comparable work; however, this is only looking at salary, not other forms of compensation.
One of the biggest draws to public sector work is loan forgiveness programs. This program forgives any remaining student loan balance after the student makes "120 qualifying monthly payments under a qualifying repayment plan while working full-time for a qualifying employer." For many with outstanding student loan balances, this program is a lifesaver. Although on average, private sector jobs pay more than public sector jobs, this loan forgiveness program can offset any earnings lost by taking a lower-paying position.
Many government agencies are increasing salaries to recruit new talent. According to Steve Ressler, "government @job salaries are definitely competitive especially in the mid-level. It starts a little low but catches up quick. At the top levels, it is significantly lower than private sector."
So, many are turning to government jobs for the first part of their career, with a switch to the private sector later. If your salary is competitive with a similar, private sector job, and you get loan forgiveness on top of that, total compensation for the work could be much higher in the public sector.
Whether for security, satisfaction, location or compensation, many choose the public sector each year. Their jobs have purpose, in that they believe in the mission they work toward every day and feel good helping others. And their jobs are rewarding financially as well. Rather than base your choice on stereotypes, give government employment a fair chance -- you just may be surprised by the benefits.
Sources:FEMA: FEMA Employee Survey Shows Personal Job Satisfaction, Areas for Agency Improvement
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