Pros and cons of working in government - Working in our federal government - Go Government

The pros of working in government

By 2015, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) projects that more than 550,000 federal employees, one third of the entire full-time permanent workforce, will leave the government.

The work of government employees impacts the lives of every American, and the lives of people around the world. You can play a vital role in addressing pressing issues, from homlessness to homeland security.

Average government salaries are competitive with the private and nonprofit sectors. Pay can also increase fairly quickly for top candidates with strong education and experience. Federal benefits, including health insurance, retirement and vacation, are extremely competitive with, if not superior to, other sectors.

Where do you want to work and live? Whatever the answer, chances are you can find federal government work there. Most people think that federal government jobs are all in Washington, D.C., but in fact 84 percent of federal government jobs are outside of the D.C. area. More than 50,000 federal government employees work abroad.

There are federal jobs suited to every interest and skill, from art history to zoology. Government is also a great place to combine your skills with your interests. For example, you could use your mathematics background and your interest in the environment by working as an accountant at the Environmental Protection Agency, your engineering degree to improve airport security, or your biology degree and interest in medicine to conduct cutting-edge medical research at the National Institutes of Health.

There's a stereotype that government buildings are filled with endless rows of drones shuffling paper in cubicles, basically doing a whole lot of nothing on the taxpayer's dime. This couldn't be further from the truth in today's civil service, where government workers are leading and innovating on issues such as developing vaccines for deadly diseases, fighting sexual and racial discrimination, keeping our massive systems of transportation safe, and navigating the diplomatic waters overseas.

Flexible work schedules, including telework, are a major plus for those with busy schedules or long commutes. And, of course, everyone's favorite: federal holidays (Columbus Day, anyone?), plus generous vacation and sick leave. All of these packaged together make government an attractive employer if your are looking to have a life outside of work.

You will have many opportunities to move up the ladder in government, but you will have to be proactive. Many agencies use Individual Development Plans, as official format for working with your supervisor to plan your short- and long-term career goals within government. An internal Merit Promotion Program helps ensure that once you are in and doing a good job, you will have easy access to information about job openings withing government.

Government managers understand the value of continuing education for their employees, not only to consistently improve the skills of the people already in government, but also as a way to entice people to apply for positions. The government offers excellent training and development opportunities and has human resources personnel to help you connect with these opportunities and choose which courses are right for your career path.

Government work is steady and secure, an attractive selling point, especially when economic times are tough.

The cons of working in government

For many people, the word government is synonymous with bureaucracy, evoking images of red tape, inefficiency and waste. Sadly, there is some truth to this. Government is huge, and in order to manage all agencies, employees and programs, there is a complex system of rules and procedures in place, which can be frustrating. However, by hiring people who are well matched to their jobs and who bring enthusiasm and a good work ethic to the office, the scope and impact of the bureaucracy can be minimized. However, have you ever seen a large company that doesn't have bureaucracy and red tape?

Often cited as the biggest turn-off for would-be applicants, the hiring process requires patience and persistance. Luckily, there is a concerted government-wide effort underway to improve the hiring process.

While many government job salaries are comparable to those in the private sector, you are not likely to become extraordinarily wealthy on your government salary, although this depends on your definition of "wealthy." Many of the government's top jobs pay annual salaries that range from $117,000 to $177,000, and starting salaries are often comparable to the private sector.

One complaint that some government employees have is that, while government work is not inherently political, it is affected by politics. For example, when a President's political appointee comes in to an agency and does a good job, his or her peers are frustrated when he or she leaves, only to be replaced by another appointee with different priorities and a different idea of how things should be done. This can leave government workers feeling torn between their agency's mission and politically driven agendas. However, the number of political appointees is very small compared to the overall number of employees in the federal workforce, and most federal employees have little direct contact with political appointees.

Many people go into government to get that much-desired balance of bringing home a nice paycheck, getting great benefits, and having the chance to make a difference. There may be no better place to give back than through government service. Every job, in its essence, is intended to help our country and our world in some way. On the other hand, choosing this path can be tough if you are the kind of person who needs to see immediate results in order to be fulfilled. Real, lasting results are sometimes slow in the making. The process of getting things done takes patience, perseverance and a positive attitude.