Pros and Cons of Working in Government

The Pros

The chance to make a difference

Government employees work to enhance the lives of people in the U.S. and around the world. You can play a vital role in ending homelessness, finding cures for diseases, keeping our food supply safe and much more.

Great benefits and competitive pay

Average government salaries are competitive with the private and nonprofit sectors. Top candidates with work experience and strong academic backgrounds can quickly increase their pay. Federal benefits, including health insurance, retirement and vacation, can be superior to other sectors.

Location, location, location

Wherever you want to call home, federal jobs likely are available. Nearly 85 percent of federal government jobs are outside of the Washington, D.C., area, and more than 50,000 federal government employees work abroad.

Jobs for every interest

Whatever your strengths and passions, there’s a federal job for you. Whether your skills are accounting or engineering, or you have an interest in art history, zoology or something other field, you can find opportunities at a federal agency with a mission that excites you.

Interesting and Challenging Work

Working in government is more interesting, challenging and groundbreaking than many people realize. You can do work similar what you might do in the private sector, only on a grander scale and with greater impact. Government employees develop vaccines for deadly diseases, fight sexual and racial discrimination, and navigate diplomatic challenges overseas.

Work-life balance

If you’re looking to have a life outside of work, the federal government is an attractive employer. Flexible work schedules, including telework, are a major plus for people with busy schedules or long commutes. In addition to generous vacation and sick leave, employees get 10 the federal holidays off. Veterans Day, anyone?

Professional development and advancement opportunities

The government offers excellent training and development opportunities, and many agencies use individual development plans to help you plan your short- and long-term career goals so you can find the opportunities that align with your career goals and advance in your career.

The Cons

Making a difference is a marathon, not a sprint

Creating lasting change takes time. While there may be no better place to give back to our country and the world than through government service, you may not see the immediate results of your work.

Rules and regulations do exist

Stereotypes paint our government as full of red tape, inefficiency and waste. Stereotypes have a grain of truth in them, but are usually overblown. Our government is huge, and the complex system of rules and procedures for running agencies, employees and programs can be frustrating. But those constraints also save agencies from acting rashly or in haste when taxpayer money is at stake.

The hiring process

Often cited as the biggest turnoff for would-be federal employees, the federal government hiring process takes longer than in any other sector. However, there is a concerted government-wide effort underway to fix the broken process.

You won’t get rich working in government

While many government salaries are comparable to those in the private sector, there is a pay ceiling for a range of federal positions that leaves federal employees with lower salaries than they might have gotten in the private sector. Many of the government’s top professional jobs pay annual salaries that range from $117,000 to $177,000.

Revolving door of leadership

Government work is not inherently political, but it is affected by politics. For example, there is always a revolving door of political appointees at the highest levels, most of whom have their own priorities.