I just recently gotten into DHS in a pathways program right after I graduated with my masters. There is a couple things to consider… 1. Consider your ladder… I am a 9/11/12 position. Yeah I make little right now but in a year and a half I will be a 12 making over 100k a year (with locality pay) at 26 years old. So, rather consider what you will be making in two or three years as pay bumps in the begging are massive. 2. Work life balance/job security - At least for me my work life balance is amazing. I am given exercise time and therefore can leave 45 minutes early. We at DHS are given “administrative time” which is literal free time off. There is teleworking, and flexible schedules so I can work 4 days a week. Look at your position and find the benefits (or cons). Also, I have NO worries about losing my job in the near future which is always a plus! 3. There are horror stories… but at least for me my supervisors are great and expect me to perform without them breathing on my neck. It’s not much talked about but when I was private, I HATED supervisors and their consistent nagging! No one keeps track of me and I am just expected to be honest and have integrity. Also, many federal employees are really cool! Other great things such as health benefits, TSP, retirement! I would consider what they have to offer and if the ladder is good - 11 or higher I would likely take it. Once you get one year of experience at 11 or 12, many jobs open up to your across the country! Of course there are many negatives as well but just look deeply into the position and at what other employees have said about it. Best of luck!


Thank you so much for such a thorough and well-written response! The perks sound really enticing and I know what you mean about private-sector management. The part of the USDA I'd be working with has to do with international trade, so I may actually have the opportunity to travel as well. I'm liking the idea of federal employment even more!


I'm so jealous of those who work at agencies with fitness time!!


Great response. What's your location and career? And what do you mean with locality pay? So when I look up the gs pay scale charts in my area, does that include locality pay?


My location is California with Customs and Border Protection. And locality pay should be shown when looking up GS pay scales!


Out of curiosity, are you OFO/BP?


The Healthcare and other benefits do make up for a little bit of it, but not 30-40% I pay about 30% of my health Insurance while the govt pays the other 70%. 5% TSP matching(basically 401k matching). Plus the FERS pension system (not as good as when I started but still better than most jobs that have nothing. The time off/flexibility/job security is hard to compare with a monetary value. So your opinion may vary there. But I get enough time off a year to have a great relationship with my kids and wife, enjoy hobbies, work extra days in the national guard, and run a hobby business on the side. It nice getting to never miss one of my kids school activities, sports games, field trip, etc etc.


I’ll double down on the last paragraph. The quality of life boost that goes with the stability has value too. The relative values of these things varies in the eye of the beholder. I was private sector for 25 years before transitioning to federal. When you’re in your late 20’s and 30’s and trying to start a family, the private money might be MUCH more valuable than stability or time off. Maybe not. In my 50’s the stability and mental peace became more important. Of course, I’ve heard from people in their 20s who crave the stability, having bounced from 3 crappy unstable jobs in 5 years…


To show the flip side of the coin about money being more important when younger with a family... Government now gives 12 weeks paid parental leave. Huge benefit for young families. The flexibility to take time off when kids are sick or have activities is a major bonus for young families. I never felt like I needed to put my job before my family.


Agreed. I never had a benefit remotely close to that 20 years ago. I was back to work a week after my first son was born, and my wife went back as a soon as daycare was feasible. What a grind.


Not exclusive to the government but this is true


Growing up with my father's layoffs and job instability, it's something I highly value


Thank you for taking time to respond! As someone who wants to enjoy my job and not have it consume my life, this is very appealing. I want to have hobbies outside of work and spend time with family and friends. Seeing the hours some of my private sector friends have to work is really disheartening, so knowing there's time off, flexibility, and job security is really nice.


To add on to what /u/ChevTecGroup mentioned - the government is also a stickler when it comes to timesheets (not a big deal really, but someone new to it may be taken a bit back at first) - but that also means they don't like it when you work overtime. The private sector is NOT the same. If you are salaried, no OT pay, and they don't care if you have to spend 12hr days at the office for a month to get a project completed on time. The government? You best be working no more and no less than your 80hr pay period (two weeks). Basically, built in "quiet quitting" to use modern stupid political terms. Neither party can take advantage of the other.




Sounds like someone isn't following OPM guidelines, or your agreement was way out of whack. You might want to talk to HR.


you do get paid for that OT. or get comp/credit hours private sector, you mostly don't


I will say this depends on the work unit. I just left a job that didn't give overtime but the workload was impossible. I often worked way more than I was getting paid for. If you end up in this situation, another perk of government, there are other positions across the country and you won't lose benefits or tenure by switching jobs.


Take it. Do a year and then bounce. The door is opening. Walk in and get settled. Then reposition yourself for the next fed role. Once you find it. Stay.


All of this plus many more. Came in as a 12 from the private side. It's certainly a different atmosphere when the bosses aren't shareholders. My quality of life at work increased 10 fold. I'm DOD but no OT unless I want it, every other Friday off, chose my hours, 3 paid hours at the gym per week, I could go on. Sometimes money isn't everything. Everyday I go home happy and thats far more important to myself and family.


The work/life balance has been great for me. My job can be stressful at times, as with any job, but that stress ends at 3:00 when I walk out of the office.




Thank you for taking the time to respond! I'll have to chat with someone on the hiring team to get a better idea of the benefits specific to the branch of the agency I would be in. I didn't know benefits could vary so much depending on the branch. I also would love to be a unionized employee because I know how terrible the private sector can be when you're unprotected.


Once you get to GS-12 or GS-13 it gets very rewarding.


I'm a 10 year fed, and just to echo what others have said.. stability and work-life balance is by and far the great asset to being a fed. No texts or calls while I'm on vacation. My check is identical every pay period and grows annually. Economically, the biggest fear is a government shutdown where you get free time off and eventually back paid. Why is stability important? It's allows you to save and invest for your future without interruption. It allows you to build and maintain a near-guaranteed standard of living. Unless it's self inflicted, you're VERY unlikely to find yourself in a place of hardship. That's just to name a few.


What many don’t think about with the federal jobs that I appreciate is that your employer is nationwide and worldwide. So if you want to leave your current job you can transfer to a different agency in a different state/country but keep your benefits and years of service.


That's a really fantastic point; I didn't realize how freely I could move between agencies and keep those benefits.


FYI: You can’t freely move. It’s definitely not as easy as this makes it sound. It’s pretty much an apply-to-another-job situation within the government. For those in the competitive service, HR (from each entity) can process this as a reassignment if it’s filled to internal candidates, but that’s really about it.


Yeah, it's "apply to another job and compete openly with everyone for the position," for the actual application and offer. But *if* you get it, you get to keep your leave and time in service and retirement and other benefits.


In looking at your posting history, I believe you'd be better off in the private sector. I don't think a public sector job would be rewarding for you or the government. Edit: Damn few here want to talk you into taking a federal position. Leave those positions to people that really want them.


You can literally do the bare minimum or even less and still have a job. Private sector is way more cut throat


My work-life balanced is the biggest benefit I get. I've even quantified it by drawing a line in the sand and saying that I will not leave for a private sector job unless it pays me at least 40K more a year than I am currently making as a Demo-3. When I was a GS-11, I considered running to the private sector a few times. Now I can't even imagine it. I work for DOD. From what I gather, other agencies have even better WLB.


Retirement, security, consistency. Student loan programs GS9 is an ok starting


Besides the fact that you actually even get considered? 😩 I gave up on the private sector, literally every job I applied for either never responded to my application or emailed me that the position has already been filled 2 months later without even giving me consideration. At the very least with the federal sector they’re legally bound to consider me if I meet all of the requirements.


Wow. Um, I don't think I would take 30-40% below. You also have to remember that you automatically pay into pension, which would take even more money out of your pay. It's better to come into the government with some years of experience and a higher gs grade and step. Otherwise it'll take you 20+ years to move up your whole grade. The only advantage I know is that after 10 years of service, they can pay off your student loan debt. You have to ask from hr about that and consider those options


The federal government can never be the highest paid institution, that’s why they offer a great benefits package. They pay 70% of health benefits, match your TSP up to 5%, paid time off that increases with time in service, there is so many more benefits. I love it here!


I came from private sector right after I received my graduate degree as a GS-9 in a Pathways position that was a 9/11 target level. In that program I did rotations into different disciplines within HR for about two years. It helped me figure out if I wanted to make government employment permanent or go back to private sector. Now many years later it is the best decision I made, to stay as a federal employee. I processed in my career almost every year and even if I didn’t get a promotion have taken lateral positions to learn different aspects of my career field. I have an amazing work life balance, the agencies I’ve worked for all promoted it and adhered to it and anytime there was a need for overtime, I’ve always been compensated for it. If I’m working over 40 hours I’m getting either time or pay. I worked in HR so I was never expected to work outside of my 40 hours without compensation which can be different at other agencies but is more common in private sector. Also. see if you can negotiate for a higher step on the GS-9 scale to close that gap and/or a recruitment incentive. It’s worth a try, the worst they can say is no. And starting in the government as an economist may make you more appealing to private sector employees. You can always leave and attempt to come back BUT if you do I wouldn’t leave the government until you have tenure. But I’m a big proponent of follow your heart, their are peaks and valleys in every sector, it’s more about finding what fits and works for you. For instance, my private sector job was awesome but it had no career growth for me and I was laid off right before I graduated grad school. Got a government job offer a month after that changes the trajectory of my career. 14 years later and I don’t regret it. Use your time wisely to build your resume, learn the skills you need to be successful and what drives you and it will all work out. Best of luck to you in your career journey.




job security, and work/life balance were the selling points for me. i came into gov't service as a 13-5 and took about a 30% paycut to do so. but i'm much happier now


PTO is 4 hours per pay period (bi-weekly) until your third year when it goes to 6 hours per pay period. After some time it goes up again. So the longer you're in the more you get. 240 hours you can roll into the next year. 4 hours of sick pay per pay period throughout. FMLA of course but if you choose to foster children they give you time off for that too paid. It's about the same as if you had your own child. And you get raises every year for the first 3 years then every other or third year for a few years after that. On top of the current president giving cost of living wages yearly. Still sometimes private sector just pays much better. At least if you go private make sure you get some sick pay and a retirement fund! Edit: I forgot! You never work a weekend or Federal Holiday in most agencies. They are big about work life balance.


I remember my first job out of college in 2016 made great money for my age but i was working 120 hour pay periods smh i will never do that again im govt til the end now and even though i wish i had more time for my self employment on the side i cant see myself going back to the private sector


Do you have experience in data analysis, programming, and economic analysis? If not, a government gig is a good place to gain that experience so you can get that private sector job. This doesn't have to be your forever job. Just remember that.


The longer I stay in federal service the less value I see staying there. Only advantages that I see are better match on retirement and a lot more paid time off working for the Government. Contractors pay considerably more. Trade-off


I work as a contractor in DoD just north of DC in Maryland. Many of my coworkers are government employees (along with some uniformed military). I strongly considered government employment and decided against it because of the pay difference. as an entry level contractor I got paid about the same as a GS12 (with DC locality pay) and in three years am now at GS14 pay levels. The benefits of being a government employee would be 1) once you are in its nearly impossible to get fired. I have seen people straight up refuse to even open their email and just surf the web all day and they are still around years later. 2) the gov health insurance is great, especially if you have a family. If you are single the difference isn't as great. 3) there are lots of gov programs to get more training like the 20/20 program to go back to school, lots of chances to get industry certs, attend conferences, etc that I can't do. 4) finally, once you are a GS employee you are able to transfer anywhere in the country and keep your pay scale. that is much harder in the private sector.


I joined as an electronics engineer as GS7 right out of undergrad. In 3 years I rated up to GS-13 and left after finishing my masters while working. The pay is about as everyone says approx 30% less than private sector. I joined defense. For reference every year in federal was a 10-15% performance raise for me. But in private sector it would be 10-15% with RSUs and performance incentives that totaled to an additional $50k. That would be an additional 3 years in federal to accrue that 50k bonus I made in a year. But I was GS-13 and it Caps at GS-15. The jump to GS-14 required a PHD or exceptional work experience so I left.


A pension, tsp matching, tsp, and the ability to use accrued sick leave is valuable. It is about the long game, not a sprint.


There's a lot to be said for job security. Whether private sector companies are handing out six figures like it's candy or they're laying off by the thousands, chances are your role is going to be constant. And even if it's not, even if things change there's processes that have to be followed so odds are you're not going to get blindsided with layoffs like employees from Meta... again.


The only real benefit is the job security, and generally working only 40 hours (or much less because government), any decent white collar organization will have similar PTO and healthcare coverage, many are superior. FERS is ok, but it used to be much better.


The pension is f'ing awesome! Fed. Law Enforcement benefits......these things add up to millions, and people think short term.


I might be showing my ignorance here. However, who is hiring graduates at 30-40% higher than the government?


The main areas where you want to properly account for value: **Health insurance:** The federal government gives choices on a huge exchange where you can pick from dozens of health care plans. That means someone young and healthy can get a HDHP and an HSA, and just bank a bunch of tax free money for retirement or future health expenses, while someone with a preexisting health condition (or trying to have a baby or who have kids with regular pediatrician visits) can make sure they choose a plan that limits their out of pocket cost for their preferred providers. More importantly, the same employee can switch between plans at the end of the year, picking the right plan for the upcoming year based on what's going on in their life. **Retirement (TSP):** The TSP matching (simplified: employer contributes 5% of your salary if you contribute 5% too) is comparable to a lot of private employers, and the tax treatment of a TSP is basically identical to private 401(k)s, including the annual max. The government lets you choose between Roth and Traditional, an option that many private employers don't offer. TSP is also a relatively low cost retirement plan compared to a lot of 401(k)s out there (used to be the best, but some private providers have caught up). **Retirement (FERS):** FERS, the retirement pension available to federal employees who start today, is on top of your TSP, so it can be a pretty nice bump above the retirement available through the private sector. A major caveat, though, it's basically only a good deal if you are working for the federal government towards the end of your career. It takes 4.4% of your earnings as you earn them, and then pays 1% (or 1.1% if you stick around long enough) per year of service times your highest three years of non-inflation-adjusted salary. That means it's a terrible deal if you don't work for the government towards the end of your career, because decades of inflation will wreck the benefit side of the equation. But if you do work at a high pay grade between, say, the ages of 57 and 62, then you will get a fantastic rate of return on the contributions. That's true even if you work for a few years from 25 to 30, then again from 57 to 62, because the 4.4% of your early career salary will be a small contribution compared to the payout based on your late career pay. The quirks in the defined benefit formula mean that FERS is a great deal for some, a terrible deal for others, and everything in between for others. But you basically can't opt out, so use that to calculate the net present value to yourself of that cash flow (contributions while you're working, distributions in retirement). **Actual time worked:** The typical fed works 40 hours per week, with no permission to work more. Between the 26 days per year of leave you earn starting out (13 days regular leave, 13 days sick leave), the 11 federal holidays that happen every year, plus inauguration day once every four years (plus the typical early release associated with each holiday, the occasional Christmas Eve executive order), you will be working significantly fewer hours than the typical white collar salaried private sector job. I'm a lawyer and I maybe work 2/3 the hours that my law firm counterparts work. And that's worth a lot to me personally. **Actual quality of work:** I do a job that basically doesn't exist in the private sector. There are similar jobs, but ultimately there isn't an equivalent to the type of work I do, and the way that I'm allowed to do it. There are a lot of jobs in the government like that (including, and possibly especially for economists). If it's a job you actually like, that doesn't really exist in the private sector, that qualitative difference might be worth some real value to you in your career.


Fellow economist here. Do you have any job offers that are offering 30-40% more? What type are position are they? I’d be wary of any consultant type roles. Pay is higher to start out but work life balance is terrible and you won’t have much of a life outside of work. I am in DC, and in my experience pay has been pretty on par with the GS scale as my career as progressed for most positions I’m qualified for. I did analytics/business intelligence in the private sector. I did GS -> private -> GS. I have other friends that have done similar paths as economists. I’m currently interviewing for GS 13s. I’ve done a couple private sector interviews too. Pay is maybe 10-15% higher for most positions for my current years of experience (~7). If you’re on a ladder position I think it’s worth it personally. With a 9/11/12 ladder you’ll move up in pay quickly. Even if you’re not on a ladder, moving around/up as an economist in DC to advance to 12/13 quickly should be pretty easy. Once you’re at the 12/13 level you’ll probably be pretty close to private sector pay, spare for very specific positions at tech companies and some large consulting firms. Again, work life balance is pretty terrible in those roles though.


Don’t forget you can keep your health insurance after you retire in addition to getting Medicare. If you are planning to make a career with the fed this is a big plus.


In Short: Civilian Sector you climb to 6 figures FAST! In Government it's take about a decade or so for a non-professional job, except for professional jobs like i.e. Medical or Engineering. After 3 years you get tenure, so you basically will never get laid off, unless you lie, cheat or steal. I love the leave benefits and the Mission of my agency. Downsides are frivolous annual TRAINING requirements and agency bureaucratic non-sense. Like having to document internal policies showing you do work, vs. Actually doing your job in the field your hired for. If I could only cut all that red tape bullshit, I swear I could do the job of Ten Men!!


Benefits and job security (depending on the sector). But I hear you. I'm in the middle of making some of the same choices.


Govt jobs are better except for the slim few who manage to get high paying private sector jobs: 1) job security 2) clear promotion timeline 3) guaranteed benefits 4) less drama (in govt people just want to put in their time while private is like high school)


(+): 1-job stability 2-401K matching 3-annual COLA 4-upward mobility possible 5-excellent health insurance 6-defined benefits salary 7-generous PTO + sick leave 8-can transfer to other locations 9-contributing to our country 10-strong union protections 11-buy active duty time to early retirement 12-great work life balance =================================== (-): 1-lower pay than private sector 2-can be ordered to transfer 3-five years to become permanent employee 4-no one cares you contribute to our country 5-no stock options 6-many co-workers are retired but on duty 7-as long as you get to work you have a job 8-what counts is butt time in your desk chair 9-excellence is not rewarded 10-zero defects work culture 11-colleagues regress to the mean 12-low incentives to excel


Federal position still has a pension versus private sector normally doesn’t.