Don't Let Me Stop You

What the heck, you'll do what you want anyway.

The Federal Pay Premium

Posted by Ryne McClaren on March 8, 2010

If you’re working for the federal government, then congratulations.  The chances that you earn more than your average counterpart in the private sector is above average.  In fact, it’s nearly a certainty that you’re better paid than someone with similar (or identical skills) performing the same job on our side of the fence.

From USA Today comes this story, culled from an analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data: Federal pay ahead of private industry.

Federal employees earn higher average salaries than private-sector workers in more than eight out of 10 occupations, a USA TODAY analysis of federal data finds.

Accountants, nurses, chemists, surveyors, cooks, clerks and janitors are among the wide range of jobs that get paid more on average in the federal government than in the private sector.

What does this “more pay on average” add up to?  Quite a bit actually.

Federal. The federal pay premium cut across all job categories — white-collar, blue-collar, management, professional, technical and low-skill. In all, 180 jobs paid better average salaries in the federal government; 36 paid better in the private sector.

Granted, the federal pay scale is “limited,” or capped in many circumstances.  But 180 of the 216 jobs that were analyzed were more profitable on average when Uncle Sam is your employer.  So if that’s the average, I could probably stand some of that federal pay cap myself.

This isn’t to begrudge everyone on the federal payroll, or even to argue about the disparity.  There are plenty of federal workers whose pay is commensurate with their skills and training.  But in many cases those private sector workers don’t just make less, but significantly less.

If you click through to the link you’ll see a “job comparison” chart explaining the average federal pay versus the average private sector pay for a given job.  The article makes some mention that certain federal jobs, like accounting, for example, “has more complexity and requires more skill.”

A cook working for the government makes $38,400 on average. The average for the guy working in the diner kitchen makes $23,279.

How about the position of “clergy?”  They make a whopping $70,460 per year when they’re employed by Uncle Sam, which is a certifiable chasm of $31,213 more than their non-fed counterparts ($39,247).  While I can think of a multitude of reasons that our federal government does in fact need highly trained and skillful clergy, I was left scratching my head at the “complexity” and higher level of “skills” in this one.

It all makes for interesting reading on a Monday night.


One Response to “The Federal Pay Premium”

  1. Dan Draney said

    Once in awhile USA Today surprises you. 🙂 I noticed the government chemists do pretty well.

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