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Federal pay ahead of private industry

Federal pay ahead of private industry

According to an analysis by USATODAY, the typical federal worker is paid 20% more than a private-sector worker in the same occupation.

Dennis Cauchon | USA TODAY via YellowBrix

The BLS reports that 216 occupations covering 1.1 million federal workers exist in both the federal government and the private sector. An additional 124 federal occupations covering 750,000 employees air-traffic controllers, tax collectors and others did not have direct equivalents, according to the BLS.

Federal jobs have more limited salary ranges than private-sector jobs, some of which have million-dollar payouts.

Key findings:

  • 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.
  • Private. The private sector paid more on average in a select group of high-skill occupations, including lawyers, veterinarians and airline pilots. The government’s 5,200 computer research scientists made an average of $95,190, about $10,000 less than the average in the corporate world.
  • State and local. State government employees had an average salary of $47,231 in 2008, about 5% less than comparable jobs in the private sector. City and county workers earned an average of $43,589, about 2% more than private workers in similar jobs. State and local workers have higher total compensation than private workers when the value of benefits is included.


Job comparison

Average federal salaries exceed average private-sector pay in 83% of comparable occupations. A sampling of average annnual salaries in 2008, the most recent data:

Job Federal Private Difference
Airline pilot, copilot, flight engineer $93,690 $120,012 -$26,322
Broadcast technician $90,310 $49,265 $41,045
Budget analyst $73,140 $65,532 $7,608
Chemist $98,060 $72,120 $25,940
Civil engineer $85,970 $76,184 $9,786
Clergy $70,460 $39,247 $31,213
Computer, information systems manager $122,020 $115,705 $6,315
Computer support specialist $45,830 $54,875 -$9,045
Cook $38,400 $23,279 $15,121
Crane, tower operator $54,900 $44,044 $10,856
Dental assistant $36,170 $32,069 $4,101
Economist $101,020 $91,065 $9,955
Editors $42,210 $54,803 -$12,593
Electrical engineer $86,400 $84,653 $1,747
Financial analysts $87,400 $81,232 $6,168
Graphic designer $70,820 $46,565 $24,255
Highway maintenance worker $42,720 $31,376 $11,344
Janitor $30,110 $24,188 $5,922
Landscape architects $80,830 $58,380 $22,450
Laundry, dry-cleaning worker $33,100 $19,945 $13,155
Lawyer $123,660 $126,763 -$3,103
Librarian $76,110 $63,284 $12,826
Locomotive engineer $48,440 $63,125 -$14,685
Machinist $51,530 $44,315 $7,215
Mechanical engineer $88,690 $77,554 $11,136
Office clerk $34,260 $29,863 $4,397
Optometrist $61,530 $106,665 -$45,135
Paralegals $60,340 $48,890 $11,450
Pest control worker $48,670 $33,675 $14,995
Physicians, surgeons $176,050 $177,102 -$1,052
Physician assistant $77,770 $87,783 -$10,013
Procurement clerk $40,640 $34,082 $6,558
Public relations manager $132,410 $88,241 $44,169
Recreation worker $43,630 $21,671 $21,959
Registered nurse $74,460 $63,780 $10,680
Respiratory therapist $46,740 $50,443 -$3,703
Secretary $44,500 $33,829 $10,671
Sheet metal worker $49,700 $43,725 $5,975
Statistician $88,520 $78,065 $10,455
Surveyor $78,710 $67,336 $11,374

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