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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

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    almost 5 years ago


    I get a kick out of things like this. The fact is that the results are skewed. Janitors are union-covered. Most of the occupations listed are, in the civil service arena, union-covered. Unions tend to get janitors higher pay for their work, but IT professionals who work for the government are usually paid about 40% less than their private sector counterparts. Tax agents working for the government make more than those working for private firms. Attorneys for some reason make more money working for the government than in private sector, and librarians make nearly double what non-civil-service librarians make.

    The main reason the VA pays their nurses so well is that they have a difficult time recruiting them. People seem to confuse the politics of war with the people who fight in them. I am a veteran, and although I don't believe in war as a general rule, I volunteered to go to the Persian Gulf in 1990. My brother and several cousins are veterans for the same reasons. The difference between a veteran and someone who has been in the military is that a veteran really knows what it is like to risk his or her life for the sake of this country. People who work in VA hospitals are usually veterans themselves because nobody else understands what it is like to have to deal with explosions nearby, or their friends' heads suddenly lying on the floor next to them, or seeing a child run up and put a grenade into a serviceman's lunch pail. Nobody can imagine it. Veterans can, but we wish we couldn't.

    Civil service jobs do not pay well, but they are stable, and the benefits are pretty good. As for comments about the administration, which administration are you talking about? Reagan fired the air traffic controllers. Carter let the steel mills start going to Japan.Clinton signed NAFTA. George H.W. Bush carried on Reagan's economic policies leading to a huge deficit, which Clinton turned into a surplus and G.W. Bush turned back into a deficit. Now Obama gets blamed for it when he inherited most of the debt? I recently repaired my credit in 2006 after it had been damaged for over ten years by my mistakes. I am now recovering more and more of my good credit and for the first time in four years have no credit card debt (though I do have student loans, a car loan, and a mortgage).It has taken me fourteen years to get to this point in my financial life, and my debts only totalled less than $6000. We are talking about a $1TRILLION plus deficit and you want it cleared up in a year? Two questions. What are you smoking? Why the Hell aren't you sharing?

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    almost 5 years ago


    Most of the difference in pay is because a large portion of federal employees work in Washington DC where they are compensated an addtional 20% for high cost of living.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    almost 5 years ago


    This information gives the implication that this has always been the case...not so. Having worked in both the military and civil service for just under forty-five years (retired in 2000), I can assure you this has not always been the case. Don't get me wrong, I am not saying government salaries are too low however, I am saying we need to fix the civilian job market not, rail against those who are finally making a decent salary. The econimic problem is still lack of jobs due mainly to lack of visionand econimic common sense of our current administration. Itis inconceivable to me why they don't understand...cut spending, lower taxes andreturn money to the individuals and small business owners who create jobs.

    Mike, Warner Robins, Georgia

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