May 5, 2008
"At age 55, I would have had guaranteed health insurance," Cooper says.
"The long-term benefits were pretty good and more complex than the private
sector," she says.
Does she regret not taking that job? No, says Cooper.
She says she saw a lot of unhappiness in the city's bureaucracy. "I
followed my heart instead," she says.
One man's poison is another's passion
Daniel Kohns is a 39-year-old former Capitol Hill staffer who has spent
the majority of his working years punching one government time clock after
another. Today he works Congress from the other side of the aisle, doing
lobbying and strategic communications work.
Kohns' experience includes various stints with the United Nations and as a
domestic aid to New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo (prior to Cuomo's
appointment to the attorney general's office). Kohns says he loves what he
does now, but says his former jobs, which paid much less than what he is
earning in the private sector, were labors of love.
"On Capitol Hill, regardless of what side of the aisle we were on, we
really believed and felt we were taking part in shaping history," Kohns
Kohns categorizes the pay as "quite horrible considering what one would
make in the private sector." But, he admits, the benefits were good --
from health insurance to retirement.
Nick Farr, 29, is a GS-10 level accountant. He prepares financial reports,
reviews financial statements, disbursements and collections, and assists
with preparing loans and budgets.
The base grade wages for a GS-10 range from $43,824 to $56,973. However,
Washington, D.C., has a 20.89 percent geographic adjustment, which bumps
the GS-10's salary range to between $52,979 and $68,875 for agencies
without separate wage schedules.
Farr says he's making more in his federal capacity than he was in the
private sector, but he points out that it's very expensive to live in the
nation's capital and that federal cost-of-living increases are modest, but
Farr says he is more satisfied with his federal job.
"I believe I am part of a team that actually makes a difference. I can't
say that about any private sector job I've had."
Careers expert Shelley Canter, author of "Make the Right Career Move,"
says the big difference between the public and private sectors comes down
to money and style of operation. While the public sector may offer
bankable peace of mind, "the private sector offers more freedom and
balance. You have to look at the trade-off," Canter says.
Public jobs tend to be more security-oriented, while private jobs are more
rewards-oriented, according to Canter.
If you're contemplating government employment, don't expect to land a job
overnight. "The employment process is very bureaucratic and very long,"
As to whether or not government service is right for you, Damp says people
who can't follow rules and work within finite parameters don't belong in
government jobs. "The ones that learn to make the rules and regulations
work for them are the ones who will succeed."