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7 Extremely Compelling Reasons to Explore a Public Sector Career

Resource 7 Extremely Compelling Reasons to Explore a Public Sector Career

By John Calderon

Whether you’re fresh out of school or considering making a leap from the private sector, there are many benefits available when it comes to working in the public sector. On a basic level, public sector jobs have an obligation to serve citizens rather than to generate a profit by selling to consumers or other businesses. This mission alone dramatically changes the way workers in the public sector view their jobs versus those in the private sector. If you’re wondering whether the public sector might be for you, check out some of the top reasons you’ll like working in the public sector:

  • Serving and interacting with the community. Whether you work for the community you reside in or not, making a difference is a key benefit of working in the public sector. After all, you’re serving the people by providing critical services and programs, and depending on your role you may even come up with new and improved ways to make sure citizens get everything they need and want from their communities. Many public sector employees find this to be an extremely rewarding position to be in. Another benefit to this is that public sector agencies generally are more representative of the communities they serve, meaning that you’ll experience much more diversity in your pool of coworkers than you might in a private sector role.
  • Atmosphere and culture. Life in the private sector often requires working beyond the bounds of your typical 40 hour work week, particularly if you’re hoping to move up in your career. This can lead to a more cutthroat culture in the private sector, where employees are encouraged to compete with each other. Most public service jobs only ask that you work for eight hours, with an hour lunch break, and this will not preclude you from growing into more senior roles if that’s something you’re interested in and you've shown the ability to grow. Working in an environment where there's less of a ruthless rise to the top or fight for shares can lead to less stress and better relationships among coworkers.
  • Benefits and transparent pay grades. Although baseline pay in the public sector tends to be lower than the private sector, health care benefits in the public sector are almost always better than in the private sector. Additionally, some public sector jobs offer pension programs, meaning that you may be able to continue to receive a portion of your salary after retiring if you put in enough years of service at a given agency. Another public sector benefit when it comes to salary is the existence of pay grades, which take the guesswork out of what an employee can be expected to make in a given role, and what will be expected of them to move to a higher pay grade. The private sector tends to be less equitable and it's somewhat common for two employees of the same skill and experience level to make disparate salaries.
  • Career stability. In the private sector, there's rarely a feeling of job security. If the company isn’t hitting its profit targets and has to downsize, if there’s a merger or acquisition, or if you are encouraged to compete with others in your department, you may constantly feel like you’re looking over your shoulder. Not so in the public sector. While layoffs and furloughs do happen, they are usually a result of extreme budget shortfalls and not done lightly. During the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, many private sector companies were forced to lay off employees because the economy slowed to a snail’s pace; public sector agencies still had to serve communities even in the face of pandemic, and therefore most employees kept their roles or where transferred to another position. 
  • New sets of challenges. When you work in the private sector, your main concern is appeasing your customer base and new customer acquisition by solving a specific need or challenge they're facing. When it comes to public sector work, your concern is all citizens. This means your work will support people from all walks of life with different needs. Whatever position you hold, you'll play some role in the programs that serve the community, which can provide a sense of fulfillment at the end of the day, or even at the end of your career. Working for a corporation is less likely to give you the opportunity to truly help people, and even if you do take or return to a private sector job again in the future, this broadened experience of considering the needs of others in more altruistic ways may very well help you approach other aspects of your life or career from a more well-rounded perspective.
  • Jazz up your resume and connections. Working in the public sector when you’ve previously only held private sector jobs can be an interesting conversation starter, a welcome addition to your resume, and open new doors. You are likely to gain insights or a specific skillset unique to the public sector that could be beneficial to a future role in another government agency or if you return to the private sector. Additionally, working in the public sector may give you access to local officials with influence and further expand your network which can be leveraged in future endeavors, especially if you've ever thought about becoming a politician. Working in the public sector can give you an insider's view of how policies are created and implemented, and having held a civil servant role can help propel a run for city council or local office. 
  • Student loan repayment programs. This last reason is a huge benefit to those who are looking to offset some of their student loan debts. Via the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, employees can have federal student loans forgiven after roughly ten years of payments (source: Student Loan Hero). Additionally, the forgiveness program is untaxed and has no cap, meaning if you have several loans that you are struggling with, this could be a huge win for you.

John Calderon is the Content Strategist at and NEOGOV, the leader in developing cloud public sector human capital management solultions. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from University of California, Los Angeles and has spent over a decade creating content as a marketing professional and journalist.

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