Working Federal Government

5 Benefits Of Working For The Federal Government


Now is a good time to work for the United States federal government as more than a quarter million people have been hired by the government over the last three years. USA Jobs, the primary portal for federal job seekers, is even launching a streamlined application service for college students and recent graduates called Pathways to better assist them with finding government work.

While this is certainly welcome news in a weak economy, one might wonder why there is so much interest in government jobs in particular. By way of an answer, here are five benefits of working for the federal government.

1. Job Security

Increased job security is a valuable commodity, especially in an uncertain economy, and the federal government provides it. Compared to public servants, private employees are at a much higher risk for being terminated; in fact, they are three times likelier to be terminated by their private employer than are employees of the federal government.

2. High Compensation Increases

Federal employees receive competitive salaries with the added benefit of high compensation increases. From 1951 to 1991, the average state and local government employees received $1.37 in compensation increases for every $1.00 received by the average private employee. Federal civilian employees received $1.91. Since 1980 the pace has increased, with average state and local employees receiving $4.78 for each $1.00 received by private employees.

3. More Vacation and Holidays

Over the course of a career, state and local government employees and federal civilian employees receive nearly 1.5 years more in paid vacation and holidays than the average private employee. The average state or local government employee as 9.9 more paid vacation days and holidays than their private counterparts, a figure that increases to 13 for federal employees. Increased vacation time means that employees are properly compensated for their work hours and given ample time and resources to properly recharge so as to better function in their jobs. The government tends to offer its employees more paid sick and personal days as well.

4. Generous Health Benefits

The Federal Healthcare Benefits Program, or FHBP, provides the widest selection of health care plans of any U.S. employer. Though government health care benefits tend to pale compared to those offered by private employers while an employee is working, most government health care plans provide superior benefits to retirees than do private health care plans.

5. Generous Retirement Benefits

Speaking of retirement, federal employees tend to have the option to retire earlier than their private sector counterparts and have access to superior retirement plans through the Civil Services Retirement System (CSRS) or the Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS). Under both plans, retired employees receive an annuity, complemented by Social Security benefits and participation in the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP), which offers 401(k)-type investment options. Retired federal employees also have the option of continuing health benefits at the same monthly cost that they paid before retirement.

Logan Harper is the social media outreach coordinator for the online MPA degree program at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, School of Government – one of the top MPA programs in the U.S. He also loves television, travel and technology. Follow him on Twitter @harperlogan.

Working federal government image from Bigstock


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  1. This article has a lot of inaccuracies and half-truths. There are plenty of private sector firms with benefits that equal those of the federal government. The part about “high compensation increases” is just rediculous. We’ve been in a pay freeze for 2 years and it may be extended. If it isn’t extended, the raise for 2013 will be on .5%.

  2. There are so many inaccuracies and generalizations in this article, I will not even waste my time. Suffice to say it is a vast oversimplification of the issue and compares apples to oranges.

  3. This is a bold face lie… #2 is incorrect, the raise at the most has been from 0.20 to 0.40 cents per dollar… and #4 the cost of health benefits are only great if you work for the post office. We are still paying extra for dental and vision and they are not the best plans. Not to diss the Post office employees but they should be paying the same amount for health insurance as the other federal employees. Also, the raises are not fair we are highly under paid and it is not our fault the private sector’s CEO’s COO’s and directors robbed their employees.

    • The best source on pay and benefits is

      #2 is pretty unsettling though because there was no mention of the current pay freeze that has been in place for the past 2 years and judging by the current proposed appropriations bill a 2013 cost of living increase won’t be given, freezing pay for a 3rd year. With average healthcare premiums going up 3.6% (based off 2011 OPM report) a year federal employees are actually taking a pay cut.

  4. As usual, someone didn’t do there homework.

    1. There is no such thing as job security anymore. With FTE and budget cuts nationwide Agencies are being forced to close offices. Most Agencies are being forced to do so with no relocation budgets. Employees are either offer to transfer to a different office or face termination. I won’t argue under normal circumstances it’s hard for employees’ to be fired, but with the increasing political pressure to further reduce the federal workforce attrition will turn into layoffs in the coming years.

    2. It wasn’t until 1990 that the first and last comprehensive job study was done on pay parity. If you looked hard enough you would of found the FEPCA of 1990 that was put in place and is the current pay parity methodology used by OPM due to the huge pay disparity of federal workers compared to their private sector counter parts.

    3. This is fairly accurate, but a bit skewed. Annual leave is capped, so if the number of hours over the cap are not used or donated to sick leave recipients it is forfeited each year. A good number (myself included) end up donating a portion of their leave to fellow employee’s who have exhausted all their leave due to extreme illness.

    4. Key factor here is only in retirement are government healthcare plans considered superior. It’s almost impossible to gauge though, because it has a lot to do on whether the individual decides to retain private insurance when they turn 65 or make Medicare their primary insurance.

    5. What is this based off of? There are very few career employees’ in the private sector to truly compare this to. Also, CSRS employees’ do not participate in FERS as their pay is offset by not paying into Social Security. Yes, that means when they retire they do NOT collect Social Security. As for FERS employees’. If every employer require employees’ to pay at least a percentage into a 401k or IRA like the government does then they would also be better off in retirement. As for FERS retirement; the earliest I can retire is after 37 years of continued service. I would still need to continue service for another 5 years to reach the max for my retirement benefits.

  5. This article is dead wrong on many things. For instance, CSRS employees don’t get SS. That is just one example. The drafter of this garbage should consider doing their homework before confirming they are an idiot.

  6. This is false information, please get your facts right. CSRS put 7.5% of their salary in already taxed and then when they retire they start collecting on it. They do not get social security or anything else. FERS people 1% times how many years they were there for their high 3s, and yes they can retire early but it cuts their annuity and also they cannot collect social security until 62. You need to check the facts before you write this garbage

  7. “Sounds good, but… doesn’t this just sort of generally contribute to the larger problem of a runaway national debt problem?”

    No it doesn’t. The federal payroll is a tiny fraction of the federal budget. The problem with the federal budget is entitlements (social security & medicare), military spending and interest on the debt. Those items together constitute something like 80% of the federal budget. The federal civilian payroll is pocket change compared to those items.

    • Federal salaries total less than 5% of federal spending, so federal employees’ salaries and retirement benefits are not the source of federal spending problems. This article conflates local and state retirement and compensation with federal. If hired after 1986, federal employees are covered by FERS, not CSRS, and FERS is a very modest retirement benefit compared with most local and state systems. I think I read the average federal “annuity” (a.k.a. traditional pension) is only $19,000 per year. That plus social security hardly adds up to a lavish retirement. In contrast, many local and state government employees are retiring at 70 to 90% of their final pay, pay that is often calculated to include overtime. Those are unsustainable retirement plans, whereas the FERS system covers 2 or 3 million people and is only 5 or 600 million dollars in the red, not bad compared to most large retirement plans, whether corporate or public sector.

  8. Sounds good, but… doesn’t this just sort of generally contribute to the larger problem of a runaway national debt problem? It’s nice that so many people are climbing on the bacon-wagon, but if it becomes necessary to make budget changes, I think there’s going to still be a lot of people that are in for a rude awakening when they get laid off/let go. The US Postal Service is bleeding to death, military cutbacks are in the works, federal subsidy to states is being/has been reduced, there does come a point when you ask and wonder what the future holds, exactly. Good to be on the receiving end of $20+/hr w. benefits, but also good to generally be aware that change is upon the wind that might not be so favorable and conducive to spending a couple decades with your feet up on a desk bought by the taxpayers. That’s the stereotype, anyway, and there is one issue related to government work, and that’s the same-old of friends, buddies, cousins, and in-laws, and what it is that you’d be doing, exactly, besides taking a ride on the public that has no choice but to pay the taxes that pay your (in some examples) 6-figure salary. Lots of politics, lots of paperwork, a LARGE organization with lots of chronic, systemic problems, hey, job security, but at the same time there’s also other companies out there that operate better/differently, and have a lot less “stuff” involved.

    • Bert,

      The Postal Service is being bled to death because the lame-duck Congress pushed through a bill designed to kill the Postal Service altogether. The bill required the USPS to prefund 75 years of retirement costs in a 10 year period. If you eliminate this nonsense the USPS is actually doing just fine.

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