Want a six-figure salary? Try the federal government

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federal payHow many of you have ridden in an elevator or taxi that has a mini screen that flashes the news, weather and trivia? We have those in the elevators in the high-rise that’s home to CareerBuilder’s corporate headquarters.

Quite often there’s a tidbit that intrigues me in my pre-caffeinated state and I’ll actually remember to follow up on it when I get to my computer. This morning was one of those occasions. One of the headlines glaring at me was about the high number of federal employees who earn six-figure salaries.

A story in USA Today reports that during a time when the overall U.S. workforce is struggling with layoffs, high unemployment, pay cuts and salary freezes, the federal workforce is growing in salaries and hiring. In fact, the number of federal employees who earn $100,000 or more grew by 46% between December 2007 and June 2009.

USA Today analyzed data from the Office of Personnel Management, which tracks the pay of federal workers. (The OPM excludes info about the White House personnel, Congress, Postal Service employees, intelligence agencies and uniformed military personnel).

Some of the key findings:

  • “Federal employees making salaries of $100,000 or more jumped from 14% to 19% of civil servants during the recession’s first 18 months — and that’s before overtime pay and bonuses are counted.”
  • “The growth in six-figure salaries has pushed the average federal worker’s pay to $71,206, compared with $40,331 in the private sector.”
  • “The federal government is adding jobs this year of nearly 10,000 a month – the fastest pace since the 1960s when Medicare and Medicaid were created.”

The article attributes the salary boom to three things: pay hikes, a new pay system and the easing of pay caps.

Read the full story here complete with more analysis and interesting graphs.

If you’re interested in pursuing federal employment, try searching CareerBuilder.com using the keywords “federal government”, choose the “Government-Federal” in CareerBuilder’s categories menu, or go to http://www.usajobs.gov/.

  1. Try doing that comparison after you remove production jobs from the private sector numbers and see if they don’t compare more favorably. The vast majority of Federal workers are in highly skilled occupations, many requiring advanced degrees (scientists, economists, researchers, analysts, IT specialists, and many more). It’s disingenuous to simply average the Federal salaries and compare it to an average of private sector salaries.

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  3. Mr. Helton is right on track. As a government worker, I make 80% of what my counterparts make in private industry. Workers choose federal service because of different family reasons, some from a call to service, etc. Every federal agency is different. However, the stress level and the job demanded from you is greater than what is expected in the private sector in many regulatory agencies- because you are dealing with shady characters and attorneys, etc- Yet we still get paid less than comparable accountants, attorneys, engineers, etc. Money is not a reason to enter federal service…

  4. Amazing to me how the federal government has so much money that they can continue to hire new employees, give them excellent benefits, and with higher salaries. Where are they getting all this money from??? OHHHH, you and me!

  5. When the federal government hires employees it people looking for jobs or to better their job position. That directly assists the unemployment issue, albeit probably disproportionately for white color workers rather than blue color workers. If you are qualified then you can compete for the job.

    My guess is that many of the people complaining don’t have marketable skills for the new economy or they aren’t willing/capable to move where the jobs are. Since less and less Americans have sufficient education and skills to compete these days its not surprising more are finding it difficult to adapt to the new realities of the world. The days when you could learn a single skill or career and expect it to carry you into old age are long gone.

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