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State Jobs vs. Private Jobs

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Job-seekers have two main employment options when it comes to finding work; a state or government job and a job with a private employer. When considering state jobs versus private jobs, it helps to take a number of variables into consideration, from practical factors like salary to other, more indirect factors. Understanding the main pros and cons of state jobs compared with private jobs helps you to evaluate which is the right choice for you. Some people decide to spend time working in one sector before transitioning to the other.


State jobs can be defined as working in the public sector, with the government acting as your employer. State jobs are sometimes referred to as “public service,” and can include jobs such as teacher, police officer, firefighter, postal worker or an administrative assistant in a particular government department. Private jobs can be defined as working in the private sector, with a non-government employer. Examples include working in retail, restaurants, banking and numerous other private enterprises.


It’s commonly thought that state jobs offer lower salaries than private jobs, although when combined with increased paid vacation days and benefits packages, the discrepancy may be less distinct. In some cases, state jobs may pay more. In 2009, state workers earned an average of $39.60 per hour compared with $27.42 for private sector workers, as reported by the Reason Foundation. But when comparing workers of the same education background and experience level, private job employees may earn 11.4 percent more than state workers.


While plenty of private sector jobs offer attractive benefits packages to employees, it’s widely agreed that state jobs feature handsome benefits to workers including health insurance and retirement savings incentives, including benefits extended to family members. Benefits packages may be scheduled for regular increases over time. State jobs tends to have lower “quit rates,” according to the Reason Foundation, perhaps indicating higher satisfaction with salary and benefits.

Job Security

Private jobs carry the risk of greater volatility; in many states you may legally be dismissed without any particular reason given. Jobs in the private sector may offer bountiful opportunities for entry-level employment, but steep competition for promotions. State jobs carry greater job security in that the government must proceed through outlined steps before dismissing employees, making it harder to shed workers. Employees working for the government may opt to change jobs within their department but remain under the state umbrella, offering room for growth while enjoying the stability of the same overall employer.

Other Considerations

Some people enjoy the flexibility of private jobs, where it may be relatively easy to move from one position to another with higher pay, responsibility and benefits. Pay increases can be approved more easily in the private sector, while state jobs tend to stick with regulated pay schedules according to experience level and longevity. In some cases, workers in state jobs may feel that they’re contributing to the common good by working toward specific or general goals in education, public health, defense or other areas.


Morgan Rush is a California journalist specializing in news, business writing, fitness and travel. He's written for numerous publications at the national, state and local level, including newspapers, magazines and websites. Rush holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of California, San Diego.