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Old 05-27-2010, 01:04 PM   #21
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There is no question that for people of limited skills at the bottom of the pyramid federal employment is a very good deal. But the pay is quite low for many professional positions. here is a typical current job ad for an expereinced engineer in a life critical job:




Civil Engineer at the Department of Energy
  • Duty Locations: New York City, NY and Chicago, IL
  • Major Duties: Inspect engineering evaluation and analysis of non-federal hydroelectric projects to insure the safety of the projects and compliance with the terms of the license, the provisions of the Federal Power Act and the Commission regulations. Review and perform evaluations and analyses; and prepare engineering reports to establish and document the dam safety, public safety, and environmental and license compliance of the Commission hydroelectric projects.
So this is a person who is doing life safety reviews on major Hydro power systems
The posted salary range for New York is
Salary Range: $68,625.00 - $89,217.00

If you think you can get a top engineer for that price who is willing to take crap from every ignorant member of the public who thinks feds are overpaid you do not understand the market for engineers.

No mention in my post of whether engineers in the Federal system are overpaid. Not sure where you got that idea.

Point is that many federal employess are WILLING to work for GS wages in part because of post- retirement benefits that are unstainable and unavailable to most private sector employees. If you feel that Engineers in the public sector are underpaid, then take your skills and experience and go to work in the private sector, with the risk, responsibilities, and rewards that go along with it. But don't expect to be able to cherry- pick a GSA retirement package, too.

I know a little bit about the market for Engineers- I have actually hired quite a few of them - electrical, mechanical, civil. and software engineers, and supervised them as well in my career...we tend to stay away from GS types for many of the reasons outlined by Fuego. The public/private work culture is just too different, in our experience.
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Old 05-27-2010, 01:12 PM   #22
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Point is that many federal employess are WILLING to work for GS wages in part because of post- retirement benefits that are unstainable and unavailable to most private sector employees.
Unavailable to the private sector? Mostly true and becoming more and more true as time goes by. And many in the private sector who were hired into those retirement deals have since lost them.

Unsustainable? CSRS was, but I don't think FERS is. It's the "3% at 50" type state and local pension plans, with COLAs and retiree health insurance for life, which are the unsustainable ones.
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Old 05-27-2010, 01:17 PM   #23
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No mention in my post of whether engineers in the Federal system are overpaid. Not sure where you got that idea.

Point is that many federal employess are WILLING to work for GS wages in part because of post- retirement benefits that are unstainable and unavailable to most private sector employees. If you feel that Engineers in the public sector are underpaid, then take your skills and experience and go to work in the private sector, with the risk, responsibilities, and rewards that go along with it. But don't expect to be able to cherry- pick a GSA retirement package, too.

I know a little bit about the market for Engineers- I have actually hired quite a few of them - electrical, mechanical, civil. and software engineers, and supervised them as well in my career...we tend to stay away from GS types for many of the reasons outlined by Fuego. The public/private work culture is just too different, in our experience.
You can't have it both ways If you need the skills you pay people now or later. You can pay with cash, later benefits, or current working conditions including health benefits respect or job security . Crap on them by calling them "paper pushers" when you have no idea of the job and you either have to pay more or get worse people.
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Old 05-27-2010, 01:26 PM   #24
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You can't have it both ways If you need the skills you pay people now or later. You can pay with cash, later benefits, or current working conditions including health benefits respect or job security.
I think it's largely dependent on the field one is in. Government already pays very well relative to the private sector in administrative and clerical fields, and not quite so well in terms of science, engineering and medicine. I suspect it's because government employers base compensation more on educational attainments than "market" based pay for specific skill sets.

And where it already pays comparable to (or better than) the private sector, the job security and benefits widen the gap even more. (It's hard to put a specific "dollar amount" on job security, but it's surely worth something, and all else being equal a "secure" job should probably pay somewhat less than one where folks are vulnerable to layoffs.)

Having said that, I'd much prefer cost certainty over writing IOUs in the form of future promises of unknown cost. If that means raises and better 401K/403B matches to come closer to the private sector, so be it.
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Old 05-27-2010, 01:31 PM   #25
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You can't have it both ways If you need the skills you pay people now or later. You can pay with cash, later benefits, or current working conditions including health benefits respect or job security . Crap on them by calling them "paper pushers" when you have no idea of the job and you either have to pay more or get worse people.
Hey, let's be fair, I'm the one calling this position a paperpusher position. Obviously there are government jobs that are nonpaperpusher. This job description reads like a paperpusher job description.

I searched for the actual job posting at USAjobs and only found the Chicago position but it pays $75-116k. Given the economy, you would be surprised at who you might get at this pay level. That pay level is a lot more than many engineers in private consulting. From talking to hiring managers at my governmental counterpart agencies, when they post a job, they are getting dozens of people perfect for the job, versus a few qualified candidates just few years ago.
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Old 05-27-2010, 01:34 PM   #26
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You can't have it both ways.
Finally, something we can agree on.
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Old 05-27-2010, 04:54 PM   #27
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Worst case, a dam fails, kills a couple thousand people and you get transferred to a different division. Then the subsequent investigation by your agency squarely places blame on anyone but your agency. Maybe point some fingers at private consultants. Maybe blame "procedural hurdles and difficulty in interagency communications and coordination". Form a task force and a blue ribbon committee to study the issue. Maybe hire a management consultant to put together a nice bound report on how to avoid the problem in the future. Then stick that dust collector on the bookshelf and get back to business as usual. Call me a cynic...
Case in point the folks at the MMS in charge of regulating the oil business, the political appointee loses her job, cause with screw up this big somebody has to get a fired. But what about middle managers and professional that work there any of them lose the job? Now BP deserves the lions share of the blame, but not only will (I assume) a fair number of those involved lose their jobs but 11 died and many were injured as a grim reminder of why it is stupid to cut corners on safety, Senior manager who have a lot of their wealth and bonus related to earning have seen the stock drop from $60 to $45.

Another example the SEC employees lots of lawyer and MBAs, who presumably could get more money working in the private enterprise. However the private sector employees would almost certainly get fired if they failed in their jobs as badly as did every SEC employee who was informed about the problems with Bernie Madoff.

There are plenty of example in the private sector where employees (especially execs) screw up and still keep their job, but in general if you screw up bad in private sector (and even sometimes if they just need a scape goat) you are canned or demoted. The just doesn't happen with career civil servants.

So when we are comparing private sector and public sector jobs it is important to add job security as a significant benefit. Actually to be fair the military does seem to demand accountability so when a ship runs aground or has a collision the Captain lose his command and his career.
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Old 05-28-2010, 12:13 PM   #28
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Job security is one of the things I like best about my federal job. The 40 hour work week is the other. I have a smaller emergency fund because I am not worried about getting laid off or fired without cause.

I still think I could make more $ in the private sector. I work in IT and the jobs still pay pretty well, as I am in the "Boston" locality. But I know I'd have much more stress, work longer hours, and wouldn't have a pension.

I probably could at least get some training in the private sector (gov't is broke, no training money for 4th year running here). And I probably could learn stuff and work on some new technology. Probably get a real bonus too. (not that my $433 after taxes didn't float my boat...).
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