The upside and downside of government jobs

Thinking about looking for a job with the U.S. government? Here are some pros and cons to consider.

Last week, I explained the pay scale for government jobs. This week I'm gong to address the good and bad aspects of working for the government. [Source: The Complete Idiot's Guide to Getting Government Jobs.]

The upside

Increased job openings. The baby boomers are leaving and making room for new hires. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) projects that more than 550,000 federal employees will leave the government. Good benefits and competitive pay. According to recent research average government salaries are competitive with private and non-profit sectors. Federal benefits (health insurance, retirement and vacation) are good. Don't forget all those federal holidays. Geographic variety. You can find government work in almost any city. Contrary to what you might think, 84% of government jobs are outside of Washington D.C. Also, more than 50,000 government employees work abroad. Opportunities for advancement. An internal Merit Promotion Program ensures that once you are in a government job and doing well, you will have easy access to information about other job openings within the government.

The downside

Bureaucracy. You've seen the bureaucracy that is present in large companies in the private sector, so there's no surprise that the government, that employs so many more people, would be the same or worse. Hard to get your foot in the door. Sometimes just getting a job in the government can feel like some kind of overly convoluted ritual. (I read about one agency that had 114 steps in its hiring process.) To get you started, however, the USAJobs site lets you search jobs by keyword or location. Government work is affected by politics. While your government job may not be directly political, it can be affected by politics. Appointees from each political party come and go. This can require some readjusting if one of those appointees is your boss. No immediate gratification. If you like a good sense of accomplishment, of getting something important done by the end of the day, you may not like working for the government. The accomplishments there tend to happen over the long-haul.

I'd like to hear from those who work for the government who can give us all an insider's view of the ups and downs. Anyone?

For the next piece in this series, I will talk about where to find government jobs and what kind of obstacles to expect in the hiring process.