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Readers question federal IT pay survey

A recent survey claimed that although salaries for federal IT pros remained stagnant in past couple of years, government IT workers still earn more than their private-sector counterparts. Readers, however, were ... let's say, skeptical.

“Where I live, I get 16 percent locality pay,” wrote reader Richard. “That is, I get 16 percent more than other IT guys in federal service at my grade. Even at that, my peers in private industry get 15 to 25 percent MORE than I do."

DaleR also questioned the survey methodology and the cohort polled. “Where does this $97,000 figure come from?” he asked. “Nobody in my IT shop makes close to that except the CIO. Poll places outside of D.C. for a real snapshot of what government employees make (IT). Contractors make a lot more than us. It is a fact.”

Lee agreed, pointing to how the D.C. region tends to have higher salaries compared to other parts of the country. “I think they need to take their surveys outside the Washington beltway where the IT specialty pay is a lot less,” Lee commented. “I believe the average fed IT pay is quite a bit less than the $97,000 they quote. It's more like lower $80,000s.”

DT also asked, perhaps rhetorically, perhaps literally, where the salary numbers come from. (The link to the InformationWeek’s survey can be found here. It wasn’t accessible at the time I was blogging about it.)

“I've been in government IT for 25 years, and I don't know anyone making that amount of money except higher management. And I mean very high management. Like the director of all of IT here,” DT said.

Another longtime federal IT professional said that after working 17 years at the Veterans Affairs Department, and being one of the highest-paid IT staff, “I make less than $90,000. Not sure where these people who make $97,000 work, but they must be upper management in the government, not a local IT worker bee."

Taking a more analytical approach to the numbers, Scott pointed out that comparison of salaries between government and industry often focuses just on compensation and don’t consider retirement benefits and automatic time-in-grade promotions.

However, “throw this into the mix with the data presented in this article and one can easily decipher that, for IT, federal employees make a lot more money than their private counterparts,” he said. 

Posted by Camille Tuutti on May 07, 2012 at 12:19 PM

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Reader comments

Thu, Jun 28, 2012

Not sure about other agencies, but USGS is a terrible organization for IT folks! We are relegated to to junkpile as 'problems', while the "scientists" who pump garbage publications out the door get all of the benefits, nicer offices, larger working areas (I can barely swivel my chair around), by far much more respect from management, they even have promotion potential, unlike IT workers. Obviously USGS has never read OPM 2210 Guidlines that say the job category was created so that IT workers can attain a GS-13 without having to be in a management position, even though the scientists can get and hold a GS-13 or higher pay grade without supervising anybody or anything without anybody batting an eye. I would NEVER recommend anybody looking for an IT job to ever consider the Federal Governemnt unless they already have a lot of years invested in the government.

Thu, May 10, 2012

I DO NOT accept this survey's results! What can average citizens and Fed employees do to correct this? The Gov't employees' Unions should undertake their own Fed Employees' survey - one that holds up under scrutiny. US citizens are NOT STUPID! We recognize propagaganda for what it is: yet another sad case where manipulated statistics support political agendas and bad decisions. Our uber-rich, powerful leaders aren't in touch with citizens' reality. How much have Congress, et al, given up to lower the US debt? This country's philanthropists give billions to help other countries, but has anyone heard of them helping our struggling economy or offering to pay down the US debt?

Tue, May 8, 2012 DAC Virginia

I was a DOD contractor for 10 years before accepting a Federal Civilian position. Myself and everyone in my shop took big pay cuts to become Civilian employees. We also lost long term and short term disability benefits. Remember that severe budget cuts mean the cost of our benefits will increase. I am paying just as much for my medical benefits as a Civilian employee as I did as a contractor. Each company I worked for also had a retirement plan that I participated in and they matched our contributions up to the same amount as the government. Automatic time-in-grade promotions - A Republican has a bill in motion to also take this away from Federal Employees. So, our pay is frozen at the 2010 levels and we may get our time-in-grade taken away, which means no increase to keep up with rising costs. By the way, Steps 1-4 get a time-in-grade every year, Steps 5-7 every two years, and 8-10 every three years. So, the claim that when you “throw this (benefits)into the mix with the data presented in this article and one can easily decipher that, for IT, federal employees make a lot more money than their private counterparts,” is just absurd. I suppose according to your mathmatics, 2 + 3 = 10.

Tue, May 8, 2012 Martin Pittsburgh, PA

The survey also didn't take into account that feds are likely going to gradually begin paying another 5% towards pensions for no additional benefit, which is essentially a tax on federal workers. Meanwhile, the maximum amount that a single contractor can earn over the course of a year was just increased by 10% to nearly $770,000. That is 192% of the president's salary. How can one even begin to think that contractor's cost less? I work in an aging organization where most of our IT staff is eligible for retirement, and they're all pretty close to the $97,000 figure. However, their counterparts on the IT contract still make more. I have 11 years of federal service and my counterpart on the contract side makes $23k more than I do, not even considering his "loaded rate." It is likely that federal employees do make more than contractors considering average salaries. The A-76 Circular basically converted all low wage IT tasks to contract positions and the only remaining federal positions had to be inherently governmental, essentially meaning some level of managerial oversight of contract work. So, you may have 1 federal manager for 20 entry level contractor IT workers at a Help Desk. These surveys need to compare pay for similar types of positions with similar skill sets. But I guess that wouldn't suit certain political agendas.

Tue, May 8, 2012 DT

I often hear that the inclusion of retirement benefits and other factors are what elevates the compentation numbers for Federal employees. I'm not sure about everyone else but my retirement consists of whatever money I contribute to it. The Government does match contributions but that is capped at 5%. Let's see - $80000 + 5% = $84000. That's still a lot less than the $97,000 quoted in the article. Then they figure in the cost of the infrastructure (heat, electricity, water, etc.) Doesn't private industry also have to provide that? In fact, for contractors, the Government pays them twice as much as a direct-hire employee and still has to provide those additional services - plus the cost of a PC for the contractor to use.

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