Here is a brief look at the pluses and minuses of being a federal information technology contractor compared with those of being a federal IT employee.
|Most contracting jobs
offer little job security. One federal IT contractor explains: “I
can be fired any day at any time for almost any reason.”
Feds rarely get fired or laid off.
* Job security is
an advantage for fed employees seeking loans.
|Many IT professionals
say salaries at consulting firms are higher than federal salaries. Nevertheless,
salaries vary on a case-by-case basis.
* Many IT feds are on higher pay scales than other feds. And some IT jobs
offer recruitment bonuses worth up to one year’s salary. Because
of these factors and the vagaries of individual situations, some IT contractors
increase their salaries by becoming feds.
* Agencies belonging
to the excepted service are exempt from civil service rules and can set
their own pay scales, which are usually significantly higher than civil
service pay scales. A list of excepted service agencies is posted at www.usajobs.opm.gov/EI6.asp.
* You can survey salaries
by doing keyword searches for IT jobs on USAJobs.
|Many contractors receive
valuable stock options that are unavailable to feds. However, the leave
and benefit plans of most consulting firms are not as generous as those
of the federal government. In addition, when professionals frequently move
between employers, their pensions suffer.
Each fed receives 13 to 26 days of vacation time annually, depending on
years of service; four hours of sick time per pay period; 11 holidays;
and a choice of excellent health insurance plans.
* Feds are covered
by safe retirement plans.
| At many agencies,
most technical IT work is done by on-site contractors. This means that IT
professionals who are strictly interested in the technical aspects of projects
and not their management or leadership aspects, are particularly suited
At many agencies, the IT staff oversees IT contractors, who do the majority
of the technical work. This means that:
* IT professionals
who are interested in project management and leadership positions are
particularly suited to the federal sector.
* Training and work
experience in project management or contract management and experience
as a federal contractor are valued credentials for applicants for federal
Temp agencies and
some contracting firms allow professionals to take unpaid leave between
who are unhappy at particular agencies can usually move to other agencies
relatively easily and quickly.
| To switch agencies,
a fed must either land a new job, which can take months, or arrange a temporary
detail, which usually requires less time and effort.
|On-site federal contractors
are barred from some agency meetings and events.
|| Most feds share a
strong esprit de corps and take pride in directly working for the public
|Contractors do not
receive the training that federal employees receive.
||At many agencies, each
employee receives several thousand dollars’ worth of training annually.
|Most on-site contractors
cannot telecommute or work alternative work schedules.
||Many feds telecommute
and/or work longer days in exchange for one day off every two weeks.
THE APPLICATION PROCESS
|Consulting firms generally
hire faster than the federal government.
||Federal agencies are
streamlining the application process. Some agencies have reduced the entire
hiring process to 45 days, which is comparable to the private sector.
|Source: Lily Whiteman