Unless you're a superstar, a government job is often a terrific deal. If a company doesn't control costs, it will go out of business. Government won't, so it can continue to offer full-time, well-paying positions with generous benefits, including ample holidays, sick days, and vacation days. You're less likely to have to work beyond 9 to 5 and more likely to enjoy lifetime job security because firing is most difficult. What's more, government jobs are unlikely to be offshored—taxpayers wouldn't be happy if U.S. workers were dumped in favor of those in a far-flung land. While government may have to put up with you forever, you needn't put up with an unpleasant job: If you want to change, you usually get preference over applicants from outside the government. And there will be plenty of jobs to choose from: The federal government alone is expected to hire almost 200,000 new employees between now and 2009.
Some 80 percent of government employees are managerial and professional, compared with only 25 percent in the private sector. So management opportunities abound in everything from human resources to finance, research to public relations, and technology to art, with jobs throughout the United States and the world. You might manage public housing or an embassy, an airport or disability services, a park or a prison, urban renewal or military base closure. Also, many government positions involve collaborations with the private or nonprofit sectors.
Yes, being a government manager can bring frustrations. The same overlapping bureaucracies that paralyzed government's response to Hurricane Katrina may restrict your efforts. The same job security that comforts you may constrain you from firing bad employees. And getting hired can take six months or longer.
But corporations facing global competition are getting ever leaner at the same time more and more quality people are choosing a government career as an opportunity for public service. So, a great way to get your tax dollar's worth is to work for the government.
National: $97,900. More pay data by metropolitan area
(Data provided by PayScale.com)
Most government management jobs require a master's degree in public administration, business administration, public policy, or a related field. Public-sector work experience may also be required. More information on graduate programs in public administration and affairs is available at the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration.
The U.S. News rankings of public affairs graduate programs (fee required)
A fast track into desirable federal management jobs is the Presidential Management Intern Program, which selects 400 graduate students a year for the two-year program. Although it's called an internship, you receive a middle-class salary plus full benefits for working at any of dozens of federal agencies. After completing the internship, you're likely to get hired as a manager and receive preference if you want to switch jobs.