14 Pros and Cons of Working for State Government

State Government

Countless occupations have specific options within the public and private sectors.

Those who choose to work at the state government level receive many perks.

However, some sacrifices are made by state government employees in the name of public service.

If you are interested in pursuing a career in state government, it is important to understand the positives and negatives of working for one of the largest organizations on Earth.

Keep reading to learn more about working for the state government!

Pros of Working for State Government

Government employees enjoy countless benefits to support their everyday responsibilities.

If you are considering working in the public sector, review the following benefits first:

1. Can Have Good Work-Life Balance

State government work is consistent, with employees expected to work hard on projects and tasks during assigned hours.

That means little overtime work exists in most roles and the culture is that once you are off the clock, you should be focusing on spending time with your friends and family, or on personal pursuits.

Depending on how higher you go in the government, this may not always be the case, but maintaining relationships outside of work is important within the government structure.

2. Good Pay

The government pay scale at every level is incredibly transparent.

Each employee receives a set wage based on education level and years of service.

Although no salary negotiations exist, there are also no concerns over management bias impacting the amount of money a state government employee earns.

Many jobs that require higher educational training have excellent pay, which can be positive for employees in those positions, but a negative for those without that education level.

3. Insurance

As an employee in the public sector, you will receive full health insurance with almost no personal costs.

Depending on the branch of state government, you and your immediate family could qualify for continuing benefits after retirement, which is a tremendous perk that can save considerable money on healthcare during and after your service.

This is literally unheard of in the private sector, where most employees sign up for Medicare or Medicaid.  

4. Meaningful Work

The work you perform as a state government employee supports maintaining the local and state community.

One of the primary reasons many candidates choose to enter the public sector as opposed to a private company is they want to make a change and serve their communities.

Contributing to the greater good is accomplished by using their skills, education, and experience.

Few in the private sector can say they are helping their community to this level.

5. Retirement Benefits

Many state government jobs have an excellent retirement package or pension.

While this may not be something you consider at the beginning of your government career, it is a great perk to ensure you have a livable income, similar to your ending years of service, for the rest of your life.

Retirement packages and pensions tend to be lower in the private sector, having such a strong pension is one of the leading benefits of working in state government.  

6. Stability

Government positions are some of the most stable around.

Once hired, you can enjoy excellent job security and safety from unexpected downsizing and layoffs.

Those who work in state government usually enjoy long careers or choose to leave existing positions for other opportunities instead of facing layoff volatility and uncertainty.

This means the turnover rate is incredibly low, compared to the private sector, which is significantly higher, and layoffs are much more common.

7. Student Loan Repayment

Many state government employees have access to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, which removes your student loan debt once a specific set of criteria is met.

This can be a tremendous financial benefit, thus saving you tens of thousands of dollars over the long term.

This benefit has a massive impact on those who have earned a master’s or doctoral degree while attempting to pursue public service roles.

Cons of Working for State Government

Many employees enjoy the extensive benefits that come with working for the state government.

However, if you are thinking of starting a career in state government, consider the following disadvantages: 

1. Can Have Limited Political Impact

Not all government roles are impacted by election cycles, but some are.

Therefore, those who work closely with elected officials should expect continuous leadership turnover since the public votes on those officials each term.

That means you must be prepared for constant leadership changes, which can make long-term projects more difficult and time-consuming compared to working under a single supervisor or manager.

You also may need to work with different management styles and change certain aspects of a project based on the current official in office.

2. Deep Bureaucracy

Local, state, and federal governments are choke-full of bureaucracy since all levels are procedure-driven and highly regulated.

As a result, it takes significantly longer to reach your goals or impact changes within specific roles than in the private sector.

The slow-moving bureaucracy of the state government can have a considerable impact on some employees’ satisfaction, which relates to morale and productivity.

Bureaucracy alone can demotivate some potential candidates from considering a role in state government.

3. Lack of Growth

One major downside to accepting a role with the state government is a lack of growth within specific occupations compared to a similar position within the private sector.

This is due to the way state governments are organized and labor division, so some roles do not have the same opportunities as with a private company.

For instance, attorneys do not have partner-equivalent potential within the state government, like in the private sector.

4. Lengthy Hiring Process

The government hiring process is typically much longer than in the private sector.

Most apply for government jobs through one website.

Then, one group of hiring managers reviews all applications and determines the best candidates before submitting the documents to a hiring agency.

From this point, candidates must undergo multiple rounds of interviews before receiving an offer.

This entire process can take months to complete.

5. Limited Compensation

While many government positions are high-paying, there are many more with limited compensation.

Like job growth, earning potential can be limited when compared to the private sector.

This is especially the case for those requiring extensive experience and education.

Since every government position earns step-based, pre-determined salaries, there is little opportunity to receive bonus compensation or negotiate.

The scale is based on the cost of living location and government rank.

6. Seniority is King

Since the state government is a hierarchical organization, opportunities and promotions are most commonly based on those who have served the longest, not those who are most qualified or best equipped for the position.

Having a focus on seniority versus capability often frustrated new employees who are used to promotions and advancements based on merit.

The government advances those with longer service based on the thought that they have the most experience, which automatically makes them most suitable for higher levels.

The pay scale is also solely based on time in the state government, not personal achievement or contribution.

7. Slow to Change 

Another downside of bureaucracy is the state government is incredibly slow to change.

Even the smallest organizational change is incredibly time-consuming and requires a seemingly endless number of signoffs throughout the department.

Most ideas require several layers of assessment and conversation before even starting the change process, which can impact the effectiveness and efficiency of your work, depending on your government position.

These slow-moving changes can be maddening to those who like to do the work, get the sign-off, and move on to the next improvement.

Pros and Cons of Working for State Government – Summary Table

Pros of Working for State GovernmentCons of Working for State Government
1. Can Have Good Work-Life Balance1. Can Have Limited Political Impact
2. Good Pay2. Deep Bureaucracy
3. Insurance3. Lack of Growth
4. Meaningful Work4. Lengthy Hiring Process
5. Retirement Benefits5. Limited Compensation
6. Stability6. Seniority is King
7. Student Loan Repayment7. Slow to Change 

Should You Work for State Government?

Working for the state government requires you to perform a specific series of duties or tasks that may be related to the government’s operation, or could be part of a series of supporting functions.

Determining whether to enter the public or private sector is a difficult decision, depending on what you want to get out of your career.

On the one hand, you have some of the best job security in the world with excellent health benefits and pension.

Many positions have the opportunity for a great work-life balance, which is not always the case in the private sector.

Furthermore, you are working for the betterment of society, which can make you feel great at the end of every day.

On the other hand, the bureaucracy can be crippling to any project or program you are trying to implement.

Also, you could be a superstar in your role and advance at the same pace as someone who is barely doing your job.

The choice can be difficult, but government jobs are plentiful, so it may be a great place to start your career and build a foundation before moving to the private sector!

Jamie Willis