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Tech Sector Salaries in the Federal Government
have all seen news reports about the often exorbitant salaries of government employees as compared to the earnings
of folks in equivalent private sector jobs. According to a March 2012 report by the
Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average
total compensation for the average private industry worker was $28.57 per hour worked whereas for the federal
government worker it was $40.90 per hour - a 43% difference! When you look at the ranges of job titles and pay for
government workers as compared to equivalent private industry workers there seems to be no logical correlation
between which jobs pay more with the government versus private industry. There are currently about 22 million
U.S. government employees - a
staggering number indeed.
Asbury Park Press (APP.com)
recently made available a database of year-2011 earnings for government employees, searchable by
department/agency, division, job title, location, and even employee name. If you know someone who works for the
government, this is your chance to find out how much they make. I wanted to find out what people in technical
agencies were making, so I concentrated on organizations like the Federal Communications Commission (FCC),
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), National Institute of Standards (NIST), etc. The results are
in the table below where I counted people whose base salaries are at or above $100,000 per year. It took a lot
more time than I really had to spend on it, but after a while it gets addictive.
One thing to keep in mind
is that government agencies are notoriously top-heavy in management, which tends to push the pay scale upward.
Looking at the filtered results bears out that fact since it reveals that most top earners are in management
positions. Also, I don't know about the social and financial type agencies, but the government employs a lot of
Ph.D.s for science and engineering, so that also biases the pay upward. As an avid reader of technical
publications, I can vouch for a lot of extremely high quality research and development performed by the good folks
at NASA, NIST, et al. Private industry, under pressure from investors to turn profits at the expense of performing
vital in-house R&D, has seen a dramatic reduction in staff dedicated to pure research. So this is one area where,
even though I am basically a small-government person, I am glad to see some of our best and brightest being
gainfully employed for the good of the country. In order to attract top talent into the positions, it is necessary
to pay at a level commensurate with private industry.
What I detest is the number of people in social
welfare and arts departments (typically slackers) making the same kind of pay as guys and gals actually producing
useful information that will pay benefits down the road. That's not to say all of the former are lameoids and all
of the latter are alphas, but where are you most likely to see a government employee playing Solitaire on the
computer - in a social services office or in a research lab? Oh, there is also a huge percentage of lawyers
throughout all the government agencies. In which category would you tend to place them?
When the database
is sorted according to salary, department heads bubble to the top - no surprise. It is the same as in private
industry. I did find instances of people with engineering titles within the top ten positions for various
agencies, but they tended to be not in places like NASA or the FCC, but in the Department of Health and Human
Services; don't even try to make sense of it. Also no surprise is that it looks like the Washington, D.C.,
Maryland, and Virginia areas have the largest concentration of high earners. It is why that area of the country
has some of the highest average household income zip codes and why the unemployment rate is so low locally. A few
weeks ago Melanie and I went to my uncle's burial ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery and noted all the huge
new buildings - all most all government - under construction. It's no wonder the cursed politicians don't seem to
feel any urgency when it comes to the economy. From where they live, everything looks just fine.
A government job looks like good work if you can get it. Take the
2011 salary database for a test drive
yourself and, if you have the stomach for it, look up what people in your most-despised government agencies are
getting paid with your hard-earned tax money.
Hank Terlage (ostensibly), the guy in the now-famous video below, appears to have a base salary of $47,677.
Well, he formerly had a salary of that amount. You won't find his name in the 2012 database because he has been
fired. Not to worry, though, because Hawaii pays a tidy sum for unemployment and/or welfare. Throw in an EBT card
(food stamps and other goodies), free medical care, maybe some free training if he wants it, who knows what else,
and unemployment can be a pretty sweet deal. Maybe he can pursue a career in music. GSA manager
Neely (ostensibly), who was responsible for the infamous Hawaiian vacation for department heads, made $172,000
in 2011 and even earned a $2,700 award for a job well done. You won't find him the the 2012 database, either.