Government Versus Commercial Employment
Living in the DC metro area, and being a web developer means that government contracting is going to be on your radar. With so many potential jobs in the area associated with the federal government, it’s hard to swing a dead cat without hitting a plethora of jobs tied to our government. But in this job market where the private sector has rebounded higher than its pre recession 2007 numbers, a skilled developer has the unique opportunity to be selective.
So it comes down to the simple question, which is better for you - government or private? The following are thoughts and opinions derived from my experience working for the federal government over the past 3 years.
Most internet searches uncover results that are broken down into simple Pro/Con lists. While simple is better when it comes to making most decisions, I feel this method leaves much to be desired about the personal aspect of this decision. For me a mixture of the two has so far yielded the best results.
I appreciated the world of government contracting for many reasons. I enjoyed its clearly defined process and structure, as well as the sense of working on a project that is actively helping our country and getting access to sites that most civilians never get to see. But I never found the commonly held belief that job security is tied to the federal government to be true. A 2014 New York Times article that states that government employment is still 2.3% below where it was in 2007 prior to the recession. While working for the government many of my coworkers operated with the knowledge that at any point in a time a reduction in force could eliminate their position.
The private sector has opened my eyes to a different way of operating in the world of web development. I have fallen in love with its ability to turn on a dime and provide the best solution, not just the solution that has been vetted by bosses that you will never have the chance to speak with. Additionally private sector employment offers its employees the ability to peruse what excites them and stay on top of current trends in the world of web development. Instead of just following the path that was already written in stone, I have been able to look at the problem before me and, with my coworkers, develop intelligent solutions.
As with most complex decisions a mixture of the two has appeared to offer the best solution. I value what I learned from working for the federal government, but appreciate flexibility and exposure to modern trends that the private sector has given me. Good luck to all you web developers looking for employment and keep in mind that what you thought might be true 5 years ago, may no longer be the case.