Public vs Private Sector is a popular question that we often receive from of our clients in relation to the relative merits of roles in the private or public sector. However, it is not completely straightforward to answer as a career depends a lot on what is important to an individual. The private sector is composed of organisations that are privately owned, whereas the public sector is made up of organisations that are government operated, and there are clear benefits to a career in both the private and public sectors. To help you make an informed decision for your next job application, Public Service Resumes has put together this comparison to help highlight the differences and similarities between the two.
Salary » Public vs Private Sector
The private sector, more often than not, pays more than public service, though public service is still quite competitive. When you take into account bonuses and things like salary sacrificing and vehicle allowances, the public sector often cannot compete on those figures. Salary increases are, on average, slower and more structured in the public service than in the private sector. If paid, bonuses are capped and often represent a small percentage of your salary. In stark contrast, bonuses in the private sector can well exceed your salary. A 2017 report by Business Insider Australia states that;
“Private-sector workers’ average earnings in Australia grew by just 0.8% to $1,123.50 in the year to May, far outstripped by huge increases for government and other publicly employed employees, whose average pay jumped by 4% to $1,410.60 over the same period.”
If you equate money to time, however, your decent salary in the private sector can dwindle. When you consider that private sector roles typically expect longer working hours, the dollar per hour of time can improve the appeal of the public sector. Especially if work-life balance is important to you.
Work/Life Balance » Public vs Private Sector
Most of us are willing to work long and hard for the first ten years of our careers before being responsible for a family and a mortgage. Therefore, getting started in the private sector may be the ideal choice as you can progress quickly up the ranks with wages significantly increasing. You may then be in a position to reassess your options with myriad experience, well-honed skills and a broad professional network.
However, if you are someone that values having time to do things outside of work, or you want to balance studies with a career, then public service is much more predictable and steady. In addition to typically shorter hours that are preserved in employment awards and agreements, overtime can often be accrued and paid back in flexible leave. Combine this with generous leave entitlements, and you are more likely to enjoy life outside of work in the public sector. A graduate survey undertaken by gradaustralia indicates that;
“Professionals in the public service do on average 30-40 hours per week, compared to those in some private sector industries regularly pulling 60 hours weeks.”
Training and Development » Public vs Private Sector
With continuous learning and development one of the major keys to career success, most professionals seek out roles that will provide opportunities to learn new skills and develop their career. While the APS, State Government and Local Council has a range of graduate and leadership programs to support continued education, they may be more limited in scope than the highly budgeted development programs of top-tier firms and companies. From international company conventions in Sweden to undertaking charity work in remote island communities, the funds that private sector organisations have to help you upskill are not as readily available in the Public Sector. After all, government budgets are highly geared toward things like transport, hospitals and schooling.
Mentoring programs are another feature of some private sector organisations but might be more limited to specific diversity groups in public sector organisations such as women or Indigenous professionals. In an APS, State Government and Local Council role, it is most likely that to get approval the training would need to be aligned with your position description and job outcomes. However, on the other hand, some private technology companies are famous for providing employees with ‘innovation’ time, where they can pursue a line of interest that can lead to great innovations for the company.
Career Prospects » Public vs Private Sector
Essentially, determining which sector is the right one for you really comes down to what your long-term career goals are. If your goal is to become a Prosthodontist, then it is unlikely that you will find many opportunities in the public service. However, if community development, education, science or logistics are areas that interest you, then the public service could be the ideal starting point for your career.
There are some industries that prefer candidates that have gained experience in the private sector, especially in professional services. That is not to say there are no opportunities for career progression to go from public to private in these industries. A strong employment history and set of skills can be easily transferable between both sectors.
Ultimately, there are advantages and disadvantages to working in both the public and the private sector. What is most important is that you find an employer that is the right fit for you. To help you make a move in the right direction, call the team at Public Service Resumes today. Whilst our name may indicate differently, we can assist with applications for both the private and public sectors.