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Looking for some career advice -- I’m basically torn between leaving my current state government job (a job I got right out of college) and going into the private sector / consulting. I’m located in the US, on the west coast. As far as the reason why – mostly just to see if the grass is greener on the other side, but also just for new challenges. Just looking for some perspective from those that have been faced with similar choices.

A little information about me to start:

  • Bachelor degree in CS
  • Mid-30s (career switch)
  • About four years into my career
  • Job description is a basically a DBA/Database Developer/.NET developer, predominately on the database side of things

My instincts say that I have a pretty good gig where I’m at. It does seem like job salaries out there in the private sector for this work can be gaudier, but I’m not sure it outweighs the other benefits.

What I consider the ‘perks’ of my current job:

Work/life balance

  • 40 hour work week; I work 50 hours in a week maybe a few times a year (and it’s paid to me in vacation time, hour for hour over 40hrs)
  • Very flexible schedule (can work four 10 hour shifts, four 9 hour shifts and a 4, whatever).
  • Good co-workers, talented and not lazy (for the most part – definitely some older, cantankerous folks and some others I wonder how they got in the door)
  • Not a pressure cooker, things move at a good clip, but rarely do I go home stressed out. Not expected to be married to your phone after 5pm (though I do commonly check emails and sometimes perform maintenance tasks off hours).
  • Very little travel

Benefits

  • Full medical/dental/vision, pay about $15/month of the $1400 a month premium (and lots of Union pressure to keep it low)
  • Defined Benefit Plan (Pension): it’ll cover 45% of my final salary (guaranteed, for life) if I work 30 years for the government (I’m 6 in), another piece of that covering 15% - 20% (can vary – I contribute monthly, no match) and an opportunity to make my own contributions (403b plan) to supplement the rest.

Leave

  • 11 paid holidays, 15 paid vacation days, 12 paid sick days – and not very much drama or resistance to utilizing it. Vacation accrual rate goes up every five years of employment.

Job protection

  • Strong union, protects job and benefits, advocates for upward mobility in wages

Salary

  • Wage growth based on tenure, all salary increase contracted up front. Typically about a 2% - 4% cost of living increase each year to help keep pace with inflation.

I am making about 70k four years into my career. That seems pretty good, but I see jobs with comparable amounts of experience (though mostly in more desirable areas) paying 90k+. As I said, wage growth is based on tenure , so there is really no negotiating a higher salary, but unless you’re really messing up they have to give you that bump each year until you top out at your position.

My current position if I just stayed in it would top out at about 94k in four years – after which I’d receive cost of living increases (maybe 2% to 4% a year) until I retire (not actually guaranteed, but historically paid in most years). I fully expect to move up into the higher senior positions in the next year or two, where best case scenario, I’d top out at about $113k in 4 years based on modest estimates and then receive those cost of living increases after that.

Am I an idiot to even be thinking of looking elsewhere? Could I find even find another job with a 40 hour work week that pays 80k – 100k? Do salaries in the private sector keep pace with inflation over a long period of time/supplemented through mechanisms like bonuses? Will those cost of living adjustments cancel out any salary gains in the private sector in the long-run?

closed as primarily opinion-based by Grade 'Eh' Bacon, Nathan L, BobbyScon, gef05, JoeTaxpayer Apr 1 '17 at 2:02

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • No you're not an idiot. There are loads of private sector jobs that offer much better perks and salary. It just depends on what you want. Although I do think that this question you posted is better suited for Workplace.SE – Michael Mar 31 '17 at 20:50
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Look, this is your life.

I'm going to first say that this question is off topic (trust me, the moderators on this site have shot me down plenty.) But, the more important answer is WE DON'T KNOW. Is the grass greener? Maybe. But there are too many factors that you're asking other people to assess for you here... and IMHO, you've got a good gig now.

Tips for this site:

These are good questions to be asking, excellent questions at that, but only ask one.

Am I an idiot to even be thinking of looking elsewhere?

Could I find even find another job with a 40 hour work week that pays 80k – 100k?

Do salaries in the private sector keep pace with inflation over a long period of time/supplemented through mechanisms like bonuses?

This (below) is a prime example for a good question to ask here, while the other's are rather opinionated.

Will those cost of living adjustments cancel out any salary gains in the private sector in the long-run?


There's just two things I want to note:

[I am] going into the private sector / consulting ... [I enjoy] very little travel

The first half was mentioned in the intro, the later in the benefits. Consulting is a profession that may require you to travel +50% of the time, keep that in mind if you are just starting a family.

Second, there is a large tax break for state employees where I am. Reducing state taxes to next-to-nothing is highly advantageous if liquidity of assets is an issue. Furthermore, you should read this.


Check https://workplace.stackexchange.com/ with these kind of questions.
Hope it all goes well,

  • 1
    Thanks so much for your answer and sorry to have posted this here -- I will redirect my inquiry there, but you gave me some food for thought as well. – Bob Ryder Mar 31 '17 at 23:18

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