Working life within the public vs private sector employment is very different. If you don’t understand the differences and you’re at the start of your career, or if you’re considering switching from one to another, this article is for you. In it, we cover the differences between working in public sector jobs and private sector jobs, focusing on technology. After reading, we hope you will better understand the pros and cons of working in each environment.
Similarities Between Tech Jobs in the Public vs Private Sector
If you have ambitions to pursue a tech career, to a certain extent, it doesn’t matter which you choose between the public vs private sectors. If you work in a technology role in either, the work you do will be very similar. For example, if you’re a Software Developer, the languages you code with will be the same. Similarly, if you’re an IT Project Manager, the methodologies you use in either sector will be no different.
What’s more, both public and private sector workers each have targets they must meet. Only, whereas private sector targets are more likely to centre around profit, public sector targets are more likely to focus on service delivery or efficiency.
Public VS Private Sector: Main Differences
Working in the Public Sector
The government owns and funds all public sector organisations, and in 2020 they employ about 5.5 million people in the UK. As the name suggests, these organisations exist to provide a service to the public, including:
- Government offices
- The NHS
- Local councils
- Fire services
- The DVLA
- Social care
- The armed forces
Every public services organisation uses technology in some capacity. Therefore, no matter your tech career ambitions, you will find opportunities within the public sector.
The government funds public sector organisations. Their focus, therefore, is on providing an excellent service to the public in the most cost-effective way. However, they are not concerned with making a profit. Working life in the public sector can therefore move at a slightly slower pace.
Advantages of Public Sector Employment
Jobs in the public sector often come with a high level of job stability because they are not affected by the same market pressures as private-sector jobs. For example, in times of economic recession, government jobs will likely be much safer than private-sector jobs.
A Sense of Purpose
Public sector jobs exist to provide services that benefit the community as opposed to generating profit. As well as strengthening job security, this can also give a greater sense of purpose than private-sector employees might feel.
The Office for National Statistics is responsible for collecting information about our economy. Here you can find information relating to public sector employment at any time. ONS statistics show that public sector salaries are slightly lower than those in the private sector.
On the surface, this might seem like a disadvantage rather than an advantage. However, public-sector benefits packages are often better, particularly in terms of health insurance, time off and pension schemes. Therefore, it makes sense to consider the overall package rather than focusing purely on salary.
Government offices are often more keen to invest in skills development and training than private-sector employers. Councils, for example, are more inclined to work with schools and colleges to provide training schemes that fill their skills gaps. They also encourage students to develop an interest in skills the public workforce lacks and provide valuable work experience.
As the benefits offered by government departments tend to be pretty standard, this can make it easier to change direction as your career progresses. So while the earning potential may seem lower in public sector employment, the overall remuneration package might be more attractive.
Typically, public sector employees work fewer hours than those in the private sector. Government offices are also more likely to offer flexi-time, job sharing or part-time hours to improve work-life balance or adapt to individual needs.
Working in the Private Sector
Private-sector employers are individuals or companies who set up in business intending to make a profit. There are many more private-sector employees than in the public sector because many more private employers exist. The UK private sector employed over 27 million people in 2020. To put things into perspective, that’s over five times the number of people employed in the public sector.
Private companies often pay more than public sector organisations. However, the trade-off is that the benefits packages might not be as good.
Variety of Jobs
There are many career options available in the private sector that simply aren’t available in the public realm. For example, fashion jobs would never feature in the public sector, nor would retail, hospitality or travel, to name a few. So no matter what your career aspirations are, you will find a career path to match your ambitions in the private sector.
The government make laws designed to improve diversity and discourage discrimination in employment. So you might expect to might find more diversity within the public sector. After all, they should lead by example, shouldn’t they? According to a recent report, the opposite seems to be true, particularly within leadership roles.
While government departments are keen to invest in employees’ skills, the rate at which they do so can be incredibly slow. On the other hand, private employers tend to be much quicker to react to opportunities in the market.
For example, let’s say a business owner spots that a lack of skills within the business is likely to hinder its ability to make a profit. In this case, they are likely to want to train their staff quickly.
As their employers are quicker to react, private sector employees have the opportunity to improve their skills sets and progress in their careers much more quickly.
More Freedom to Make Decisions
The government must agree to every decision made within its departments, and only once they agree to the budget can its managers make progress. The same red tape does not bind private sector managers, which gives them the freedom to make decisions more quickly.
Faster Recruitment Process
Due to the speed at which private companies can make decisions, their recruitment process tends to be much faster. For example, we have experienced several instances where candidates have registered with us and found a job within 24 hours. Conversely, the job application process within the public sector can sometimes take months.
A Few Final Thoughts on Public vs Private Sector Employment
After reading this article, we hope that you now have a better understanding of the pros and cons of working in the public or private sector. While there are clear benefits to working in one or the other, there are many similarities.
Only you can decide which of these working environments will satisfy your personal and career goals. Therefore, before you decide which is the best option for you, we strongly advise you to do proper research. Asking friends or family who work in the public and private sector for their thoughts is an excellent way to find out more. Recruitment consultants can also offer valuable insights into what working life is like on both sides of the fence.
We hope you found this article useful, and if we can be of any further help with your research, please don’t hesitate to contact us.