Government Salaries Vs. Private Sector Salaries

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CareerBuilder

He's the leader of the free world, but the does president's salary measure up to his power? Not if you compare his salary with top leaders in the private sector.

George W. Bush earns a salary of $400,000 plus a $50,000 nontaxable expense allowance. By contrast, the average Standard & Poor's 500 company CEO took home $11.75 million in 2005, according to a Corporate Library report cited by the AFL-CIO.

And while other top government officials earn a very comfortable living, they might be occupying far higher salary brackets in the corporate world:

  • Vice President -- $212,100
  • Chief Justice, Supreme Court -- $212,100
  • Associate Justice, Supreme Court -- $203,000
  • Cabinet-level officials (Secretary of State, Treasury, etc.) -- $183,500
  • Speaker of the House -- $165,200
  • Senator or Representative -- $165,200

Despite lower pay in the upper echelons of the government, half of government workers surveyed by CareerBuilder.com said they plan to stay in their current jobs until retirement, and the government's benefits package may be one reason for federal employees' longevity.

Unlike most private employees, federal workers can choose from several health plans and life insurance options, according to the Department of Labor's "Career Guide to Industries." The government also helps pick up the tab on the premiums.

Government workers also get more paid time off than many other employees. All federal employees receive 13 days of sick leave a year, which accrue indefinitely, according to the DOL. They also earn 13 vacation days each of their first three years of service, 20 vacation days for their next 12 years, and 26 vacation days after their 15th year.

And the benefits don't stop at retirement. Those hired after Jan. 1, 1984 can participate in the three-tiered Federal Retirement System.

Still, nearly 40 percent of government employees told CareerBuilder.com they are dissatisfied with their spot on the government's pay scale. One-in-four were not given a raise last year and 86 percent did not see a bonus.

But do typical government workers really make that much less? It depends on the occupation. The following list compares average salaries in the public sector with nationwide averages, based on 2005 data from the Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Attorney
Government average: $105,577
Nationwide average: $110,520

Financial Manager
Government average: $95,257
Nationwide average: $96,620

Economist
Government average: $89,441
Nationwide average: $80,900

Microbiologist:
Government average: $80,798
Nationwide average: $63,360

Architect
Government average: $80,777
Nationwide average: $68,560

Accountant
Government average: $74,907
Nationwide average: $58,020

Librarian
Government average: $74,630
Nationwide average: $49,110

Human Resources Manager
Government average: $71,232
Nationwide average: $89,950

Nurse
Government average: $60,935
Nationwide average: $56,880

Tax examiner
Government average: $36,963
Nationwide average: $49,460

Medical Technician
Government average: $35,526
Nationwide average: $33,170

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