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A blossoming career After the Military

If you have been so lucky to serve our country in the military, there has been no greater pleasure. The comraderies and the purpose to continue to protect our country gives you greater opportunities after the military to be successful in a post military career. The decision to pursue a career as a government employee or as a government contractor has some considerations that have to be explored to decide which path is more beneficial to you. Let's examine some of the characteristics of both career options, you may eventually move from one career path to another.

Government Employee

Sense of still serving your country

Some veterans or civilians feel patriotic when working for the Government

Security and stability

You can work from entry level to a 20-30 year career

Paid by General Schedule (GS) pay grades

  • GS-3 or GS-4: Typically internships or student jobs

  • GS-5 to GS-7: Most entry-level positions

  • GS-8 to GS-12: Mid-level positions

  • GS-13 to GS-15: Top-level supervisory positions

  • Positions beyond GS-15 are part of the Senior Executive Service


The minimum retirement age (MRA) for eligible employees is 57 for anyone born in 1970 or later. Like many retirement systems, FERS uses the "Rule of 80." This states that an employee must reach a combined 80 years when adding age and federal service to be eligible for retirement.

Promotions based on time and performance

This topic can go in depth, but one promotion method is the "Step." Step ranges from 1 to 10 with step 10 being the highest. Step is related to how long you have worked for the federal government. This is often called "Time-in-Service." Step increases are automatically given to employees when the meet the time-in-service requirement. If you meet the minimum performance requirements, step increases are awarded.

Contractor Career

Better work life balance

Contractors work a steady 40 hours a week and need permission from the company to work overtime.

Job Security

The need for your career field dictates your stability. Contracts normally operate 3-4 years, if the company does not get renewed for the contract, they can move you to another contract or you will have to find a contract with another company.

•Paid more for skill set/Certifications

Gained education and certifications in your area of expertise creates salary increases, especially if you are re-entering the job market for new opportunities.

•Flexible salary

There is a wide pay scale as a contractor that involves your negotiating skills, how long the position has been vacant, and your qualifications that may include security clearance.

•Faster career escalation

If you have high ambitions of using your work as a contractor within the company to propel you into a position within the company, it is possible. You can also leverage your contractor experience to enter the Government in an above entry level position.

Links to the Government and Contractor Pay Scales

2021 GS Pay Scale

2021 Federal Contractor Annual Salary

The Decision

A GS 13 step 8 position would be close to the average 2021 contractor salary. You have to keep in mind, the Government salary is also based off locality and your job. It is important that you assess what you're financial goals are and which path is the best to attain those goals. The obvious attraction of a Government job is the stability, steady career progression, and the retirement benefits. In the contractor world, the goal is to achieve higher salaries. This can be a fail if you are not investing or saving your money wisely for times when your contract is not extended. I have also seen the attractiveness fade away from contracting to becoming a Government employee when the instability of having to move to new contracts and new companies become periodic.

Share some of your ideas and concerns about being a Government employee or contactor. What have been some of your experiences? Feel free to respond to others.

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