Agency or Contractor? Where to Focus your Government IT Career Search

There is an abundant amount of jobs offered in both agency and contracting sides of the federal IT sector. You must be qualified with a security clearance to be considered for most positions. Considering the challenges and multiple steps involved in entering the federal IT sector, many candidates wonder which career path is the best way to go – contractor or agency?

On the government side, there are many agencies to choose from. However, most do not operate in exactly the same way. If salary is a determining factor, it’s important to know that your location and federal employee grade level have an impact on the amount you are paid. Grade levels unfold as follows: GS-3 or GS-4 are normally internships or student jobs. GS-5 to GS-7 are entry-level positions, GS-8 to GS-12 are mid-level positions, GS-13 to GS-15 are top-level supervisory positions, and any position greater than GS-15 are a part of the Senior Executive Service (SES). (Pay and the General Schedule (GS))

Evan Lesser, co-founder and director of ClearanceJobs.com said, “Most candidates interested in working for the government fully understand three clear benefits. First is the issue of job security compared to contractors. Federal agencies are less subject to budget funding shortfalls and cancelled or re-bid contracts. Second, job seekers see a more structured promotion ladder. And third, working for the nation’s largest employer means excellent health and retirement benefits.”

As for contractors, the government is the biggest consumer purchasing substantial information technology and other products and services for good use. If you’re considering becoming a contractor employee, there are jobs available with highly beneficial starting salaries. The contractor employers, very much like the agencies themselves, require full security background checks on potential employees. (The Best Jobs: Government Employee or Government Contractor?)

Mike Borgia, a C-130 Production Operations Manager for Boeing based in San Antonio, stated, “The government has gotten tighter and we’ve seen base closures which affected civilian jobs. If you’re good at what you do, the contract industry is going to have a job for you.” In the end, a career-focused IT professional entering the federal sector will seriously consider both options based upon future opportunities.