Government vs Federal Contracting

I currently have two investigations going on at the same time - one with an IC agency and one with a federal contractor. Trying to decide which one I should go with. The IC is sponsoring me for my TS SCI CI at a GGS 13 Step 9 and the federal contractor is just sponsoring me at the TS SCI. Could the contractor eventually allow me to get my CI? Also, I’ll make about 30k more if I go with the contractor over the government. My financial ceiling with the contractor is much high than the government. Decisions decisions decisions.

Contractor here, yes you’ll get paid more but the job security is not as good. Depending on what kind of contract you work on, your contract owner can switch hands several times. With that type, you’ll have a lot of opportunity to ask for wage increases when the contract changes hands, but feds will have less pay stagnation overall since I think they can get COL raises. None of the small contractors I worked with had raises available. With large contract companies you do get a yearly raise opportunity, but you can get too expensive to staff; that doesn’t happen too often. There’s also the concept of “the bench”. The other bummer about the switch hands type is you can end up with a bad owner winning your contract, then you are stuck with them until at least the next bid cycle.

Feds also get a union, more time off, and better health care. Contractors can work through shutdowns if they’re already funded, feds will get furlough if they’re not mission critical/essential, otherwise they work without pay, but get backpay once it reopens. If the contract you’re working on is not already funded during a shutdown, you will have to use your pto until you run out. I think you can apply for unemployment after that. If you have student loans, go fed, you can get PSLF after 10 years and contractors don’t qualify.

If you’re in tech or science, the technology may be old, but you have the chance to work on cutting edge research in either capacity. Big 4 contractors tend to be a little more willing to update old technologies or use new and upcoming technology, but this depends on the client. I went from working legacy code at the USGS to now working in AI/ML research at a big 4 and I love it.

Lots of stuff to consider, and I’m sure I left a lot out. My fed perspective comes from some folks I know at USGS and my dad who was a life long USPS employee.

You make some good points. The offer is with one of the big four in their space sector. I am in the Science and Technology field. The crazy part about the offer is that if I was hired by the government at a GGS 15 Step 12, it would still be less than what I would be making at one of the big four. Also, I didn’t think about one of the points you made about becoming too expensive.

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So that can happen, but it’s ultimately a problem of being on the bench without a pending billable. It can make it take a lot of time to find a gig or job that can afford you, and a problem that the company is paying you on indirect while you (or your job lead) are trying to find something. So in a way, the high pay can be a two fold issue. If you’re in demand, for example you have a lot of experience or specialized expertise that is always in short supply, it shouldn’t come up often. There’s a CV engineer at my company making over $200k who has been there a long time with no shortage of work.

Edit * Fed side you at least know or have an avenue to know you’re equally compensated. With contracting, you have to ask around and the pay bands can be really wide.

I guess the major difference there is you have to market yourself, a LOT. As a shy person, that’s the hardest part for me. It’s worth it though.

GG13 Step 9 is pretty good for starting pay. Do you know if that agency is doing any kind of “STEM” pay on top of that? It won’t get you much closer to the contractor offer but it might help a little bit.

If you take the IC agency “blue badge” position you can easily go contractor later if you don’t like it.

As far as job security goes, well, yes, not quite the same with a contractor. But if you keep your resume up-to-date and keep abreast of developments in your industry (ie who just won what new job and who just lost their biggest contract) you can be pretty well prepared to make a move when the time comes.

Anyway I vote for taking the IC job, who knows, maybe you’ll like it.

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The crazy part is that I qualify for the GGS 14 and GGS 15 positions, but they did not have enough billets to go around. So, I’ve asked if the manager will consider increasing my step from a 9 to a 12. If they say yes, I may go with the IC agency because I’ll get close to the federal contractor salary plus I’ll have my CI.

CI are easy to get sponsored. Not sure why they didn’t offer. If i were you, i’d go Fed . If it sucks, you can always go contractor. But to be frank, if i could go back and do it over, i’d never go near the IC or cleared job sector. I should been a dentist. lol

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Yup, I’m thinking the same… go Federal for about four years, which will then give me 20 years of STEM experience in the Defense industry, then go contracting with my experience plus my TS SCI CI.