Public Administration Salary and Compensation

When the topic of public administration salary is broached, it rarely, if ever, fails; salary comparisons are drawn between government employees and those in the private sector and people want to know which group is better compensated. Many studies have been commissioned to answer this question, but with so many variables present, it is difficult to Public Administration Salary
 formulate a definitive answer. For example, The United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) releases a quarterly report titled, “Employer Costs for Employee Compensation.” In it, the data includes a dollar amount that represents the total compensation (which is the aggregation of salary, benefits, vacation, sick days, and retirement) for each sector. In the report dated Tuesday, December 11, 2012, the data showed that the private sector average compensation was $40.75 per hour, while the public sector average compensation was $40.76. The caveat for the private sector was that the report only included employees of businesses with more than 500 employees. It is not fair to leave it at that. Again, there are just too many variables present. For example, when you consider the nature of the work conducted by government workers versus those in the private sector, it is logical to conclude that we are not exactly comparing apples to apples. It might be possible to draw some parallels, but in general, the occupational differences are quite substantial. Another of these variables is education. The number of public employees that have a college-level degree is close to 50% while fewer than 25% of private sector employees have earned a college degree.

Public Administration Salary and Compensation vs. the Private Sector’s

It is fair to conclude that those individuals working in the public sector are well-compensated. McKinney and Howard (2011) pointed out that, “The government… has become a desirable employer, with competitive salaries and fringe benefits” (p. 319). Most studies concede that the private sector may pay higher salaries, but in terms of total compensation, the public sector is on par with the private sector. This is also true when discussing public administration salary levels and total compensation at the state and local levels. Liff (2007) stated that, “according to several studies, the average state and local government employee collects considerably more in total compensation than the average private-sector employee” (p. 7). According to the BLS and many other studies conducted recently, the term “considerably” may not be accurate. However, if the topic of public administration salary was previously a concern and possibly preventing you from pursuing a career in the public sector, you may now feel differently.


Liff, S. (2011). Managing Government Employees: How to Motivate Your People, Deal with Difficult Issues, and Achieve Tangible Results. New York, NY: AMACOM (

McKinney, J.B. & Howard, L.C. (2011). Public Administration: Balancing Power and Accountability (2nd ed.). Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers (

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