Comparisons between the public and private sector are often fraught with myths and overgeneralisations. A common one is that the public sector is much slower paced than the private sector, bogged down by rules and regulations. And then there’s the question of pay. The private sector has higher salaries, right?
Whether you’re entering the job market for the first time or are thinking of switching careers, having a solid understanding of the actual differences between the sectors can be crucial in helping you make the right decision. So, let’s look beyond the myths and find the kernels of truth that are actually in there.
1. The fundamentals
The public sector consists of organisations that are owned, controlled and funded by the government. The main objective of these organisations is to provide services to the public, so think police and military, health services and institutions that look after our transport and infrastructure. They don’t seek to generate a profit.
The private sector, on the other hand, comprises businesses owned and controlled by individuals or groups. These companies are usually run for profit.
2. Pay & Benefits
So, let’s set the record straight. Research shows that in the UK, public sector jobs are generally better paid than private sector ones, with the exception of earners in the 90th percentile, which fare better in the private sector. In the UK, the public sector also generally offers better benefits with shorter or more flexible working hours, more holiday and pension entitlement and more job stability.
It’s important to note, however, that it all depends on the specific role you’re after, so a little extra digging might be needed. Furthermore, while public sector jobs are seen as ‘safer’ in terms of job security, government policy changes and budget cuts can still pose a threat.
3. Workplace culture
Private companies have the power to set their own goals and devise their own corporate culture, where public organisations’ objectives are pre-set and largely unchanging. The private sector is also largely target-driven, which is why it’s often seen as higher-paced than the public sector. There are, however, plenty of high-intensity jobs within the public sector, and while public organisations might not be profit-orientated, they are under intense scrutiny from the public to perform well. Strict budgets and policies mean that they are often forced to do so with fewer available resources.
4. Career progression
Organisations in the public sector tend to have a clearly defined organisational hierarchy, so when it comes to moving up through the ranks the path is often straightforward. Private businesses tend to have less layers in their hierarchy structures so there may be fewer opportunities for traditional career progression and there is often more competition for those roles.
On the other hand, the private sector may offer more freedom for employees to grow their career in their own way, take on a wider range of responsibilities, learn new skills and move across departments. Like the public sector, however, larger private companies may have more segregation between roles and departments.
Perhaps one of the most persistent myths about the two sectors is that they are at opposite ends of the spectrum. However, different businesses will have different cultures and approaches even if they are within the same sector, so use the above information to give you a starting point for the sector you’d like to work in, but do your research on the specific company too.
Source: HN Global