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dakrtgrl

Contracting Salary in Industry

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Hello,

I am contemplating moving from federal service to the private sector. From the people I have talked to it seems that you really either like the federal side or you like the industry side. There doesn't seem to be too much middle ground.

I was wondering what people on here thought about working in the private sector? I have been getting a lot of interest from private industry people and I am wondering what the salaries are like out there so I don't sell myself short. I have 8 years DOD 1102 experience, Level III certified and a GS13. I also have my Masters in Public Administration. Anyone have any thoughts on what an average salary would be?

Thanks for you thoughts on this. I have searched Google for hours and have not been able to find anything on an average industry salary.

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Did you try a site such as salary.com? They have a free search area and you can look for what is the compensation in your area. You may need to search on job titles such as contract administrator and compare the job description to the federal job description as well.

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Hello,

I am contemplating moving from federal service to the private sector. From the people I have talked to it seems that you really either like the federal side or you like the industry side. There doesn't seem to be too much middle ground.

I was wondering what people on here thought about working in the private sector? I have been getting a lot of interest from private industry people and I am wondering what the salaries are like out there so I don't sell myself short. I have 8 years DOD 1102 experience, Level III certified and a GS13. I also have my Masters in Public Administration. Anyone have any thoughts on what an average salary would be?

Thanks for you thoughts on this. I have searched Google for hours and have not been able to find anything on an average industry salary.

I am in the DC area

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dakrtgrl, I had 7 years of DOD 1102 experience, Level III certified, and was a GS13 when I started looking for private sector jobs earlier this year. I'm also in the DC area. It really depends on the company. Larger companies tend to offer slightly less. I was offered $120k at one small business consulting firm (this amount was before negotiations) with 100% medical and dental benefits. That said, they didn't win the contract that they thought they would so they had to cancel the job offer.

I ended up taking a GS14 with another federal agency. Less pay than the private sector, but more job security. :-)

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The NCMA salary survey is a great start. In general, you will find a considerable amount of salary variation on the industry side. Don't forget to consider non-cash compensation when looking at your options (e.g. insurance, leave, retirement, office perks, bonus scheme, opportunity for growth, etc).

When I was contemplating a move from gov to industry a few years ago (I was a mid-grade GS-13 at the time with 7 years of experience), I found that I would have given up both pay and the relative stability of the Government, so to me it was not worth it.

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Be careful about the lure of a higher salary when moving to the private sector. Having worked in both the federal government and private industry sides of the contract management profession, I can tell you that many contracting professionals in private industry are working much longer hours than their contemporaries in the federal government. That's not to say that govt employees don't work hard! In private industry, however, the extra hours are typically uncompensated--no comp time either. If you're working on proposals, say goodbye to your social life.

The last company I worked for as an employee (large, fortune 500 contractor) they treated me like they owned me because I got a paycheck. Although they liked the fact that I taught night classes at UVA in the interview, they didn't like that it meant I couldn't stay late working for them. It was not a good work environment, either. So I left and started my on consulting practice. I've never looked back.

Although you might get paid more, you will most likely lose flexibility and control of your work schedule. As another post noted, some companies don't keep employees after the contract is over or if the proposal doesn't win the contract.

Good luck!

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To what already is said, I'll add this:

The overall difference between government and industry salary isn't that different. Some small firms offer more but that's to get individuals they really want/need.

Job security doesn't compare. In the government you are there for as long as you wish - assuming you make it through the initial three years. In industry, many things can happen to end your job - the company no longer has contracts to support you, you don't meet expectations, you aren't flexible enough to adapt to changing company needs, etc.

As Marge mentioned, if you are involved in proposals and business development, you are expected to work much longer hours. Proposals are usually done nights and weekends and you need to work to meet the proposal schedule

Despite what is said above, leave/vacation time is much better in government. Most companies lump vacation and sick leave together as time off days. The government's time off is extraordinary by most industry standards, especially for more than 15 years of federal service. The governments leave policy was established a long time ago before flexible and compressed work schedules.

If you perform well in the private sector (standards for "well" vary between jobs and companies but include things like bringing in new business, do work outside your specific job requirements, responsible for earning profit and avoiding losses, take on leadership responsibilities, etc.), you are rewarded with promotions and bonuses that aren't available in government..

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Dakrtgrl,

I agree with a lot of the information above. The only thing I would add is that you might want to consider trying to obtain some kind of warrant and spending a few (5 years +) utilizing the warrant. I cannot tell you how many doors were open when I was able to put "warranted contracting officer" on my resume. I will also go on further to say that you would be more marketable if you can walk the walk and talk the talk. I have met many 1102s that talk a lot, but when it comes to doing the deal, they are no where to be found.

I will admit that I have seen offers between the $150k - $170k mark in D.C. but they didn't include great benefits and nothing really towards retirement. Another thing to note, a lot of my CTR friends are trying to come back to the government because they had some periods (6 months) not employed. Someone has to pay the bills and making.......

Furthermore and coming from a financial background, make sure you have enough money in savings if you do plan on making the jump for those potential periods of no employment. Also and if possible, try to max out your government TSP ..... you will not find anything as good as the Gov't TSP in the private sector unless you make it to the top of the company.

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Piggy-backing on MustangBob, I would consider finding a billet with another government agency before leaving the public sector entirely.

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I made the leap from a civil service 1102 position to one in a major defense contractor a few years ago and I found that the salary was pretty much the same between the two but the benefits were somewhat less. Less leave, less flexibility and relatively equivalent medical and dental at a higher cost to myself. I did enjoy the work, I was able to travel to foreign countries, enjoy some of the perks that civil service jobs would never provide, but I also had to spend a number of late nights at meetings and take work home to meet the deadlines.

I really enjoyed my time in the private sector but like others said, the security is much less in the private sector than it is for federal workers. After only a few years my position was eliminated when the contracting staff from another program that was being closed out and they were shifted to the positions that I and a few others had. We all were successful in our jobs but since the other folks were more politically connected, we were given pink slips.

I knew ahead of time that pink slips were coming so I jumped back into a federal job just as the notices were being distributed. I wouldn't go back at this stage of my career, but if I had at least 15-20 years to go before retirement I would consider it for the experience if nothing else.

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I am also a GS-13, with 10 years of 1102 experience, FAC-C Level III certified, and have an unlimited warrant. My experience has been entirely different trying to move up and out and away from my agency. I have had no response to most positions that I've applied for, both within the government and in the private sector. The only job offers I've had are from contractors who place private contract specialists into federal agencies to support their 1102s. Most people agree those jobs are a step down unless you are retiring, and then taking them. I have several colleagues who report the very same experiences, and a lot of frustration with being unable to leave.

I'm beginning to think two things might be causing me to have such a different experience. The first is that I am not DOD, but my agency is well-known, and not respected in some circles. I have had a few recruiters contact me, and lose interest when they find out I don't have a secret clearance or above. The second is that I am not in DC, and the job market is in DC. Even when I say I am willing to re-locate, the fact that I would have to re-locate seems to cause recruiters to lose interest.

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It will really be hard to know what you are competitive for in the DC area without being here. Many contractors - for various reasons - do not have the capability to recruit someone until the position exists (either after contract award or through vacancy). It sounds like there is some bias against Acquisition Support positions, which means that many positions may not be considered.

Regarding positions that would be open - Contracts Manager, Subcontracts Manager, Acquisition Manager, etc - you may not be competitive without some additional certification (CPCM, CFCM, PmP, CIPP, CIPM) or direct experience in the field. Instead of a DAWIA or FAC-C some private companies tend to prefer other certifications because their employees are unable to get the government only certifications.

If you are really interested in moving up and out there is no reason not to pursue the next grade up in DC. If you do not like the position then you will be local and will have a better understanding of the local market, and you will also have a better chance to network (through work, NCMA, PMI, or other groups) and learn about the positions that may be a good fit. If you are not competitive for the next grade up in DC, you may not be competitive for the best private positions, which is what it sounds like folks are trying to target.

Many positions over 150k (like Mustang Bob mentioned) will really want quite a bit out of you (Supervisory, 25% or more travel,50-60+ hours weekly, 24/7 availability, significant responsibility and accountability, leading very large change initiatives). So you are then left with position in the 100-150k range, but more commonly in the 100-125k range. Even in the 100-125k range you are going to be competing with some very qualified people (retired 1102's, current/former JD's, retired military, and individuals that spend their career in the field/company). Without something unique to stand out or lots of direct experience it will be difficult. With that said if you are getting a lot of interest and have a lot of direct experience it is not unrealistic to be in the 125+ range with close to ten years of experience, but there is usually a catch.

If you follow Vern's advice on developing yourself in the other threads I think you would be very competitive, but the reality may be that you are not targeting the positions that are a good fit (for the folks that are not hearing back). If you are able, get some feedback on what is missing from your resume that they want to see. If recruiters will not tell you, then ask friends and people you respect.

However, on a final note I have had some bad experiences with accepting a high salary (without enough research or asking enough questions). I would suggest looking first to see if the company/work is a good fit and you are learning and developing yourself. You may succeed in getting the paycheck you are looking for only to find out that you cannot continue on at the company for other reasons. Harvard Business Review has some good articles on general business advice and red flags to look for when starting Senior/Executive Management roles.

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