Choosing a Job: Private or Public Sector

When you’re thinking about a career, you have a lot of factors to consider. If you’re still in school, doing your best to plan for the future, you’ve got to think about the sort of qualifications you might need to inform your subject choices – if you have your heart set on a career in medicine, that means GCSEs and A-Levels well stocked with Maths and Science subjects. If you’re thinking about switching career in midstream, you need to think about how your experience maps on to the requirements of your target job – few people have the time and resources to go back to school and requalify in a serious way, so finding ways you can turn your existing experiencing into pluses for the job, or take short conversion courses based on the certificates you already have is vital.

You also have to think about what the job is actually like and what a successful, happy life looks like for you. Work in the public sector is largely stable, with a robust pension scheme to provide security in retirement, but the majority of workers are not highly paid with regard to the national average. Government policies have also limited resources and left many people’s pay frozen for years at a time.

Work in the private sector can be more financially rewarding (though the secret to that seems to be to break into upper management positions, which are by their natured limited in number. The proportional difference in pay between executives and new starters has never been higher!), but it’s also more volatile. There’s a greater chance of private companies going bust, winding down or moving operations abroad so you’re more likely to find yourself out of work, but a more volatile situation can also mean more opportunities.

If you’re thinking about the public sector, you need to consider the whole range of jobs on offer. If you think of it as ‘just’ doctors and nurses or ‘just’ civil servants you’re missing out not just on the social work sphere, and criminal justice jobs, but on the army of administrators, HR staff, managers and other ‘back room’ workers who keep the whole edifice working. Working for the NHS doesn’t mean an onerous doctor’s training regime. You could be as useful (and as employable) by studying statistics and using your mathematical skills to work in research, helping doctors perform tests of new drugs and treatments.

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