FedSmith.com Readers Talk about Why They Work for the Government

We recently asked FedSmith.com readers why they work for the federal government and received a wide variety of answers.

Federal employees have been in the news a lot lately, and not always in a good way. They have had their pay frozen and been the subject of proposed hiring freezes or RIFs in various bills proposed in Congress. On the other hand, working for the federal government generally carries with it good pay and benefits depending on where you work.

We were curious what motivates the people that read our site to work for the federal government. Nearly 3,000 people took the time to share their thoughts with us. The following is a summary of the responses we received.

What is/are the primary reasons you work for the federal government?

Pay 41.4%
Benefits 62.9%
Job security 67.8%
Sense of patriotism 39.2%
Public good/service 49.9%
Interesting work 44.1%
Opportunity to use education/training in relevant field 29.4%
Habit/no other preferable jobs available 5.2%
Other 12.8%


Some of the responses that fell under “other” included the following:

  • I can apply my military time towards retirement
  • I can retire at any time
  • I could move around the country without losing seniority
  • I can retire at age 55
  • Family tradition
  • I have a physical disability and the government gave me an employment opportunity
  • Recommendation from a family member
  • Protecting the taxpayers’ interests
  • Veterans policies
  • Opportunity to work outdoors
  • I believe in the agency’s mission
  • “Coolness” factor
  • I enjoy working with children of military families
  • Laziness
  • It’s easy


Many respondents also shared their comments about why they work for the government. The following are some samples:

  • The other factors above: pay, benefits, job security, et al. are
    positive, great factors. However those are not the reasons that
    inspired me to be a federal government employee. The importance of
    supporting and accomplishing federal-related mission and objectives is
  • In high school, I took the Civil Service Test and was called for an
    interview with the government. I got the job. So it seemed that it was
    meant to be as I have worked there for almost 39 years.
  • One used to work for the feds for job security. We all knew we’d never
    make as much as private industry for the same work, but job security is a
    big plus. Now, I’d advise anyone looking for federal work to look
    elsewhere. Nothing’s worth the crap we now have to take from Congress.
  • After being down-sized twice in the private sector, my first governement
    position was temporary. I now have permanent status and feel more
    secure in my future. I am also fortunate that I work in a field that I
    enjoy, although my compensation is low.
  • I have enjoyed my 40 years with the Federal Government (National Park
    Service). I have traveled to places I never would have gone to on my
    own. History has become alive to me.
  • The main reasons I came to work for the government almost 30 years ago
    was for the age 55 retirement and it was a Monday through Friday job. I
    actually took a pay cut.
  • I certainly do not work here for the pay. I like what I do and I get to spend some time in the woods.
  • I have a bachelors degree, 2 masters degrees, and over 20 years of
    experience between the military, federal government, and private sector.
    I could get more money working in the private sector but at the cost of
    losing job security.
  • In 1981 I had no intention of staying, but found over time that it was
    interesting and challenging. I just had to learn to live with the
    crushing bureaucracy, the next big idea, and the public misconceptions.
  • The work is rewarding. I help people and am dedicated to doing the best
    for the public. I find satisfaction in knowing that what I do is
    important and needed. I work for Social Security.
  • Job Security is my biggest motivator for working for the FAA.
  • I wanted to make a difference. With 35 years in now and consistently
    working 10 hour days for 8 hours of pay, I know that I have, and still
  • It is the easiest job I ever had.
  • My husband was in the military, and working for the government was about
    the only way that I knew I’d be able to have my own retirement due to
    the constant moves. I’ve worked for numerous different agencies besides
    the Department of Defense. Overall, it’s been an interesting career,
    and I’ve met some wonderful, hard-working people along the way.
  • The Fed’l gov’t gave me an opportunity, and challenge, to work with
    program only handled by the gov’t. I also got the opportunity to be
    responsible for projects worth in the millions of dollars. At the end
    of the day I felt challenged and glad I had these opportunities.
  • I work for usda-nrcs. It is work that was once a job that I considered
    top notch but with today’s political climate I am not so sure. Lots of
    programs and no money to support or fund the programs. Don’t want to
    wish my life away but retirement if there is such a thing down the road
    looks pretty good.
  • Best place for a divorcee with children
  • It feels good to contribute to our Agency’s efforts to reduce fatal
    crashes. Each reduction in the fatal crash rate provides great
    satisfaction and the desire to lower that rate even further.
  • I joined the federal government because I want to do what I can to insure that nothing like 9/11 happens again.
  • I’m a disabled veteran and thought maybe I would have an advantage in receiving a position with the federal government.
  • I cam to work for the federal government at the age of 17 as a GS3, at
    the time I wasn’t able to get into college, so this was my only option,
    but it has been a great experience, I have had wonderful jobs traveled
    across the country and had opportunities afforded me that I would not
    have gotten living and working in the midwest. I have come full circle
    now working back in DC at a GS14 level, and ready to retire, what a
  • The United States Air Force took a kid from the wrong side of the tracks
    and gave me a chance to be a productive member of society…so I am
    endebted to the Air Force and when I feel like I paid them back…I will
  • Until the last several months, I was proud to be a federal employee. We
    have been so disrespected recently, that I no longer feel that same
  • Too late now, private sector will not hire anyone over 50.

Thanks to all of our readers who took the time to share their personal experiences about working for the federal government!

About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of FedSmith.com. He has over 20 years of combined experience in media and government services, having worked at two government contracting firms and an online news and web development company prior to his current role at FedSmith.