Sidebar: Public or Private?

Katherine Farmer is a graduate student studying computer engineering and computer science at Dartmouth's Thayer School of Engineering. She's keeping her eyes open for a government job because government programs often involve cutting-edge technologies, she says. She's also considering the public sector as a career option because she has concerns about the number of private-sector jobs being outsourced.

Unlike Farmer, many students view a career in government, where IT skills are desperately needed and where critical research and development is often done, as a road to technical irrelevancy. Kevin Decker, a Purdue computer science undergrad, says he would never apply for a government position. "Most government organizations lack a free-thinking, progressive culture," he says. "That's not where I want to be."

Purdue undergrad Stephen Senesac says he would consider a government job, but he shares Decker's fears about the culture. "My only concern would be that the nature of working within the bureaucratic system could become stifling," he says.

Hazel Thomas obtained a bachelor's degree in computer science at Pace University in New York and is now pursuing a master's degree in computer information systems. She says she hasn't considered government work because of the salary gap between public- and private-sector employment.

Justin Ligas agrees. "The government's largest problem is that often the pay isn't competitive," says the Marist College senior. What if the pay improved? "There would be no reason not to," he says.

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