Private vs. Public Sector: How to Pick What’s Right for You

Your Opinion
Published: 21.11.23

The private and public sectors offer an array of opportunities for technical talent. Whether you’re an experienced professional or a graduate eager to make your mark, choosing between working in the private or public technology sector can be a pivotal decision.

Whilst jobs in the private and public sector are similar at first glance, there are many key differences in what these sectors can offer you, and it also comes down to who you are and what you aim to get out of your career.

At Cathcart Technology, we recruit for roles in both the private and public sector. So, we thought it would be beneficial to explain the key differences between the two sectors and provide insights to help you make an informed choice based on your skills, values, and career aspirations.

What the private sector can offer

Innovation at the forefront

Private tech companies are known for their emphasis on innovation and agility. These organisations often drive development of cutting-edge technologies, pushing the boundaries of what’s possible. According to Mission Innovation, the private sector is essential for introducing the market to new technologies. Joining a private sector organisation sparks potential for being involved in creating and commercialising market changing products!

Fast paced and dynamic environment

Working in the private sector often means being part of a fast-paced and dynamic work environment. The vast growth of the market means companies are under pressure to meet the demands of the market. Working in this environment can be both exciting and challenging, requiring employees to adapt quickly to changing market trends and customer needs.

Competitive compensation

Private tech companies, especially established giants and household names, often offer competitive salaries, stock options, and various perks to attract and retain top talent. On average, skilled workers in the private sector have higher earnings than their counterparts working in the public sector. This can be a significant attraction for those looking to maximize their earning potential.

Risk and reward

The private sector comes with an inherent level of risk, especially in startups. Startups are more likely to experience economic fluctuations and hiring decisions are based on the company’s revenue and financial performance – which in turn, could potentially put your employment at risk. However, with risk comes the potential for significant rewards. Employees may have the chance to be part of a company’s growth story and benefit from its success through stock options and higher salaries.

Benefits of working in the public sector

Stability and job security

Public sector tech jobs, whether in government agencies or research institutions, typically offer greater job security and stability. Public sector organisations often have established budgets, taking away the financial pressures faced by private sector companies, giving you better job security in challenging economic and social times.

Social impact

Working in the public sector allows individuals to contribute to projects that have a broader societal impact. Whether it’s developing technologies for public welfare or addressing societal challenges, working in the tech for good space can be fulfilling for those who value a sense of purpose in their work. According to the CIPD Good Work Index, 55% of public sector workers said they are highly motivated by the core values of the organisation they work for, indicating a strong level of satisfaction from the work they are contributing to.

Work-life balance

Public sector jobs may offer a more predictable and structured work environment, promoting better work-life balance in a less demanding atmosphere. ‘Flexitime’ benefits, along with working less hours on average than private sector employees, can be appealing for individuals seeking stability and a consistent schedule.

Regulatory and compliance focus

Due to the nature of public sector technology work, companies often have to navigate complex regulatory frameworks and compliance requirements to ensure the safety of the public. This can be a pro or a con depending on your preferences and aptitude for dealing with regulatory challenges, but it can be beneficial for employees to know they are working for a company that is legally compliant and treats their stakeholders fairly.

Choosing the right fit for you

The current job market is an overwhelming place, so it can be difficult to decide the type of sector you wish to work in. If you are unsure which would suit you best, take some time to consider the following points:


Assess your career goals, values, and personal preferences. Consider whether you thrive in a dynamic, risk-taking environment – likely to be experienced in the private sector – or if you prefer the stability and structure offered by the public sector.

Skills and expertise

Evaluate your skillset and the experience you have acquired over the years. Private sector roles may require a more diverse skillset, including adaptability and a willingness to learn quickly. Public sector roles may prioritise specialised skills aligned with the organisation’s mission. So, taking a look at what you could bring to the table with your skillset is a good place to start if you are unsure which sector would serve you best.

Long-term goals

It’s good to ask yourself, what are your long-term career goals? If you’re drawn to making a significant impact on society and value stability, the public sector might be a better fit. If you’re driven by innovation, rapid growth, and the potential for financial rewards, the private sector may be more appealing.

Research and network

It can be beneficial to connect with professionals in both the private and public sector, attend industry events, and leverage online platforms to gather insights if you are unsure which sector you would like to work in. Learning from the experiences of others can provide valuable perspectives to inform your decision.

How we can help

Deciding on the type of sector to work in can be difficult, as each sector offers unique opportunities and challenges. The decision between the two ultimately depends on your individual preferences, career goals, values, and skillset.

Our experienced tech recruitment consultants have an in-depth understanding of the technology industry and can help you carefully weigh up the pros and cons of each sector. We recruit for both private and public sector jobs, so can offer advice on which role would suit you best based on your skillset and career prospects.

Simplify the decision-making process, chat through your next move with a member of our team today.

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