In a poll of more than 4,300 tech workers, career site Techies.com found that employees at publicly traded companies had the highest average annual salary at $58,048, followed by $54,604 for workers at nonpublic companies and $48,330 for government nonprofit employees.
However, employees at privately held companies ranked first in landing year-end bonuses and raises--perhaps as a way of competing with the stock options commonly doled out by public companies. According to the survey, techies at private companies earned an average annual bonus of $6,356, compared with $5,850 at public companies and $1,237 in the government.
Private tech workers also were more optimistic about future earnings, with 18 percent expecting a raise of more than 10 percent next year. Just 12 percent of public-sector respondents thought they would see double-digit raises, along with 5 percent of government or nonprofit techies.
"The private sector has a more flexible pay system," said Cynthia Morgan, vice president of content at Techies.com. She noted that companies can simply change their salary scales to attract desired employees, while the hiring process at government organizations is far more bureaucratic and resistant to change.
Yet government jobs beat out the other sectors when it comes to stability and training. "Stability is very important to people," said Morgan, noting that the government workers surveyed stayed on the job for an average of 5.7 years, compared with 3.4 years at public companies and 2.8 years at privately held companies.
While the private sector holds the most allure for workers looking for the best pay, the scales could shift in the government's favor. The declining stock market, which has slashed the value of many stock options, as well as job cuts caused by the slowing economy could make the security of the government sector more attractive, Morgan said.
The federal government announced recently that it is planning to dramatically improve salaries next year, with raises of 7 percent to 33 percent for tech workers scheduled to take effect Jan. 1.
The Office of Personnel Management's decision affects computer specialists, computer engineers and computer scientists.
Tech workers could also be drawn to another benefit offered by government agencies: training programs. According to the survey, 92 percent of government employers provided training, compared with 88 percent of public companies and 83 percent of privately held companies.
In addition, some government employees, such as those at NASA or in the military, can use "state-of-the-art stuff that won't get into the public sector for a long time," Morgan said.
Of the 4,373 tech workers surveyed by Techies.com, 2,008 worked for private businesses, 1,716 worked for publicly traded companies, and 649 were with government or nonprofit institutions.