Engineering Jobs in the Public Sector v Private Sector.


February 21, 2022

Whether it’s in the private sector or public sector, engineers perform design, scoping and project management roles in a diverse range of industries. In Australia, about 85% of qualified engineers are employed in the private sector and 15% in the public sector.

Public sector opportunities exist in local, state and federal government. Engineers are employed in various sub sectors, including utilities, education, transport (road and rail etc), defence, telecommunications, health and scientific research.

Whilst engineers employed in both the private and public sector often echo similar concerns and report similar workplace issues, the public sector is often perceived to be lagging the private sector is areas like:

  • In house engineering capacity 
  • Opportunities for skills development
  • Level of scoping and/or design of projects
  • Financial investment / budgets
  • Opportunities to to innovate and bring engineering capabilities to bear

On the flip side, public sector opportunities often outperform private sector opportunities because they may offer:

  • More job security
  • Better work life balance
  • Better total remuneration and shorter hours
  • Slightly faster wages growth
  • Higher graduate commencing salaries, which are often set by enterprise bargaining agreements 
  • Opportunities to contribute to the local area / projects with social purpose 

Engineers frequently move between the private sector and the public sector, particularly if performing a similar role (like civil engineering) in the private sector that was being performed in the public sector.

Anecdotally, some engineers feel that they can acquire valuable knowledge and insights in the public sector that are extremely useful if/when transferring to the private sector. There is also a view that there is more of an emphasis on project management within the public sector, as a result of design and delivery being outsourced to private sector contractors.

Interestingly, engineers report similar satisfaction levels whether engaged in the private sector or public sector.