What Is the Public Sector?

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The public sector refers to jobs that are with governmental agencies. It contrasts with the private sector, which is comprised of businesses owned by individuals or corporations. Public sector jobs may be with local, city, county, state or federal governmental agencies. The two terms are usually used in reference to employment.

Low-paying public sector jobs include bus drivers, postal workers, customer service representatives at agency offices and schoolteachers. High-paying jobs in the public sector include attorneys, judges and elected officials.

Some types of jobs occur in both the public and private sector. For example, research scientists may work for a corporation, which is the private sector. Alternatively, scientists may work with the Department of Defense, a component of the federal government.

Public sector jobs often pay less than comparable private sector jobs, although their benefits may help offset the lower salary. Because they are public jobs, the hiring and firing process is likely to be more elaborate than those in the private sector.

The public sector is funded with taxpayer dollars, while private sector jobs are paid out of the revenues generated by the company. The public sector does not mean the same thing as a publicly traded company. Publicly traded companies are private-sector corporations with stock that may be purchased by anyone.