Leaving Federal Contracting for Private Corporation

debugmedebugme Posts: 6Member ■□□□□□□□□□
[FONT=&amp]So i've been doing federal contracting(Top Secret Clearance) for the last couple of months since i got out the military and today i decided that in 7 months I'm going to move back NYC/North Jersey area try to work for a private corporation as a Network Engineer. Not sure if this is the smartest thing to do when it comes to money(I make 100k with only a CCNA and trust me im no where neardeserving of that money) , but the reason im doing it is because the jobs that are being offered for cleared work are either very behind in technology or aren't very challenging at.. I feel like in the long run even though the money might be good , if i ever were to lose my clearance or something of the sort i'd be ****** since i missed out on a lot of real experience..[/FONT]
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[FONT=&amp]Work is EXTREMELY slow. I go 1 or 2 weeks without nothing and i literally just spend the day browsing the internet or studying for my CCNP . Ill get one or two small projects to deploy some devices ,but even then im just mostly copying and pasting configs (even though my official job title is a Network Engineer). [/FONT]
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[FONT=&amp]Sorry for the small rant lol . Anyone here from the NYC/Jersey area know how much of a pay cut i should be expecting ?I'm willing to take a 30k pay cut as long im in the right position to grow. I'm almost done with my CCNP and by the time i move , ill have officially have 1 year as a "network engineer". Before that i was in the military for 4 years doing tier 1 networking.[/FONT]
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[FONT=&amp]TLDR: Going to stop doing cleared despite making 6 figures in hopes of gaining more experience in the private sector. how much of a pay cut should i expect and is it worth it?[/FONT]

Comments

  • devilbonesdevilbones Posts: 317Member ■■■■□□□□□□
    Be careful what you wish for. You may just get your $30k pay cut and be busy everyday. There is also the possibility that you make your new boss realize that you are not deserving of that money and he/she lets you go. If I were you I would stick with your current job while you work for you CCNP. Network with people in the area to find that position. I started at the service desk and worked my way up. My boss was really good and allowed me to try different areas of technology. Good luck.
  • LordQarlynLordQarlyn Posts: 535Member ■■■■□□□□□□
    Get the CCNP first, that way at least you can open more doors and boost your earning potential. I can certainly understand your ennui, it can be a career killer. But at least use the chance to get your certs completed, then start looking for different pastures.

    They will tell you the grass isn't always greener on the other side, but what they don't understand is sometimes you just need different grass, sometimes the grass is just too green where you are at.
  • debugmedebugme Posts: 6Member ■□□□□□□□□□
    devilbones wrote: »
    Be careful what you wish for. You may just get your $30k pay cut and be busy everyday. There is also the possibility that you make your new boss realize that you are not deserving of that money and he/she lets you go. If I were you I would stick with your current job while you work for you CCNP. Network with people in the area to find that position. I started at the service desk and worked my way up. My boss was really good and allowed me to try different areas of technology. Good luck.

    I realize i'll be more busy but thats what im looking for . I wouldn't working for VAR/MSP in the early years of my career if it meant I'd be gaining a lot of experience and learning a lot and your right . I'm definitely not leaving to NYC/NJ until i have my CCNP and have a job lined up.
  • EANxEANx Posts: 1,078Member ■■■■■■■■□□
    Definitely stay for the CCNP and maybe think about switching contracts. One of the biggest things for the feds is reliability but not every agency thinks BGP v4 is bleeding-edge. There are several agencies that are globally dispersed that have challenges other agencies might not face.
  • jwdk19jwdk19 Member Posts: 62Member ■■■□□□□□□□
    One of my biggest regrets after getting out of the military was letting my TS expire. While in the military I worked with alot of crypto TS/SCI and it was stressful to me (early destruction, late destruction, comsec audits lol).

    I have since been in DoD as an IT contractor requiring only a Secret clearance but currently working in the private sector for the past 3 years.

    The TS itself is what earns you a good chunk of your salary. The cost of conducting a TS clearance is no small fee.

    Before you let that TS expire, make sure you have your ducks in a row brother. Just my opinion.

    Good luck man!
  • LordQarlynLordQarlyn Posts: 535Member ■■■■□□□□□□
    jwdk19 wrote: »
    One of my biggest regrets after getting out of the military was letting my TS expire. While in the military I worked with alot of crypto TS/SCI and it was stressful to me (early destruction, late destruction, comsec audits lol).

    I have since been in DoD as an IT contractor requiring only a Secret clearance but currently working in the private sector for the past 3 years.

    The TS itself is what earns you a good chunk of your salary. The cost of conducting a TS clearance is no small fee.

    Before you let that TS expire, make sure you have your ducks in a row brother. Just my opinion.

    Good luck man!

    Honestly having the TS clearance seems too much a pain in itself, for someone like me. All the reporting you have to do when you travel. A Secret is bearable, I only have to report travel to certain countries. For most Americans though, a TS is okay, most do not like to travel around the world and don't like foreigners lol. Ultimately my goal is to work totally private sector, where simply background check is all that is needed as soon as I get the experience and certs. I won't have to report my travels, I won't have to report every time businessman and I exchanged cards, report what I had for breakfast in some foreign country.

    I've seen salaries for jobs requiring TS versus private sector, and frankly I was not impressed. DoD contract jobs are awarded to the lowest bidder, while corporations have much more pay flexibility for high performers.
  • debugmedebugme Posts: 6Member ■□□□□□□□□□
    LordQarlyn wrote: »
    Honestly having the TS clearance seems too much a pain in itself, for someone like me. All the reporting you have to do when you travel. A Secret is bearable, I only have to report travel to certain countries. For most Americans though, a TS is okay, most do not like to travel around the world and don't like foreigners lol. Ultimately my goal is to work totally private sector, where simply background check is all that is needed as soon as I get the experience and certs. I won't have to report my travels, I won't have to report every time businessman and I exchanged cards, report what I had for breakfast in some foreign country.

    I've seen salaries for jobs requiring TS versus private sector, and frankly I was not impressed. DoD contract jobs are awarded to the lowest bidder, while corporations have much more pay flexibility for high performers.

    To be fair, in the DC metro area , I know people getting 140k+ and their skill level doesn't even match what their salary. It depends on the contract. I think private starts getting paid more once your skill level reaches a senior skill level or you are doing manager type of work.

    Only reason im considering not doing this anymore is because i want to get involved with upcoming technology like AWS,Python Scripting,SDN, and ect.. A lot of those things i feel like ill never get to touch while im doing cleared work.
  • TechGromitTechGromit A+, N+, GSEC, GCIH, GREM, Ontario, NY Posts: 1,909Member ■■■■■■■■□□
    debugme wrote: »
    [FONT=&amp]Work is EXTREMELY slow. I go 1 or 2 weeks without nothing and i literally just spend the day browsing the internet or studying for my CCNP . Ill get one or two small projects to deploy some devices ,but even then im just mostly copying and pasting configs (even though my official job title is a Network Engineer). [/FONT]

    I did government contract work before, and I know it can get frustrating at times, I too suffered through slow periods at work. But you be foolish to leave now. The private sector can get very challenging, unrealistic deadlines, unpaid overtime, being on call where you can't drink, not to mention lay-offs, staffing shortages, head count cuts. I'd look for other ways to keep busy and finish that CCNP, I'm looking to get back into government contract work in the future, trade you. :)
    Still searching for the corner in a round room.
  • mikey88mikey88 CISSP, CySA+, Security+, Network+ and others Posts: 471Member ■■■■■□□□□□
    LordQarlyn wrote: »
    Honestly having the TS clearance seems too much a pain in itself, for someone like me. All the reporting you have to do when you travel. A Secret is bearable, I only have to report travel to certain countries. For most Americans though, a TS is okay, most do not like to travel around the world and don't like foreigners lol. Ultimately my goal is to work totally private sector, where simply background check is all that is needed as soon as I get the experience and certs. I won't have to report my travels, I won't have to report every time businessman and I exchanged cards, report what I had for breakfast in some foreign country.

    I've seen salaries for jobs requiring TS versus private sector, and frankly I was not impressed. DoD contract jobs are awarded to the lowest bidder, while corporations have much more pay flexibility for high performers.

    I totally agree. The pain to maintain a TS is not for everyone...
    Certs: CISSP, CySA+, Security+, Network+ and others | 2019 Goals: Cloud Sec/Scripting/Linux

  • JDMurrayJDMurray Certification Invigilator Surf City, USAPosts: 11,473Admin Admin
    mikey88 wrote: »
    The pain to maintain a TS is not for everyone...
    All I had to do was update my SF-86 every five years and not get arrested or in any financial trouble. That's a pain?
  • LordQarlynLordQarlyn Posts: 535Member ■■■■□□□□□□
    JDMurray wrote: »
    All I had to do was update my SF-86 every five years and not get arrested or in any financial trouble. That's a pain?

    Indeed, that's all it was for you.
  • kaijukaiju Posts: 402Member ■■■■■■□□□□
    JDMurray wrote: »
    All I had to do was update my SF-86 every five years and not get arrested or in any financial trouble. That's a pain?

    It's actually more than that and travel has to be reported for all clearances that are secret and above. Every time a cleared person travels out of country or or has contact with a foreign government official he/she has to report this to his/her security manager. However, reporting these events isn't that difficult. Contact the sec manager prior to departing but also to make sure that you are not traveling to a "no travel" region. Once you have returned, complete whatever reporting process that is utilized by your organization. I do this for work and personal trips about 5 or 6 times a year.

    @debugme - having a clearance is what gets you more money. If your company has positions in that area I would suggest trying to do a internal transfer. Get some seat time under your CCNP and then move to the private sector.

    On a side note: I know some tier 3 (both network and systems) federal contractors who only have Sec+ but make ridiculous salaries because of their wealth of knowledge and perceived usefulness. There are also those who have a so many (**** acquired) certs that it will make your head explode but they lack the knowledge to put them to use.
    Work smarter NOT harder! Semper Gumby!
  • JoJoCal19JoJoCal19 California Kid Posts: 2,801Mod Mod
    TechGromit wrote: »
    I did government contract work before, and I know it can get frustrating at times, I too suffered through slow periods at work. But you be foolish to leave now. The private sector can get very challenging, unrealistic deadlines, unpaid overtime, being on call where you can't drink, not to mention lay-offs, staffing shortages, head count cuts. I'd look for other ways to keep busy and finish that CCNP, I'm looking to get back into government contract work in the future, trade you. :)

    I was just coming in here to say exactly this. Be careful what you wish for. Having a $100k job that is “safe” and being in a position where you could afford to take a $30k paycut means you’re in a position to be socking away $20k+ right now. I would take this current opportunity to cert up and save that money. You could be setting yourself up for financial independence down the road where you could really pursue your passions. Just my take from a different aspect. Also as far as worrying about building and maintaining new skills like AWS, Python, etc, you can entirely do that on your own. Granted you may not have on the job experience, but you can definitely learn and keep building those skills on your own with labbing. And with salary, it seems nowadays with most companies your next salary is based on your current or last salary. You’ll be setting yourself back by taking a cut in salary. Especially in the private sector.
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  • McxRisleyMcxRisley OSCP, CASP, CySA+, CPT+, Sec+, CEH, Splunk Admin Posts: 483Member ■■■■■□□□□□
    What is this madness I'm reading here? C'mon man, going to the private sector is probably the worst career move you could make at this point. You're complaing about making too much money and being bored? That mentality doesn't make sense to me. Use your spare time to study and grow your skillset. Trust me when I say that getting to play with all of the new cool toys and technologies is NOT at all a good thing. Stay where you're at.
    I'm not allowed to say what my previous occupation was, but let's just say it rhymes with architect.
  • paul78paul78 Posts: 3,016Member ■■■■■■■■■■
    McxRisley wrote: »
    What is this madness I'm reading here? C'mon man, going to the private sector is probably the worst career move you could make at this point.
    Just curious why do you say that? I don't really have a comparison since the bulk of my career is in the private sector. From what I can tell, the compensation in private sector if far higher than in federal government. I don't have any caps on compensation if I am willing to put in the effort. I'm pretty sure that no government contract can touch what I make. We routinely pass on RFPs from government contractors because it's just not worth it to us.

    I may be biased though, my only experience doing any work for a federal agency was more than 10 years ago and I had to reduce my bill-rate by about 40% for that engagement. I had taken the work because it was interesting but there was too much bureaucratic red-tape that it ceased to be interesting and I left after my engagement was done.
  • kaijukaiju Posts: 402Member ■■■■■■□□□□
    @paul78 - I think you are confusing federal employee with federal contractor. On average, federal contractors make A LOT more than federal employees. At one of my previous jobs I made $50k more than the GS guy who was supposedly the lead for our work section. A couple more guys made a lot more than that. I also know a couple CCIE and white team members who make absolutely ridiculous money but they are cream of the crop when it comes to their job fields.
    Work smarter NOT harder! Semper Gumby!
  • kaijukaiju Posts: 402Member ■■■■■■□□□□
    Yeah, it gets really silly when you work in a foreign country. Absolutely NOT possible to report every contact.... lol
    Work smarter NOT harder! Semper Gumby!
  • LordQarlynLordQarlyn Posts: 535Member ■■■■□□□□□□
    kaiju wrote: »
    It's actually more than that and travel has to be reported for all clearances that are secret and above. Every time a cleared person travels out of country or or has contact with a foreign government official he/she has to report this to his/her security manager. However, reporting these events isn't that difficult. Contact the sec manager prior to departing but also to make sure that you are not traveling to a "no travel" region. Once you have returned, complete whatever reporting process that is utilized by your organization. I do this for work and personal trips about 5 or 6 times a year.

    My understanding it's not just officials, any foreign contact, even strictly casual contact. And further, reporting it doesn't indemnify you, they can determine you are a risk because of undue foreign influence. Thus, exchanging business cards with a Singaporean businessman while giving him ideas how to enter the EU market can be grounds to permanently lose your clearance. If we follow the reporting requirements strictly, cleared Americans are technically required to report foreign contacts they make here.
    kaiju wrote: »
    @paul78 - I think you are confusing federal employee with federal contractor. On average, federal contractors make A LOT more than federal employees. At one of my previous jobs I made $50k more than the GS guy who was supposedly the lead for our work section. A couple more guys made a lot more than that. I also know a couple CCIE and white team members who make absolutely ridiculous money but they are cream of the crop when it comes to their job fields.

    I guess it depends where you work. I worked at NETCOM and the GS there were definitely higher levels, like 13, 14, and 15, making 130s to 150s while doing sub-minimum wage work. The top IT contractors there, the CCIEs, Systems Engineers, cybersecurity architects, made barely six figures. We would see them get jobs in the private sector companies that would be 50% higher salaries than the contractor jobs.
  • kaijukaiju Posts: 402Member ■■■■■■□□□□
    Oops.. I am OCONUS (but not in that damn desert) so things are quite different over here. Most Tier 3 Sys/Net admin and IA make at least $110k but most are in the $130~$150k range. Tier 2 falls in the $65k~$90K but that mainly depends on their ability to haggle for the salary.
    Work smarter NOT harder! Semper Gumby!
  • McxRisleyMcxRisley OSCP, CASP, CySA+, CPT+, Sec+, CEH, Splunk Admin Posts: 483Member ■■■■■□□□□□
    paul78 wrote: »
    Just curious why do you say that? I don't really have a comparison since the bulk of my career is in the private sector. From what I can tell, the compensation in private sector if far higher than in federal government. I don't have any caps on compensation if I am willing to put in the effort. I'm pretty sure that no government contract can touch what I make. We routinely pass on RFPs from government contractors because it's just not worth it to us.

    I may be biased though, my only experience doing any work for a federal agency was more than 10 years ago and I had to reduce my bill-rate by about 40% for that engagement. I had taken the work because it was interesting but there was too much bureaucratic red-tape that it ceased to be interesting and I left after my engagement was done.

    I say this becuase of his lack of experience and because in some cases (including my own), federal contracting pays A LOT more than the private sector. Also like others have said, it depeneds on the contract as well.
    I'm not allowed to say what my previous occupation was, but let's just say it rhymes with architect.
  • TechGromitTechGromit A+, N+, GSEC, GCIH, GREM, Ontario, NY Posts: 1,909Member ■■■■■■■■□□
    LordQarlyn wrote: »
    I guess it depends where you work. I worked at NETCOM and the GS there were definitely higher levels, like 13, 14, and 15, making 130s to 150s while doing sub-minimum wage work. The top IT contractors there, the CCIEs, Systems Engineers, cybersecurity architects, made barely six figures. We would see them get jobs in the private sector companies that would be 50% higher salaries than the contractor jobs.

    Sounds like to me they just did a lousy job when negotiating their salary with the federal contracting firm. When I used to work as a federal contractor the bill rate was something like $100 a hour, (for a Engineering Specialist 3) my wages and benefits came in at around $38 a hour, giving the contracting firm around $62 a hour profit. Now granted there are other costs the contracting agency has to cover, such a having a staff that bills the government, handles HR etc, but spread out over 100's of contracting employees, it's peanuts. A higher level position with the government would command a much higher bill rate, maybe $200 a hour. If these guys can't negotiate for a good $60 or $70 a hour salary, then they just suck at negotiating I say.

    I knew a guy that had a Mercury test tools certification that was needed for a open contract position. They gave him 100k (was making around 40k in Florida) to start (he relocated to NJ) and when he found out what the bill rate was, he demanded 120k, and they gave it to him.

    A friend used to work on the contracts bids to the government and he said the profit margins were around 30%, pretty good pay day for just being the middle man lining up workers with open contracts.
    Still searching for the corner in a round room.
  • the_Grinchthe_Grinch Posts: 4,160Member ■■■■■■■■■■
    Depending on your experience you might not have to take a pay cut especially in the NYC/North Jersey area. Look in Jersey City because there are a lot of tech companies and banks in that area.
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  • spiderjerichospiderjericho CCNP, CCDP, CCNA R&S, CCNA Security, CCDA, CISSP, CISM, CISA, CRISC, Network+, Security+, CySa+, Pen San DiegoPosts: 839Member ■■■■□□□□□□
    My family went to Cuba last year. I asked to go. Got denied.

    My family is from the Caribbean and I had to report all of that.

    Youre also supposed to report report if you’re receiving therapy or having financial issues.

    Anyways, I agree. Get your CCNP. Move to a Tier 3 tech.
  • debugmedebugme Posts: 6Member ■□□□□□□□□□
    My family went to Cuba last year. I asked to go. Got denied.

    My family is from the Caribbean and I had to report all of that.

    Youre also supposed to report report if you’re receiving therapy or having financial issues.

    Anyways, I agree. Get your CCNP. Move to a Tier 3 tech.


    Definitely not leaving without my CCNP. Im just worried about not getting the proper experience here and get left behind in tech. You never know if one you lose your clearance..

    My familys also from the carribean and its annoying.
  • LordQarlynLordQarlyn Posts: 535Member ■■■■□□□□□□
    TechGromit wrote: »
    Sounds like to me they just did a lousy job when negotiating their salary with the federal contracting firm. When I used to work as a federal contractor the bill rate was something like $100 a hour, (for a Engineering Specialist 3) my wages and benefits came in at around $38 a hour, giving the contracting firm around $62 a hour profit. Now granted there are other costs the contracting agency has to cover, such a having a staff that bills the government, handles HR etc, but spread out over 100's of contracting employees, it's peanuts. A higher level position with the government would command a much higher bill rate, maybe $200 a hour. If these guys can't negotiate for a good $60 or $70 a hour salary, then they just suck at negotiating I say.

    I knew a guy that had a Mercury test tools certification that was needed for a open contract position. They gave him 100k (was making around 40k in Florida) to start (he relocated to NJ) and when he found out what the bill rate was, he demanded 120k, and they gave it to him.

    A friend used to work on the contracts bids to the government and he said the profit margins were around 30%, pretty good pay day for just being the middle man lining up workers with open contracts.

    Again, it all depends on the contract and the agency. I'm damn sure ours is no 30% margin lol. It's more like 15%, I've seen the numbers myself. The fact that my former colleagues were able to negotiate sizeable increases at private sector jobs over their current salaries suggests that the margins were not nearly as high as that. And during my time as contractor, it was not uncommon at contract rebids for an incumbent company to lose out to another company because, lowest bidder. Or if the incumbent company wins, they have to cut pay and benefits because they had to rebid lower to keep the contract (happened to me on a contract). A company may be basking at 30% margins can find itself replaced by a bottom feeder drooling to do the same contract at 10% margin at rebid. Further, there's a trend among government agencies to go to firm fixed price contracts. It's still about being the lowest bidder, even the government complains about performance, all the bloody time, they still award contracts predominantly based on the lowest bid. Yes, I know there are still juicy slots out there, but those positions are not nearly as common as they used to be at the turn of the century.

    I think the consensus here has an accurate picture, for entry and mid-level IT jobs, contracting is much better, certainly pays more, and if you can avoid one of those jobs where you get paid to do nothing (which is nowhere nearly as nice as it sounds), you can gain valuable and essential real world experience. Once you get skilled and if you happen to be very skilled, then the private sector seems to be better for the most part.
  • eansdadeansdad Posts: 775Member ■■■■□□□□□□
    God I miss my TS....I left a contract job of 2yrs after leaving the Army for a local school district. The money I could be making now.....

    I agree, stay and get your cert on and learn more. Moving to Northern NJ and NYC you will be in competition with a ot of people with college, certs and exp. Bank your checks cause living up their won't be cheap either.
  • jwdk19jwdk19 Member Posts: 62Member ■■■□□□□□□□
    Im not advising that you dont move out of the DoD. Ive honestly been exposed to more technologies and overall learned much more in the private sector (and at the state level for that matter)

    My advice is just to be prepared for the transition as much as possible and thoroughly weigh things out. When I had my TS I was 22 years old. I was Navy and deployed all over Europe, middle east and parts of Africa (Djbouti anyone?😀) Maintaining the clearance was not that big of a headache IMO but we all have different experiences I suppose.
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