Salary Perspective

General Discussion for SMART Scholarship Recipients

Salary Perspective

Postby Guest76 » Sat May 27, 2017 1:13 pm

Curious to know if anyone's been having similar thoughts.
I am a computer science major and am enrolled in an Ivy League University - most of my friends will be graduating and getting jobs at top firms like Apple, Amazon, Google, etc where they will be pulling in, including all benefits and bonuses, probably between 100-120k a year. By enrolling in the SMART program, I'll be making less than half of that. I know that they'll have college debt to pay back, and one of the main reasons I'm in SMART is to avoid crushing debt, but still, it's a huge difference in salary.
Has anyone been thinking about this? If so, how have you come to peace of mind over it?
Guest76
 

Re: Salary Perspective

Postby Guest » Sat May 27, 2017 1:58 pm

Guest76 wrote:Curious to know if anyone's been having similar thoughts.
I am a computer science major and am enrolled in an Ivy League University - most of my friends will be graduating and getting jobs at top firms like Apple, Amazon, Google, etc where they will be pulling in, including all benefits and bonuses, probably between 100-120k a year. By enrolling in the SMART program, I'll be making less than half of that. I know that they'll have college debt to pay back, and one of the main reasons I'm in SMART is to avoid crushing debt, but still, it's a huge difference in salary.
Has anyone been thinking about this? If so, how have you come to peace of mind over it?

You can't just look at salary, you have to figure cost of living too. The bay area where a lot of big tech companies are very pricey so you won't be buying a house even at 100k a year. Just something to consider
Guest
 

Re: Salary Perspective

Postby kbl2017 » Sat May 27, 2017 8:29 pm

Guest76 wrote:Curious to know if anyone's been having similar thoughts.
I am a computer science major and am enrolled in an Ivy League University - most of my friends will be graduating and getting jobs at top firms like Apple, Amazon, Google, etc where they will be pulling in, including all benefits and bonuses, probably between 100-120k a year. By enrolling in the SMART program, I'll be making less than half of that. I know that they'll have college debt to pay back, and one of the main reasons I'm in SMART is to avoid crushing debt, but still, it's a huge difference in salary.
Has anyone been thinking about this? If so, how have you come to peace of mind over it?


So, long term government benefits etc all eventually equal out. Higher pay doesn't mean a better job. Some of those companies will work extremely long hours etc. Whereas government you'll work 40 hours a week or you'll be getting vacation time for it. There's also not as much pressure because the government doesn't make a profit on their work.

I'm taking into account the $33k a year, plus the $40k for school that I don't have to pay for or pay back. Would I like to make $80k out of graduation instead of $55k yeah...but the pay increases a lot within 2 years and the benefits are amazing. The pay is also set, you don't have to work while in school, nor do you have to look for a job while in school. There's a lot of different types of work/places of work within the DOD and across government agencies in general that are pretty easy to switch to after your two years of work so you'll be geographically mobile if you want to be.

I worked with a lot of contractors and civil servants at my last internship and the general consensus was if they could get into being a civil servant they would have as their pay was almost the same as their co-worker who was a civil servant but a lot more was expected from them.
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Re: Salary Perspective

Postby Guest76 » Sat May 27, 2017 9:53 pm

kbl2017 wrote:
Guest76 wrote:Curious to know if anyone's been having similar thoughts.
I am a computer science major and am enrolled in an Ivy League University - most of my friends will be graduating and getting jobs at top firms like Apple, Amazon, Google, etc where they will be pulling in, including all benefits and bonuses, probably between 100-120k a year. By enrolling in the SMART program, I'll be making less than half of that. I know that they'll have college debt to pay back, and one of the main reasons I'm in SMART is to avoid crushing debt, but still, it's a huge difference in salary.
Has anyone been thinking about this? If so, how have you come to peace of mind over it?


So, long term government benefits etc all eventually equal out. Higher pay doesn't mean a better job. Some of those companies will work extremely long hours etc. Whereas government you'll work 40 hours a week or you'll be getting vacation time for it. There's also not as much pressure because the government doesn't make a profit on their work.

I'm taking into account the $33k a year, plus the $40k for school that I don't have to pay for or pay back. Would I like to make $80k out of graduation instead of $55k yeah...but the pay increases a lot within 2 years and the benefits are amazing. The pay is also set, you don't have to work while in school, nor do you have to look for a job while in school. There's a lot of different types of work/places of work within the DOD and across government agencies in general that are pretty easy to switch to after your two years of work so you'll be geographically mobile if you want to be.

I worked with a lot of contractors and civil servants at my last internship and the general consensus was if they could get into being a civil servant they would have as their pay was almost the same as their co-worker who was a civil servant but a lot more was expected from them.



Yeah but there are people pulling salaries between 90-110k first year out of college that aren't in the SF bay area..
Guest76
 

Re: Salary Perspective

Postby kbl2017 » Sat May 27, 2017 10:04 pm

Guest76 wrote:
kbl2017 wrote:
Guest76 wrote:Curious to know if anyone's been having similar thoughts.
I am a computer science major and am enrolled in an Ivy League University - most of my friends will be graduating and getting jobs at top firms like Apple, Amazon, Google, etc where they will be pulling in, including all benefits and bonuses, probably between 100-120k a year. By enrolling in the SMART program, I'll be making less than half of that. I know that they'll have college debt to pay back, and one of the main reasons I'm in SMART is to avoid crushing debt, but still, it's a huge difference in salary.
Has anyone been thinking about this? If so, how have you come to peace of mind over it?


So, long term government benefits etc all eventually equal out. Higher pay doesn't mean a better job. Some of those companies will work extremely long hours etc. Whereas government you'll work 40 hours a week or you'll be getting vacation time for it. There's also not as much pressure because the government doesn't make a profit on their work.

I'm taking into account the $33k a year, plus the $40k for school that I don't have to pay for or pay back. Would I like to make $80k out of graduation instead of $55k yeah...but the pay increases a lot within 2 years and the benefits are amazing. The pay is also set, you don't have to work while in school, nor do you have to look for a job while in school. There's a lot of different types of work/places of work within the DOD and across government agencies in general that are pretty easy to switch to after your two years of work so you'll be geographically mobile if you want to be.

I worked with a lot of contractors and civil servants at my last internship and the general consensus was if they could get into being a civil servant they would have as their pay was almost the same as their co-worker who was a civil servant but a lot more was expected from them.



Yeah but there are people pulling salaries between 90-110k first year out of college that aren't in the SF bay area..


True, but say you add the yearly stipend plus one year of college tuition on top of that first year salary you're technically making 128k. You'll have extra spending money during school and you're guaranteed a paycheck. It's also only a few years then if you want to switch into private you'll easily find a job and you'll easily be hired in the six figures range!

My SF is in the LA area so I feel you there, it'll be a little rough if I'm living alone. But I still think it's worth it.
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Re: Salary Perspective

Postby Guest76 » Sat May 27, 2017 10:06 pm

So, long term government benefits etc all eventually equal out. Higher pay doesn't mean a better job. Some of those companies will work extremely long hours etc. Whereas government you'll work 40 hours a week or you'll be getting vacation time for it. There's also not as much pressure because the government doesn't make a profit on their work.

I'm taking into account the $33k a year, plus the $40k for school that I don't have to pay for or pay back. Would I like to make $80k out of graduation instead of $55k yeah...but the pay increases a lot within 2 years and the benefits are amazing. The pay is also set, you don't have to work while in school, nor do you have to look for a job while in school. There's a lot of different types of work/places of work within the DOD and across government agencies in general that are pretty easy to switch to after your two years of work so you'll be geographically mobile if you want to be.

I worked with a lot of contractors and civil servants at my last internship and the general consensus was if they could get into being a civil servant they would have as their pay was almost the same as their co-worker who was a civil servant but a lot more was expected from them.[/quote]


Yeah but there are people pulling salaries between 90-110k first year out of college that aren't in the SF bay area..[/quote]

True, but say you add the yearly stipend plus one year of college tuition on top of that first year salary you're technically making 128k. You'll have extra spending money during school and you're guaranteed a paycheck. It's also only a few years then if you want to switch into private you'll easily find a job and you'll easily be hired in the six figures range!

My SF is in the LA area so I feel you there, it'll be a little rough if I'm living alone. But I still think it's worth it.[/quote]

Thanks,
That puts me at ease a bit actually. And LA? Lucky you man...I'm in the middle of nowhere...
Guest76
 

Re: Salary Perspective

Postby kbl2017 » Sat May 27, 2017 10:10 pm

Guest76 wrote:Thanks,
That puts me at ease a bit actually. And LA? Lucky you man...I'm in the middle of nowhere...


Plus side, your cost of living will be less! :)

I won't qualify for internship support payments sadly - so I'm hopeful I find someone chill to get a 2 bedroom place with!!!!!!
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Re: Salary Perspective

Postby Guest76 » Sat May 27, 2017 10:11 pm

kbl2017 wrote:
Guest76 wrote:Thanks,
That puts me at ease a bit actually. And LA? Lucky you man...I'm in the middle of nowhere...


Plus side, your cost of living will be less! :)

I won't qualify for internship support payments sadly - so I'm hopeful I find someone chill to get a 2 bedroom place with!!!!!!


Why? Live too close to your SF?
Guest76
 

Re: Salary Perspective

Postby guest_ne » Sat May 27, 2017 10:13 pm

the support payments are insane
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Re: Salary Perspective

Postby kbl2017 » Sat May 27, 2017 10:17 pm

Guest76 wrote:
kbl2017 wrote:
Guest76 wrote:Thanks,
That puts me at ease a bit actually. And LA? Lucky you man...I'm in the middle of nowhere...


Plus side, your cost of living will be less! :)

I won't qualify for internship support payments sadly - so I'm hopeful I find someone chill to get a 2 bedroom place with!!!!!!


Why? Live too close to your SF?


My school is only 20 miles away, my permanent address is across the country though so I guess it depends on if they approve that or not. Since had I not found an internship I would have moved home for the summer.
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Re: Salary Perspective

Postby Guest76 » Sat May 27, 2017 10:30 pm

Are either of you signed on for 3 years?
Guest76
 

Re: Salary Perspective

Postby kbl2017 » Sat May 27, 2017 10:38 pm

Guest76 wrote:Are either of you signed on for 3 years?


I'm only 2, graduating undergrad this year and my Master's program only requires 27 credits.
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Re: Salary Perspective

Postby Guest76 » Sat May 27, 2017 10:48 pm

kbl2017 wrote:
Guest76 wrote:Are either of you signed on for 3 years?


I'm only 2, graduating undergrad this year and my Master's program only requires 27 credits.


I'm for 3, I'll be an old man when Im out.
Guest76
 

Re: Salary Perspective

Postby kbl2017 » Sat May 27, 2017 10:57 pm

Guest76 wrote:
kbl2017 wrote:
Guest76 wrote:Are either of you signed on for 3 years?


I'm only 2, graduating undergrad this year and my Master's program only requires 27 credits.


I'm for 3, I'll be an old man when Im out.


Lol! 6 years of your life isn't toooo bad.
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Re: Salary Perspective

Postby Guest76 » Sat May 27, 2017 11:00 pm

I'm only 2, graduating undergrad this year and my Master's program only requires 27 credits.[/quote]

I'm for 3, I'll be an old man when Im out.[/quote]

Lol! 6 years of your life isn't toooo bad.[/quote]

3 - I'd be going to school anyways so I don't count the years of my undergrad.
Guest76
 

Re: Salary Perspective

Postby kbl2017 » Sat May 27, 2017 11:19 pm

Guest76 wrote:
3 - I'd be going to school anyways so I don't count the years of my undergrad.


So worth it. Just wait till senior year when all your friends are making themselves crazy looking for jobs or moving back home.
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Re: Salary Perspective

Postby ThatGuy » Sat May 27, 2017 11:47 pm

It might help you feel better if you just did the math by estimating where you would be financially in x years (x being the numbers from now till when your done with your service agreement) if you had to pay for school (are you taking out loans? Include any interest on loans and how they compound.), weren't getting a stipend, and got a different job out of school (estimate the salary) and continued paying off debt (maybe you would find an employer that would pay some of it for you?).

Then consider the SMART alternative. If you are just worried about wealth then you should also consider investing some of your yearly stipends and maybe assume a 5%/yr growth in a conservative market account (some investment sites have tools that help you estimate this). Don't forget to include the extra pay for summer internships and other misc extra money.

As others have mentioned and I have been told by friends of mine who have CS PhDs, goverment jobs may have smaller salaries but they do have better benefits and typically better working hours. If you are an undergraduate, you may not appreciate that now but consider when/if you might want to start a family etc. or in general what you want your work/life balance to look like in the future.

If I was at an IVY league, I'd probably be thinking like you, but I'm far from that. I'm also not a CS major or engineer, so my opportunity cost isn't as large in that respect either. Good luck with your decision.
ThatGuy
 

Re: Salary Perspective

Postby LOL_DOD_quizzes » Tue May 30, 2017 10:01 am

You all have no idea what working for the DOD is like (or worth) and I made the exact same arguments everyone here is making before I started Phase II.

If your service agreement is 2 years or less and you have a MS or BS then the SMART program is not a bad deal. If you have more than a 2 year commitment and/or a PhD you shouldn't accept the offer.

The DOD are PROGRAM MANAGERS. You don't do any real engineering. You do engineering business and you don't even really need to know any engineering/science.

Go spend some time and look at Defense Acquisition University (which is your required professional certification). You will see that there is nothing in there about actual engineering (even under the SPDE path which I personally am). You will learn a whole lot about colors of money and how and when to fund things. How to review all the hard engineering work your contractors do for you. You will learn a whole bunch about how to write requirements and how to perform analysis of requirements. -- I should qualify this since writing good engineering requirements is actually quite difficult and takes strong technical knowledge. The DOD requirement writing is almost always based off deriving a technical parameter from a capability description which is usually contracted out. So again all you do is look and sign off documents --

All the pay and benefits still doesn't make up for the horrible work/life experience. I have spent my entire time with the DOD trying to better my professional skills and the only skills I was able to improve in my prison term was soft skills. My technical skills were severely hindered and I had to spend extra nights and weekends to make sure I didn't lose knowledge that I gained earning my PhD.

So yes you will after 3-4 years be a GS-11/12 and make $70-90k, but you will most likely not have the job you thought you were getting. If you don't like responsibility or technical challenges, then you will love government work. If you get frustrated by having your hands tied and being forced to take mindless training (about everything from sexual harassment to fire extinguisher use) then you will hate it and all the money/security in the world will not seem worth it.

Bottom line: SMART seems like it should be a great opportunity and to a certain extent it is. Phase II of the program is particularly brutal as government engineering work is not what you are being sold if you are going into a defense acquisition job (primary defense engineering positions).
LOL_DOD_quizzes
 

Re: Salary Perspective

Postby Guest » Tue May 30, 2017 10:20 am

LOL_DOD_quizzes wrote:You all have no idea what working for the DOD is like (or worth) and I made the exact same arguments everyone here is making before I started Phase II.

If your service agreement is 2 years or less and you have a MS or BS then the SMART program is not a bad deal. If you have more than a 2 year commitment and/or a PhD you shouldn't accept the offer.

The DOD are PROGRAM MANAGERS. You don't do any real engineering. You do engineering business and you don't even really need to know any engineering/science.

Go spend some time and look at Defense Acquisition University (which is your required professional certification). You will see that there is nothing in there about actual engineering (even under the SPDE path which I personally am). You will learn a whole lot about colors of money and how and when to fund things. How to review all the hard engineering work your contractors do for you. You will learn a whole bunch about how to write requirements and how to perform analysis of requirements. -- I should qualify this since writing good engineering requirements is actually quite difficult and takes strong technical knowledge. The DOD requirement writing is almost always based off deriving a technical parameter from a capability description which is usually contracted out. So again all you do is look and sign off documents --

All the pay and benefits still doesn't make up for the horrible work/life experience. I have spent my entire time with the DOD trying to better my professional skills and the only skills I was able to improve in my prison term was soft skills. My technical skills were severely hindered and I had to spend extra nights and weekends to make sure I didn't lose knowledge that I gained earning my PhD.

So yes you will after 3-4 years be a GS-11/12 and make $70-90k, but you will most likely not have the job you thought you were getting. If you don't like responsibility or technical challenges, then you will love government work. If you get frustrated by having your hands tied and being forced to take mindless training (about everything from sexual harassment to fire extinguisher use) then you will hate it and all the money/security in the world will not seem worth it.

Bottom line: SMART seems like it should be a great opportunity and to a certain extent it is. Phase II of the program is particularly brutal as government engineering work is not what you are being sold if you are going into a defense acquisition job (primary defense engineering positions).


I want to continue being a civil servant after I graduate even if not DOD....so I'm down for two years of hating my job.
Guest
 

Re: Salary Perspective

Postby Guest654 » Tue May 30, 2017 1:53 pm

LOL_DOD_quizzes wrote:You all have no idea what working for the DOD is like (or worth) and I made the exact same arguments everyone here is making before I started Phase II.

If your service agreement is 2 years or less and you have a MS or BS then the SMART program is not a bad deal. If you have more than a 2 year commitment and/or a PhD you shouldn't accept the offer.

The DOD are PROGRAM MANAGERS. You don't do any real engineering. You do engineering business and you don't even really need to know any engineering/science.

Go spend some time and look at Defense Acquisition University (which is your required professional certification). You will see that there is nothing in there about actual engineering (even under the SPDE path which I personally am). You will learn a whole lot about colors of money and how and when to fund things. How to review all the hard engineering work your contractors do for you. You will learn a whole bunch about how to write requirements and how to perform analysis of requirements. -- I should qualify this since writing good engineering requirements is actually quite difficult and takes strong technical knowledge. The DOD requirement writing is almost always based off deriving a technical parameter from a capability description which is usually contracted out. So again all you do is look and sign off documents --

All the pay and benefits still doesn't make up for the horrible work/life experience. I have spent my entire time with the DOD trying to better my professional skills and the only skills I was able to improve in my prison term was soft skills. My technical skills were severely hindered and I had to spend extra nights and weekends to make sure I didn't lose knowledge that I gained earning my PhD.

So yes you will after 3-4 years be a GS-11/12 and make $70-90k, but you will most likely not have the job you thought you were getting. If you don't like responsibility or technical challenges, then you will love government work. If you get frustrated by having your hands tied and being forced to take mindless training (about everything from sexual harassment to fire extinguisher use) then you will hate it and all the money/security in the world will not seem worth it.

Bottom line: SMART seems like it should be a great opportunity and to a certain extent it is. Phase II of the program is particularly brutal as government engineering work is not what you are being sold if you are going into a defense acquisition job (primary defense engineering positions).


You say "The DOD are PROGRAM MANAGERS" and make it sound like none of the facilities do real work. Are you sure this isn't just the facility/type of job for the DoD you went into? My friend got a PhD in Physics and works in one of the DoD research labs and does "real physics". I got a position in a different DoD research lab. Are you suggesting we won't do any real research? Thanks for sharing your experience, but could you please try and make it more clear how much of your dissapointment is due to the type of facility/position you accepted vs. the DoD in general.
Guest654
 

Re: Salary Perspective

Postby kbl2017 » Tue May 30, 2017 3:29 pm

Guest654 wrote:
LOL_DOD_quizzes wrote:You all have no idea what working for the DOD is like (or worth) and I made the exact same arguments everyone here is making before I started Phase II.

If your service agreement is 2 years or less and you have a MS or BS then the SMART program is not a bad deal. If you have more than a 2 year commitment and/or a PhD you shouldn't accept the offer.

The DOD are PROGRAM MANAGERS. You don't do any real engineering. You do engineering business and you don't even really need to know any engineering/science.

Go spend some time and look at Defense Acquisition University (which is your required professional certification). You will see that there is nothing in there about actual engineering (even under the SPDE path which I personally am). You will learn a whole lot about colors of money and how and when to fund things. How to review all the hard engineering work your contractors do for you. You will learn a whole bunch about how to write requirements and how to perform analysis of requirements. -- I should qualify this since writing good engineering requirements is actually quite difficult and takes strong technical knowledge. The DOD requirement writing is almost always based off deriving a technical parameter from a capability description which is usually contracted out. So again all you do is look and sign off documents --

All the pay and benefits still doesn't make up for the horrible work/life experience. I have spent my entire time with the DOD trying to better my professional skills and the only skills I was able to improve in my prison term was soft skills. My technical skills were severely hindered and I had to spend extra nights and weekends to make sure I didn't lose knowledge that I gained earning my PhD.

So yes you will after 3-4 years be a GS-11/12 and make $70-90k, but you will most likely not have the job you thought you were getting. If you don't like responsibility or technical challenges, then you will love government work. If you get frustrated by having your hands tied and being forced to take mindless training (about everything from sexual harassment to fire extinguisher use) then you will hate it and all the money/security in the world will not seem worth it.

Bottom line: SMART seems like it should be a great opportunity and to a certain extent it is. Phase II of the program is particularly brutal as government engineering work is not what you are being sold if you are going into a defense acquisition job (primary defense engineering positions).


You say "The DOD are PROGRAM MANAGERS" and make it sound like none of the facilities do real work. Are you sure this isn't just the facility/type of job for the DoD you went into? My friend got a PhD in Physics and works in one of the DoD research labs and does "real physics". I got a position in a different DoD research lab. Are you suggesting we won't do any real research? Thanks for sharing your experience, but could you please try and make it more clear how much of your dissapointment is due to the type of facility/position you accepted vs. the DoD in general.


In general the DoD is head on the projects and the contractors do the work. So I get the program manager point. But I worked as a contracted intern in a lab and it wasn't like that at all. The civil servant was in charge of a huge team/projects but still had oodles to do with the actual hands-on engineering. So I'm sure there are some places that it's not like that - like where you work/worked...but the entirety of the DoD is not like that.
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Re: Salary Perspective

Postby AcqGuest » Tue May 30, 2017 11:42 pm

Like the previous DOD_quizzes poster, I too was amazed that I was awarded the scholarship. I went through the same rationale, arguing to myself that "private sector vs public employee will eventually event out" and "better work hours" and "doing something meaningful for the country." After talking with the SF, I was convinced that they would have me doing a line of work that I would be interested in. I committed to the scholarship.

I was looking and expecting something technical and challenging. Instead, I got:

1. Mandatory Defense Acquisition University classes, which, as the previous poster alluded to, have absolutely no technical merit what-so-ever and are a total drag if you're expecting technical work.
2. Managing, including endless meetings, projects executed and engineered by contractors.
3. Occasionally answering system questions by referring to the manual (this is often the only technical documents you will have on-site)
4. Push paper so the government can buy parts.

I found myself at an acquisition facility. There was no opportunity to engineer anything. We didn't have any software or hardware to do such, or "authority" to buy such things. In my experience, everything moved at a snails pace.

I found my employment in phase II extremely disappointing and totally unfulfilling and quit the first chance I could. It really was not what I had hoped for and signed up for.

Please don't just consider the salary and how you'll compare to your peers right out of school. You really need to consider just how much you'll like your job. Trust me, the clock moves incredibly slow when you're miserable. Back when I signed up for SMART, I was really thrilled and excited - I imagine you are too. It's a competitive scholarship, and you should be proud you were selected. But don't let that cloud your judgement on the phase II commitment. If you're looking for something technical, I'd advise you to consider the following points:

1. I would strongly advise to avoid any position that requires you to take DAU classes. It's not that you couldn't put up with them - it's that a DAU coded position indicates quite strongly that you will be in an acquisition track, regardless of what your job description says.
2. I've read those that are in research positions are paid through the "ND" scale. If your position will pay you through anything but this (like GS), I'd strongly reconsider.
3. Through my experience and acquaintances, I'm not convinced that there are serious engineering opportunities available at facilities that describe themselves as "depots" or have "life cycle" or "logistics" in their names. Don't get me wrong - it takes real work to keep current equipment moving. Expect the contractors to be doing this though.
4. Do not be afraid to ask your SF. Get the exact job description, ask what you'll be doing on a day-to-day basis, ask how red tape interferes with the job, what kind of tools you'll be using, etc. I'd strongly encourage you to ask your would-be-supervisor. I had to rely on the S&E HR "specialists" and in retrospect, it is obvious they hit every buzzword they could. If any bit of this makes you feel uneasy, strongly consider the opportunity you've been awarded - misery every day is no fun.
5. If you don't like your job and you decide to leave for the private sector after your commitment, you will very likely have to go through technical interviews. Keeping technical skills sharp and having something to show on your resume is required to make this change.
6. SMART will likely not help you switch SFs during your phase II commitment.

I think there's a perception among college students (myself included) that the government does all of this awesome, cutting-edge research, and has unlimited money, great facilities, and free-reign. SMART's own website features promotional videos instilling this imagine in applicants minds. In my experience, it was impossible to buy anything, our facility was a cubical farm armed with lousy economy desktops, and I couldn't touch a thing. Don't get me wrong - the government does own great facilities such as the various wind and water tunnels at the characteristic test centers. But many of the sponsoring facilities on SMART's list don't have this.

Congratulations on receiving the scholarship! It's an exciting feeling. But please consider other attributes and what you're looking to get out of your experience in the DoD in addition to the salary. It's easy to convince yourself with the SMART and government employment benefits that everything will be OK. Misery from not doing anything or doing anything technical has a pretty high price tag too, and if experienced, you will be reminded of it every weekday for the remainder of your commitment. Do not take it lightly.
AcqGuest
 

Re: Salary Perspective

Postby Guest3141 » Fri Jun 02, 2017 11:39 am

AcqGuest, thanks for the tips. Can anyone find information about this "ND" pay scale he mentioned? I've Googled it but don't see anything. When I ask someone at my SF about it I want to make sure I know what it is, incase they don't.
Guest3141
 

Re: Salary Perspective

Postby UNM_EE » Fri Jun 02, 2017 12:16 pm

The ND scale is the pay scale used under the lab DEMO system for technical (scientists/engineers) personnel. I know that the Navy labs (Naval Surface Warfare Centers etc) use this system, and I think the Airforce labs do as well (or their own version). It is intended to be a pay system more in line with industry - where compensation is tied to performance, not just how much time you have in the gov. That's why there is not the same level of salary information posted on the web for ND as apposed to GS - it is not as fixed of a scale. I know this from many years as a contractor that mostly worked for one of the NSWCs. If I remember correctly, fresh-out BS engineers are ND-02 with a path to ND-03. MS is low ND-03 and PhD is high ND-03 to 04. The scale tops out at 05.

In my experience working closely with the engineers at that NSWC, there were some that did real technical work, and some that were more program management. They did rely on contractors (like me) for some technical work - particularly for shorter-term projects, but there were groups where most of the technical and research work was in-house. Also, the balance between in-house and contracted engineering is cyclical in the DoD. Every 10 years or so, someone in the Pentagon says: "We are spending too much on contractors; it all needs to be civilian DoD people doing the work!" and so the pendulum swings that way for a while. Then, someone says "We have all these civilian employees that we have to pay all these expensive benefits for and we can't fire them; we should use more contractors!" One thing that I did see at that lab was that the talented engineers were very mobile within the lab. Once someone had a reputation for technical skill and getting things done (and making the project manager look good), they would be in demand by the various projects and could usually take their pick.
UNM_EE
 

Re: Salary Perspective

Postby LOL_DOD_Quizzes » Fri Jun 02, 2017 4:48 pm

Guest654 wrote:
You say "The DOD are PROGRAM MANAGERS" and make it sound like none of the facilities do real work. Are you sure this isn't just the facility/type of job for the DoD you went into? My friend got a PhD in Physics and works in one of the DoD research labs and does "real physics". I got a position in a different DoD research lab. Are you suggesting we won't do any real research? Thanks for sharing your experience, but could you please try and make it more clear how much of your dissapointment is due to the type of facility/position you accepted vs. the DoD in general.


Yes. I am not suggesting that you will most likely not do research, I am telling you that. I work for a DOD "Research Lab" on a Labdemo payscale. You will most likely not do real research. Your research will likely be farmed out to an Federally Funded Research and Development Center (Sandia, Los Alamos, MIT LL, etc.) and the engineering to contractors. Our "researchers" that lead them slap their names on their (FFRDC or Contractors) papers but don't even bother to try and validate the results.

AcqGuest wrote:I was looking and expecting something technical and challenging. Instead, I got:

1. Mandatory Defense Acquisition University classes, which, as the previous poster alluded to, have absolutely no technical merit what-so-ever and are a total drag if you're expecting technical work.
2. Managing, including endless meetings, projects executed and engineered by contractors.
3. Occasionally answering system questions by referring to the manual (this is often the only technical documents you will have on-site)
4. Push paper so the government can buy parts.

I found myself at an acquisition facility. There was no opportunity to engineer anything. We didn't have any software or hardware to do such, or "authority" to buy such things. In my experience, everything moved at a snails pace.

I found my employment in phase II extremely disappointing and totally unfulfilling and quit the first chance I could. It really was not what I had hoped for and signed up for.

Please don't just consider the salary and how you'll compare to your peers right out of school. You really need to consider just how much you'll like your job. Trust me, the clock moves incredibly slow when you're miserable. Back when I signed up for SMART, I was really thrilled and excited - I imagine you are too. It's a competitive scholarship, and you should be proud you were selected. But don't let that cloud your judgement on the phase II commitment. If you're looking for something technical, I'd advise you to consider the following points:

1. I would strongly advise to avoid any position that requires you to take DAU classes. It's not that you couldn't put up with them - it's that a DAU coded position indicates quite strongly that you will be in an acquisition track, regardless of what your job description says.
2. I've read those that are in research positions are paid through the "ND" scale. If your position will pay you through anything but this (like GS), I'd strongly reconsider.
3. Through my experience and acquaintances, I'm not convinced that there are serious engineering opportunities available at facilities that describe themselves as "depots" or have "life cycle" or "logistics" in their names. Don't get me wrong - it takes real work to keep current equipment moving. Expect the contractors to be doing this though.
4. Do not be afraid to ask your SF. Get the exact job description, ask what you'll be doing on a day-to-day basis, ask how red tape interferes with the job, what kind of tools you'll be using, etc. I'd strongly encourage you to ask your would-be-supervisor. I had to rely on the S&E HR "specialists" and in retrospect, it is obvious they hit every buzzword they could. If any bit of this makes you feel uneasy, strongly consider the opportunity you've been awarded - misery every day is no fun.
5. If you don't like your job and you decide to leave for the private sector after your commitment, you will very likely have to go through technical interviews. Keeping technical skills sharp and having something to show on your resume is required to make this change.
6. SMART will likely not help you switch SFs during your phase II commitment.

I think there's a perception among college students (myself included) that the government does all of this awesome, cutting-edge research, and has unlimited money, great facilities, and free-reign. SMART's own website features promotional videos instilling this imagine in applicants minds. In my experience, it was impossible to buy anything, our facility was a cubical farm armed with lousy economy desktops, and I couldn't touch a thing. Don't get me wrong - the government does own great facilities such as the various wind and water tunnels at the characteristic test centers. But many of the sponsoring facilities on SMART's list don't have this.


Preach on! We aren't trying to downplay your opportunity or what you have accomplished. We are trying to tell you the truth that SMART isn't telling you. My SF told me all the wonderful research projects I would be working on when I signed up. Guess what? I work on projects similar to these, but not the way you imagine.

When the government goes to do experiments you are primarily there as a witness. I have watched many tests/experiments where my ONLY job was to make sure the test executer was following the test plan and that they logged the reports truthfully. The DOD doesn't need PhDs or MS or BS at all. They need these people called contracting officer's representatives (CORs or COTRs). If your job will involve being a COR don't take it. It isn't an engineering job.

You are probably saying well I'm a bad seed or lazy or not good at my job. I'm very good at my job. I have excellent employee evals and have been awarded harder and harder projects. I've managed millions of dollars in projects. Guess what I hate it. This is not what I want to do and I'm trying to warn you the same.

1-2 years of commitment is a reasonable time frame and a great SMART commitment. Once you get past that point in the 3-5+ years of commitment you are in dangerous territory. I honestly hope that your experience is not like many of ours and you get to do real R&D. I think it would be great if the government was doing all this cutting edge research themselves.

Just ask your SF these questions:
1) Is this an acquisition coded position? If yes ask question 2) else well I've never met a non-acq engineer/sci (across multiple branches and areas) so hopefully this is one of the mythical "real research" positions
2) What DAU certifications am I required to get and what is my primary certification field?

Once you get that go look at your certification requirements. That will tell you the basis for what you will be primarily responsible for and a more realistic outlook on your future job.
LOL_DOD_Quizzes
 

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