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In a Public Sector role? Here are 8 tips to increase your income.

Public sector roles, including those in schools and hospitals, make up approximately 21% of employment in Canada. That includes teachers & educational workers, health care practitioners and support workers, law enforcement, and government employees of all types. These are essential roles, however public sector wages have not kept pace with rising costs.

Many workers in public sector roles are restricted in how much they can earn. They may be in a union with regimented salary & step progression rules or in management roles with a strictly defined annual step progression system. Unfortunately, neither unionized workers or management staff are in a position to walk into the bosses office and negotiate a raise – like private sector workers can.

Bill 124, which capped public sector salaries, was recently repealed after being deemed unconstitutional. This allowed some public sector workers to get backpay and laid groundwork for larger wage hikes in collective agreement negotiations.

This is excellent news; however, many public sector employees are still barely making ends meet as annual increases don’t outpace inflation, and the cost of living has skyrocketed in the last few years. The Financial Accountability Office estimates the average salary of Ontario Public Sector workers to be $69,259 (2021). 

Now, there are some amazing things about working in the public sector. Maybe you value stability, and the pension, employer pension matching and job security are valuable to you. You may appreciate working a typical work week and not burning the candle at both ends with pressure to work overtime. You may be working in your calling and love what you do, but your income has not kept up with the rising cost of living, and you are struggling to cover your expenses with anything left over, let alone being able to save and invest.

One obvious step could be to leave the public sector for private sector work. But what happens if you don’t want to abandon your public sector role for potentially higher pay in the private sector?

I asked my Instagram followers, who hold many different public sector roles, for tips on increasing their pay within their industry. I received input from workers in healthcare, education, law enforcement, municipal and federal governments, and other government services, as well as including my own experience.

Without further ado, here are the top tips on ways to make a little more while keeping your public sector role!

Public Sector Roles - hospital staff

8 ways to make more money in your public sector job


1. Take a secondment posting

When someone in a higher-paying role goes on maternity leave or takes a secondment, you apply for the temporary role. In many cases, your home position may be held for you, and you can gain new experience, upskill, and get higher pay for the duration. Once the secondment is complete, use that experience to transition to a more permanent higher-paying role. I have done this twice, which has always paid off for me! I have even left full-time permanent roles twice for secondments because of the potential learning and advancement opportunities they provided.

2. Upskill

Utilize training and development opportunities to learn a new in-demand skill for your workplace that can help you land the next higher-paid role. Some workplaces offer training and development funds for members that allow you to get reimbursement for courses taken externally. Workplaces may also provide internal training and development opportunities. Take those opportunities to learn the skills that are in demand in your workplace and that can land you higher-paying jobs. Whether it’s a short-term IT skills course or a master’s degree part-time while you work, It can help you advance your career and salary. If there is educational funding available, that would be even better!

3. Apply for a higher-level position within your current workplace

This one is pretty straightforward. Apply for a promotion to the next level of role within your workplace. The pay band is higher, but so is the responsibility. Remember, a job posting is only a wish list; you do not need 100% of the skills and experience to apply. An application is not an acceptance, so you can accept it if it suits you. Don’t count yourself out by not trying. Getting a promotion may mean you move into administration or management roles and manage staff you used to work with.

4. Apply for a similar role at a different workplace

I landed a higher starting salary by switching organizations and entering a similar role at another institution. When hiring new staff, managers often have the flexibility of where they offer your starting salary within the hiring range. Many jobs will post a hiring range, which can be negotiated at the point of the offer. Even though these are public sector roles, some things have wiggle room, so always ask for a higher starting step position in the pay band (within the hiring range); the worst they can say is no.

5. Work More

This option is not ideal, as we all need more work-life balance, and many of us are already stretched thin. However, where the possibility of overtime exists, this is an excellent opportunity if you need a bit of a cash infusion for a short duration. One follower recommended connecting with other adjacent business units at your work who may need support. They could help out in other stretched-thin units and bank some overtime bucks! It never hurts to ask if overtime opportunities or support on other projects or units are needed.

6. Work less desirable hours/shifts

Shift and weekend premiums, overtime or on-call work can add up. A premium is often added to the wage to encourage employees to work these less desirable hours or shifts. This may not be possible for those with young families or other prohibitive circumstances who need more stable and standard hours. However, if you have flexibility and this is an option in your field, it’s something to consider.

7. Say yes to more responsibilities

We all know that businesses are trying to do more with less. When staff move on, they are not replaced, and their duties are just rolled onto the following person’s plate. Suppose you are asked and can take on more responsibilities. In that case, one follower recommends, “…say yes, but ask for it to be included in your job description and have your job description re-evaluated,” which can potentially lead to a pay increase or re-banding of the role.

8. Take on related outside roles

This may be specific to a few fields, but for instance, if you are a teacher, you can take up tutoring or teach online, in summer or night school. One follower in a different field mentioned they need to do a conflict of interest/ethics attestation whenever they take up extra work, so they can only do additional work in unrelated roles and fields.


Skills and approaches that can help


Connect with others in roles you may be interested in, and ask them for a virtual coffee chat. Roles may come up and not be posted; many roles are filled simply by word of mouth.

Take a risk

You should take some risks and move out of your comfort zone. You may have been in the same role for 20 years and never interviewed once. Your resume needs a significant refresh, and you will need some interview practice, but even just preparing for something like this can help you build that growth mindset. Don’t be afraid to take a risk; it could pay off big time.

Just try

You never know what will happen if you try, but you know exactly what will happen if you don’t: More of the same. If you are unhappy in your current situation, try to see if one of these approaches can help you change. Learn to be ok with a “no” response, but don’t count yourself out before others have the opportunity to by not even trying.

Thank you to all those who contributed to this list of tips! I appreciate you reaching out with the best practices for your industry!

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