A public job is one normally for the Government, whether local, state, regional or federal. A private job is one for any company that is not Government, like a plant, factory,… retail, etc..
It's trite but all too true that politics is the meat and potatoes of the public sector job. So in dealing with public sector employers or clients, it's important to have a good understanding of the local political "weather" for the job you're in, and to plan some time -- preferably daily -- to keep up to speed on it. In public sector jobs, they will almost always pay you. And they almost always will take as inordinate amount of time to do so, especially if you're contracting. This in part is because its nearly impossible to charge them in the courts with failure to meet payrol on time. Most of the time, the public servant know they have a responsibility to the public to do their job correctly and it's my experience that they will aggressively pursue meeting and exceeding their moral and ethical responsibilities. I've seen people in Human Services or Unemployment work 10 hours a day on one client's problem, with the certainty that this won't get them a raise or a bonus, or even notice, as in fact is what's expected. You won't see this in private sector..
Private Sector is generally less focused on constant politics, and is more focused on constant productivity. Projects that might languish for years in public sector, due to funding issues, legal questions, etc. often get ramrodded through in much less time. However, the ethical and moral burdens placed on public sector jobs are not there in the private sector. So, if you want to help one person, the ethics in play tell you that either such work profits the company or your ethics come into question, as does your job review. Generally, private sector can be a faster track, when measured over days, and the metrics used to measure performance make more sense. It also may lack some of the moral aspects of being a public servant, or contracting to one..
Neither is all good or all evil, all productive or all lazy, all honest or all venal. (MORE)