Engineer gs pay scale

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Human Resources



Reclamation salaries are competitive with those of other Federal agencies and many private firms. We offer additional pay for certain localities and hard-to-fill jobs, plus annual cost-of-living increases.

Most Reclamation salaries are paid under the Federal Government's General Schedule (GS). Your grade level will depend on your qualifications and the job's requirements.

GS pay is adjusted depending on the geographic area in which you work. Locality pay typically raises salaries from 6 to 15 percent higher than the GS pay plan. Also, certain hard-to-fill jobs--usually in the scientific, technical, and engineering fields--may have higher starting salaries. The exact pay for an advertised position will be included in the vacancy announcement. Current salary rates are available on the opm web page for salary & wages.

Positions in the trades and crafts areas are paid under a system that ensures employees the same rate of pay as people working in similar jobs in the surrounding area. Information on hourly pay rates is also included in the vacancy announcement.



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Last Updated: 11/1/17 Sours:

What Is GS-14 Grade Level?

GS-14 grade level is the second-highest pay level for federal employees whose salaries are determined by the General Schedule (GS). There are 10 steps in salary increases for each grade level. The base salary range for a GS-14 is $89,370 to $116,181 per year.

What Are Federal Pay Scales?

All federal employees are paid according to government-regulated civil service pay scales, or grade pay, and the salaries are determined by a prescribed set of factors. Individuals do not negotiate salary upon hire as they would when applying for a job with a private company.

There are several different federal pay scales, including the following:

  • Federal Wage System (FWS): This pay plan is for blue-collar workers, who are typically paid on an hourly basis. The FWS is meant to ensure that pay for laborers aligns with that of comparable jobs in the private sector.
  • Foreign Service: This pay plan is for Foreign Service Officers in the Departments of State, Agriculture and Commerce. There are nine pay grades, designated FS-09 (the lowest level) to FS-01 (the highest level). Within each grade, there are 14 salary steps.
  • Senior Executive Service: This performance-based pay system has no grade designations. Basic pay ranges from $120,000 to $165,000, with no cost-of-living adjustments.
  • Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and the Federal Reserve: These agencies and others have their own unique pay plans. Typically, base salaries are set according to a schedule, with increases dependent upon performance and length of service. Roughly 40 government agencies create their own pay schedules.

The General Schedule

About 70 percent of federal employees are paid according to the General Schedule, which covers most professional, technical, administrative and clerical positions. There are 15 levels of grade pay, from GS-1 (the lowest) to GS-15 (the highest). There are 10 pay steps within each of the grades. Every job title is assigned a pay grade, which determines how much an employee earns.

Special Rates in the General Schedule: Special rates are used to calculate salaries on certain civil service pay scales, especially those in the scientific, technical and medical fields. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) are examples of agencies that pay employees according to a schedule of special rates. The government uses the special rates to be competitive with private industry in the recruitment and retention of top talent.

In early 2019, a pay freeze was put in effect for General Schedule employees. Civil service pay scales for GS employees in 2019 are the same as in 2018.

  • GS-1: $18,785 to $23,502
  • GS-2: $21,121 to $26,585
  • GS-3: $23,045 to $29,957
  • GS-4: $25,871 to $33,629
  • GS-5: $28,945 to $37,630
  • GS-6: $32,264 to $41,939
  • GS-7: $34,854 to $46,609
  • GS-8: $39,707 to $51,623
  • GS-9: $43,857 to $57,015
  • GS-10: $48,297 to $62,787
  • GS-11: $53,062 to $68,983
  • GS-12: $63,600 to $82,680
  • GS-13: $75,628 to $98,317
  • GS-14: $89,370 to $116,181
  • GS-15: $105,123 to $136,659

Locality Pay Adjustment Percentage

The cost of living varies according to geographic location. In the U.S., metropolitan areas such as New York, Washington, D.C., Chicago and San Francisco have a high cost of living. Wages are higher because basic expenses cost more, from housing to transportation and dining out. Employees paid on the General Schedule may receive a bump in pay based on the locality pay adjustment percentage. Without such an adjustment, it would be difficult for the government to hire workers in areas that have a high cost of living.

Of the 53 General Schedule Locality Areas, six were added for 2019. In 2018, adjustment percentages ranged from 15.76 percent in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Las Vegas, Nevada, to 39.28 percent in San Jose, San Francisco and Oakland, California.

Pay rates outside the continental U.S. are typically 10 to 15 percent higher. The government offers certain employees who work in Alaska, Hawaii, or U.S. territories a cost of living allowance (COLA).

Step Increases

There are 10 step increases within each pay grade. Employees typically start at Step 1 and advance one step at a time as they gain experience in their positions. In most cases, employees can move one step per year. If you take a job at a higher pay grade, you keep your current step as you accumulate experience (also called time-in-grade) toward the next step at your new pay grade.

General Schedule Job Series

In the GS system, jobs are categorized by Job Series, each of which is identified by a numerical code. For each series, there are starting and maximum pay grades, which set the lower and upper salary limits of every position. Jobs such as cargo scheduler, clerk-typist and medical technician, for example, start at GS-1 and can go as high as GS-9.

GS-14 Job Series

GS-14 is a high-level position for individuals who have excelled in their field. This pay grade is usually used for supervisors, high-level technical specialists, and those who've earned advanced degrees. The science, engineering and research positions at this level are roughly equivalent to a university professorship. Base salaries for GS-14 jobs range from $89,370 to $116,181. Each step at this level represents an increase in pay of $2,979 per year.

Career Ladder Positions

Agencies can create and fill jobs at whatever grade level they deem appropriate. Some jobs are identified as career ladder positions, meaning that you are eligible for promotion to a higher grade without applying for a new position. With career ladder positions, you can advance more rapidly than through step increases alone.

Career ladder positions in which it is possible to reach GS-14 level include jobs in fields as diverse as financial administration, fish and wildlife administration, government information, horticulture and photographic technology.

To qualify for a position at the GS-14 level, you must have a minimum of one year of experience at the GS-13 level. Depending on the position, candidates may be able to substitute education for some of the required experience.

Job titles for GS-14 employees include the following:

  • Administrative officer
  • Chief architect
  • Health system specialist
  • Human resources officer
  • Quality management scientist
  • Physician
  • Program analyst
  • Research aerospace engineer
  • Safety engineer
  • Supervisory meteorologist
  • Supervisory security specialist

What You Should Know About Working for the Government

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reminds employees and prospective employees of a few things they should know about working for the government:

  • Rules and procedures change. Never make assumptions and know who you can go to with questions.
  • Save all paperwork relating to your employment. You should receive a standard form, an SF-50, for every personnel action taken, including pay increases, promotions and any disciplinary actions.
  • All official government papers associated with your employment are kept in your Official Personnel Folder (OPF). The OPF is a permanent record that transfers with you to other federal agencies or to the Federal Records Center when you leave federal service, either to retire to take a job in the private sector.
  • If you're a prospective employee, expect to undergo a background check.

Federal Employees Retirement System

Besides the opportunity to serve their country, federal employees benefit from a government-backed retirement plan. The Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) provides benefits from three different sources, including a basic benefits plan, Social Security and the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP). A portion of your pay is deducted for plan contributions every pay period. Upon retirement, you receive a monthly amount for the rest of your life.



Writer Bio

Denise Dayton is a a freelance writer who specializes in business, education and technology. She has written for, Library Journal, The Searcher, Bureau of Education and Research, and corporate clients.

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General Schedule Government Payscales General Schedule Base Pay Table for 2021

Check out our powerful 2021 GS Pay Calculator. How is the GS pay raise determined?

215,044 federal employees †

$82,750 average yearly pay

+1% salary raise this year

The General Schedule (GS) Payscale is a worldwide pay system that covers more than 1.5 million civilian employees of the United States government. provides a one-stop source for current and past year General Schedule pay tables, locality adjustment rates, an interactive pay calculator, and more resources to help you understand your compensation as a Federal employee.

A General Schedule employee's pay is determined by two factors. First, base pay is calculated based on an employee's GS Paygrade and Step, which are based on their job title and seniority. Next, the employee's base pay is adjusted based on the current locality adjustment rate for the OPM pay locality in which they work. For more details, see How is my GS Pay calculated?.

GS Locality Adjustments By State

Across the United States, government employees' final General Schedule salaries are determined based on a locality adjustment based on their duty-station.

The adjustment applied to your salary depends on the General Schedule locality in which you work. There are 53 designated locality adjustment areas, plus a catch-all adjustment known as "Rest of U.S."

Learn more about how the GS payscale was created.

Click the map to view a list of applicable General Schedule localities, and their associated adjustment rate, within your state.

2021 General Schedule Pay Table: The table below shows the General Schedule's base pay rates for 2021. This table does not account for locality adjustments - to see a table that includes your applicable locality adjustment, choose your locality from the list of federal pay localities or by using the interactive locality map above.

GS Grade Step 1 Step 2 Step 3 Step 4 Step 5 Step 6 Step 7 Step 8 Step 9 Step 10

GS Pay Cap: The 2021 General Schedule pay cap is $172,500.00 per year, which is equivilent to the yearly pay of a Senior Executive Service (SES) level 4 executive. While the base GS payscale doesn't go this high, in several localities with high COLA adjustments employees in the highest GS paygrades may reach this salary ceiling.

2021 GS Pay Raise: This year, the General Schedule base payscale received a 1% across-the-board pay raise. A GS-13 Step 3 federal employee would receive an effective raise of $839.00 in 2021, from $83,927.00 per year (based on the 2020 GS base table) to $84,766.00 per year.

the U.S. Federal Employment Statistics

This section provides statistics on Federal government employees in the U.S., including most common occupations, agencies with the most local employees, and the average paygrade and salary rates of general schedule employees in the area. All data in this section is derived from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM)'s most recent available listings of federal employees in the U.S..

Common Occupations in the U.S.

Occupation Number Employed Avg. Salary Avg. Bonus
Contact Representative 19,679 $52,207.00 $0.00
Information Technology Management 17,978 $119,234.00 $0.00
Management And Program Analysis 17,761 $116,541.00 $0.00
Medical Support Assistance 16,613 $42,755.00 $0.00
Miscellaneous Administration And Program 12,870 $109,852.00 $0.00
Veterans Claims Examining 11,212 $75,061.00 $0.00
Tax Examining 9,852 $47,388.00 $0.00
General Attorney 8,531 $134,969.00 $0.00
Social Insurance Administration 7,940 $87,548.00 $0.00
Nursing Assistant 7,863 $40,177.00 $0.00
General Health Science 5,167 $93,947.00 $0.00
Miscellaneous Clerk And Assistant 5,130 $43,495.00 $0.00
Social Work 4,306 $83,474.00 $0.00
General Legal And Kindred Administration 4,280 $61,076.00 $0.00
Practical Nurse 4,168 $52,948.00 $0.00
Aerospace Engineering 3,412 $132,841.00 $0.00
Financial Clerical And Assistance 3,124 $47,280.00 $0.00
Contracting 2,690 $111,128.00 $0.00
Financial Administration And Program 2,443 $93,367.00 $0.00
General Engineering 2,402 $144,194.00 $0.00
Forestry Technician 2,195 $42,510.00 $0.00
Data Transcriber 2,013 $33,646.00 $0.00
Foreign Affairs 1,919 $129,647.00 $0.00
General Natural Resources Management And Biological Sciences 1,866 $112,181.00 $0.00
General Business And Industry 1,802 $113,102.00 $0.00
Pharmacist 1,793 $128,899.00 $0.00
Human Resources Management 1,777 $100,978.00 $0.00
Mail And File 1,770 $32,666.00 $0.00
Nurse 1,555 $88,905.00 $0.00
Health Insurance Administration 1,538 $123,113.00 $0.00
Health Aid And Technician 1,505 $46,346.00 $0.00
General Physical Science 1,458 $121,399.00 $0.00
Statistics 1,259 $114,417.00 $0.00
Environmental Protection Specialist 1,170 $123,084.00 $0.00
Security Administration 1,130 $111,072.00 $0.00
Social Science 1,101 $105,572.00 $0.00
Environmental Engineering 1,037 $124,119.00 $0.00
Economist 893 $127,803.00 $0.00
Chemistry 877 $127,231.00 $0.00
Passport And Visa Examining 845 $78,475.00 $0.00
Consumer Safety 833 $128,999.00 $0.00
Administrative Officer 813 $113,200.00 $0.00
General Arts And Information 789 $102,282.00 $0.00
Electronics Engineering 654 $137,100.00 $0.00
Civil Engineering 648 $101,802.00 $0.00
Agricultural Commodity Aid 618 $26,359.00 $0.00
Security Guard 605 $49,149.00 $0.00
Accounting 540 $90,503.00 $0.00
Mathematical Statistics 519 $124,632.00 $0.00
Public Health Program Specialist 502 $120,464.00 $0.00
Budget Analysis 499 $117,824.00 $0.00
Program Management 474 $140,751.00 $0.00
Grants Management 460 $117,307.00 $0.00
Worker's Compensation Claims Examining 439 $93,381.00 $0.00
Paralegal Specialist 430 $70,568.00 $0.00
Statistical Assistant 426 $37,115.00 $0.00
Park Ranger 409 $61,179.00 $0.00
Emergency Management Specialist 391 $118,258.00 $0.00
Claims Assistance And Examining 385 $54,660.00 $0.00
Computer Engineering 370 $125,214.00 $0.00
Biological Science Technician 367 $45,375.00 $0.00
Pharmacology 365 $139,691.00 $0.00
Electrical Engineering 362 $117,535.00 $0.00
Trade Specialist 308 $119,674.00 $0.00
Correctional Institution Administration 301 $110,174.00 $0.00
Voucher Examining 298 $53,639.00 $0.00
Museum Specialist And Technician 276 $84,146.00 $0.00
Loan Specialist 269 $76,116.00 $0.00
Administration And Office Support Student Trainee 263 $28,719.00 $0.00
Bioengineering & Biomedical Engineering 224 $115,600.00 $0.00
Astronomy And Space Science 206 $144,357.00 $0.00
Archives Technician 205 $78,564.00 $0.00
Government Information Specialist 186 $70,128.00 $0.00
Microbiology 186 $124,834.00 $0.00
Secretary 181 $64,441.00 $0.00
Medical Technologist 178 $88,144.00 $0.00
Electronics Technical 176 $116,960.00 $0.00
Railroad Retirement Claims Examining 174 $78,756.00 $0.00
Building Management 163 $99,003.00 $0.00
Plant Protection Technician 151 $30,426.00 $0.00
Public Affairs 151 $118,218.00 $0.00
Human Resources Assistance 146 $41,416.00 $0.00
Agricultural Commodity Grading 144 $46,339.00 $0.00
Audiovisual Production 144 $109,297.00 $0.00
Language Specialist 138 $74,840.00 $0.00
Public Utilities Specialist 137 $113,615.00 $0.00
Archivist 137 $103,761.00 $0.00
Agricultural Marketing 136 $115,656.00 $0.00
Medical Records Technician 128 $43,278.00 $0.00
Transportation Specialist 122 $138,911.00 $0.00
Health System Specialist 119 $124,663.00 $0.00
Meteorology 118 $120,794.00 $0.00
Materials Engineering 117 $118,188.00 $0.00
Technical Information Services 113 $111,736.00 $0.00
Veterinary Medical Science 107 $129,104.00 $0.00
Security Clerical And Assistance 107 $44,885.00 $0.00
Museum Curator 105 $120,641.00 $0.00
Petroleum Engineering 105 $115,486.00 $0.00
Legal Assistance 102 $62,076.00 $0.00
Auditing 101 $118,015.00 $0.00

This table lists the top 100 occupations held by the approximately 215,044 federal employees working in the U.S., across all agencies, as well as average yearly compensation for the U.S. based federal employees of that occupation.

Federal Agencies in the U.S.

Agency the U.S. Employees Avg. Salary Avg. Bonus
Veterans Health Administration 43,842 $56,121.00 $0.00
Internal Revenue Service 38,057 $64,070.00 $0.00
Social Security Administration 22,614 $78,506.00 $0.00
Veterans Benefits Administration 12,799 $73,464.00 $0.00
National Institutes Of Health 8,304 $105,908.00 $0.00
Food And Drug Administration 6,843 $124,031.00 $0.00
Department Of State 6,821 $107,839.00 $0.00
Environmental Protection Agency 5,494 $122,775.00 $0.00
Federal Bureau Of Investigation 4,971 $113,491.00 $0.00
Offices, Boards And Divisions 4,306 $111,011.00 $0.00
U.s. Census Bureau 3,621 $86,046.00 $0.00
Centers For Medicare & Medicaid Services 2,969 $115,020.00 $0.00
Customs And Border Protection 2,960 $118,962.00 $0.00
Forest Service 2,712 $49,178.00 $0.00
Citizenship And Immigration Services 2,610 $100,787.00 $0.00
Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center 2,118 $131,068.00 $0.00
Dhs Headquarters 2,007 $127,547.00 $0.00
Goddard Space Flight Center 2,006 $136,778.00 $0.00
Bureau Of The Fiscal Service 1,584 $83,507.00 $0.00
Department Of Energy 1,410 $128,858.00 $0.00
Office Of Personnel Management 1,384 $84,294.00 $0.00
Immigration And Customs Enforcement 1,314 $126,474.00 $0.00
George C. Marshall Space Flight Center 1,304 $125,777.00 $0.00
John F. Kennedy Space Center 1,251 $115,825.00 $0.00
Deputy Assistant Secretary For Information And Technology 1,231 $111,304.00 $0.00
Smithsonian Institution (Except Units Administered Under Separate Boards Of Trustees) 1,210 $90,228.00 $0.00
Federal Acquisition Service 1,169 $121,209.00 $0.00
Federal Emergency Management Agency 1,138 $115,997.00 $0.00
Cybersecurity And Infrastructure Security Agency 1,064 $124,150.00 $0.00
Bureau Of Labor Statistics 932 $115,455.00 $0.00
Agricultural Marketing Service 898 $44,572.00 $0.00
Federal Communications Commission 872 $147,004.00 $0.00
Departmental Offices 854 $129,138.00 $0.00
Public Buildings Service 791 $109,508.00 $0.00
Office Of The Secretary Of Health And Human Services 766 $125,448.00 $0.00
Office Of The Chief Financial Officer (Department Of Agriculture) 752 $82,730.00 $0.00
Small Business Administration 719 $79,205.00 $0.00
Drug Enforcement Administration 714 $119,135.00 $0.00
John Glenn Research Center At Lewis Field 703 $122,409.00 $0.00
Office Of The Secretary Of The Interior 698 $107,987.00 $0.00
U.s. Agency For Global Media 657 $110,193.00 $0.00
U.s. Coast Guard 642 $121,817.00 $0.00
Indian Health Service 607 $85,338.00 $0.00
Animal And Plant Health Inspection Service 586 $93,547.00 $0.00
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission 557 $137,362.00 $0.00
U.s. Agency For International Development 545 $127,229.00 $0.00
Bureau Of Prisons/federal Prison System 534 $108,285.00 $0.00
National Park Service 519 $54,739.00 $0.00
Federal Highway Administration 478 $107,952.00 $0.00
Federal Trade Commission 467 $153,807.00 $0.00
Health Resources And Services Administration 459 $113,205.00 $0.00
Office Of Workers' Compensation Programs 439 $93,381.00 $0.00
Administration For Children And Families 430 $115,441.00 $0.00
Headquarters, Nasa 421 $144,143.00 $0.00
Office Of The Director 420 $100,542.00 $0.00
Assistant Secretary For Housing--Federal Housing Commissioner 386 $125,659.00 $0.00
Deputy Assistant Secretary For Finance 379 $66,316.00 $0.00
Ames Research Center 375 $151,256.00 $0.00
U.s. Secret Service 369 $110,913.00 $0.00
Agricultural Research Service 367 $45,375.00 $0.00
Office Of Management And Budget 359 $128,520.00 $0.00
National Archives And Records Administration 342 $91,163.00 $0.00
National Gallery Of Art 324 $68,859.00 $0.00
International Trade Administration 308 $119,674.00 $0.00
Bureau Of Reclamation 292 $114,309.00 $0.00
Bureau Of Land Management 291 $48,182.00 $0.00
Foreign Agricultural Service 278 $106,228.00 $0.00
Railroad Retirement Board 277 $96,939.00 $0.00
Executive Director, Office Of Acquisition And Logistics 253 $97,616.00 $0.00
Federal Student Aid 224 $118,090.00 $0.00
Office Of Gsa It 216 $133,497.00 $0.00
Substance Abuse And Mental Health Services Administration 206 $125,187.00 $0.00
Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation 203 $127,770.00 $0.00
Office Of The Solicitor (Department Of Labor) 194 $146,897.00 $0.00
Pretrial Services Agency 191 $104,411.00 $0.00
National Labor Relations Board 186 $143,273.00 $0.00
Office Of The Chief Information Officer (Department Of Agriculture) 180 $109,555.00 $0.00
Fpac Business Center 179 $105,266.00 $0.00
General Counsel (Department Of Veterans Affairs) 177 $130,284.00 $0.00
Bureau Of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, And Explosives 162 $121,582.00 $0.00
Office Of The Secretary Of Transportation 157 $108,819.00 $0.00
Office Of The Senior Coordinator For Southeast/caribbean 156 $104,042.00 $0.00
Office Of The Secretary (Department Of Commerce) 155 $137,768.00 $0.00
Economic Research Service 151 $132,172.00 $0.00
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission 149 $144,666.00 $0.00
Neil A. Armstrong Flight Research Center 140 $129,907.00 $0.00
Assistant Secretary For Public And Indian Housing 138 $133,583.00 $0.00
National Agricultural Statistics Service 138 $121,008.00 $0.00
Office Of The Solicitor (Department Of Interior) 137 $137,596.00 $0.00
U.s. Marshals Service 135 $120,701.00 $0.00
Assistant Secretary For Community Planning And Development 128 $125,549.00 $0.00
Office Of The Senior Coordinator For Rocky Mountains 128 $107,654.00 $0.00
Office Of The U.s. Trade Representative 128 $137,646.00 $0.00
Office Of Justice Programs 126 $122,659.00 $0.00
Office Of The Senior Coordinator For Mid-Atlantic 125 $110,245.00 $0.00
Office Of General Counsel (Department Of Housing And Urban Development) 124 $142,096.00 $0.00
National Oceanic And Atmospheric Administration 118 $120,794.00 $0.00
U.s. Fish And Wildlife Service 108 $93,497.00 $0.00
Bureau Of Safety And Environmental Enforcement 105 $115,486.00 $0.00
Geological Survey 104 $117,873.00 $0.00

There are 100 Federal agencies with a significant workforce in the U.S.. General Schedule employees at all of the agencies listed below will be paid according to the locality-adjusted GS payscale listed on this page.

Distribution of GS Employees in the U.S.

There are approximately 215,044 federal employees on the General Schedule payscale located within the U.S.. The average federal employee in the U.S. earns $82,750 per year, and the average yearly bonus is $0.

Based on data provided by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the most common job title for federal employees based in the U.S. is Contact Representative. The Federal agency with the largest number of employees in the U.S. is the Veterans Health Administration, which has total of 43,842 employees in the area.

The bar graph to the left shows the distribution of employees in the U.S. by paygrade, from GS-1 to GS-15. To learn more about how paygrades are determined and how they affect a federal employee's salary, see how to calculate GS Pay.

Pay Scales 2021 -- Revised Pay Scale 2021-22-- Suggested Pay Scales 2021 -- Aaliya Tv

Government Jobs: Cracking the GS Code

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Gs scale engineer pay

Federal Pay Scale for 2021

Last Updated on 01/28/2021

In early 2021, the U.S. President signed a spending bill that approved a 1% raise for all government employees working on the GS pay scale. The United States Government pay scale determines the salary ranges for workers in most technical, administrative, clerical, and professional civilian positions.

The transparency of the governmentjob pay scale of 2021 enables job applicants to gain a clear idea of what they can expect to earn. 

Most years, the federalgovernment assigns a system-wide cost-of-living pay increase for GS workers. The raise applies regardless of GS level and is meant to keep government salaries reasonably competitive with the private job sector. 

According to the federal Office of Personnel Management, the GS pay scale determines the pay for a large share of the 1.5 million U.S. government civilian workers worldwide. 

Compensation ranges are based on:

  • Technical demands of the job
  • Educational requirements
  • Level of responsibility
  • Employee qualifications

The numerous agencies within the government determine the GS level of pay that applies to their job positions. In addition to basic criteria, agencies may choose GS pay levels that make their positions competitive on the broader job market. 

Table of Contents

Regional Differences in Federal Employee Pay Scale

The USA government pay scale recognizes that costs of living differ throughout the United States, its territories, and other foreign locales. Data analyzed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics guide the adjustments made to locality pay rates. The government has established 47 locality pay areas throughout the states and territories. 

Major metropolitan areas like Los Angeles or New York form 44 of the locality pay areas. Because of the locality pay rates, the same positions might pay somewhat different salaries in various areas of the country. Geographic areas that have trouble attracting qualified job candidates might gain approval for special rates that authorize higher salaries beyond standard pay ranges. 

What is your salary range?When researching job opportunities, people can identify the exact salary ranges for specific localities by using this pay calculator.

The job seeker will need to pull the government GS level from the job posting and the location to enter the necessary information into the calculator. The calculator currently displays results for the federal GS pay scale 2021.

What Does GS Mean in Government Jobs?

GS stands for General Schedule. This government employee pay scale designates the earnings for over 70% of federal civilian employees. Fifteen grades form the GS with GS-1 being the lowest paying grade and GS-15 being the highest paying grade. The GS grade for a job posting will be prominently displayed on job postings. 

Within each grade, the schedule assigns 10 steps. Every step represents a higher level of pay within the grade and equals roughly 3% of an employee’s pay. After a waiting period, workers could qualify for a higher step of pay within their grade as long as performance has been good. 

  • To ascend through steps 1, 2, and 3 requires waiting periods of 1 year between each increase. 
  • The waiting periods stretch to 2 years to achieve step increases between steps 4 and 6.
  • To gain raises for steps 7 through 9, the waiting period is 3 years. 

A worker generally needs to put in 18 years of service to progress through all 10 steps of a pay grade. Employees with outstanding performance reviews could have the opportunity to advance through the steps at a faster rate. 

Highly qualified job candidates might succeed at negotiating a job offer that starts their pay at a higher step within their pay grade. Outstanding credentials could help a person skip the lower pay steps from the beginning.

Government GS Levels

The lowest GS grades have the least educational or technical requirements. Every increase in GS grade raises the qualifications and educational credentials necessary to qualify for the job.

Starting at GS-5 federal level jobs, applicants will usually need a bachelor’s degree.

Positions at or above GS-9 grade level in the federal service will generally demand that applicants have a master’s degree or Ph.D. 


It is a very entry-level position, so jobs in this category don’t even require a high school diploma. GS-1 job postings tend to be temporary positions held by interns or teenagers working summer jobs. Also, GS 1 is equivalent to the E-1 lowest military rank, which called “private” (soldier of the lowest military rank).

For an hour, the minimum payment is only $9.46. Therefore, the annual salary at such jobs by OPM pay tables varies from $19,738 (step 1) to $24,690 (step 10). However, the actual payment due to federal pay raise 2021 may be much higher (this applies to all scales), depending on the region of residence. It will rely on the local cost-of-living arrangement.

GS GradeStep 1Step 2Step 3Step 4Step 5Step 6Step 7Step 8Step 9Step 10


Most often, workers from the first-level position move to GS 2 by the career ladder. Thus, having a minimum of 1-year work experience, the employee can move to a new level with a higher salary.

But this position implies the high-school diploma presence. So, students who began to work before graduation can go to the second level already after receiving a school certificate. For example, it can be guide jobs, computer clerk, dental assistant, and others. Basic salaries within the 10 steps will range from $22,194 to $27,929 for a full-time worker.

GS GradeStep 1Step 2Step 3Step 4Step 5Step 6Step 7Step 8Step 9Step 10


Applicants can move to the 3rd paygrade by the same scenario as from the 1st to the 2nd, having minimum 1-year work experience at the GS-2 level. As well as if the applicant has more months of general practice, he or she can qualify for the GS-3 as a start position. If to compare Military Rank to Civilian equivalency, the GS3 is equal to E3 Private First Class.

GS 3 federal pay standard for full-time employees varies between $24,216 and $31,479, with minimal $11.60 per hour payment. For the most part, GS-3 vacancies are accessible for novice assistants and technicians of different specializations. Such places are often taken by college students who want to gain experience during training.

GS GradeStep 1Step 2Step 3Step 4Step 5Step 6Step 7Step 8Step 9Step 10


Recruiters for GS-4 positions will want to see applicants with Associate’s Degrees. Besides degree, the potential employee should have at least 1 year of experience at the GS-3 or equivalent. Same as GS-3, the most popularized 4th paygrade vacancies are available for different technicians and assistants, but with already received a college diploma. GS-4 civilian government worker equals E-4 at the U.S. Army, ranked Specialist or Corporal. GS 4 pay currently ranges between $27,184 at the 1st step and $35,338 at the 10th.

GS GradeStep 1Step 2Step 3Step 4Step 5Step 6Step 7Step 8Step 9Step 10


Jobs at this grade predominantly go to people with an Associate’s Degree and standard 1-year job experience at gs 4. This paygrade level is almost no different from the previous one. It is the typical career ladder, when with each year of accumulated knowledge, the employee may qualify for the promotion. Thus, the annual salary can increase by several thousand dollars a year. The initial yearly wage at this level will be no less than $30,414 when maximum pay is about $39,540. E-5 military personnel ranked as Sergeant is almost identical to the civilian 5th paygrade.

GS GradeStep 1Step 2Step 3Step 4Step 5Step 6Step 7Step 8Step 9Step 10


Qualified job candidates must have a Bachelor’s Degree or an Associate’s Degree with relevant experience. Many gs 6 paygrade vacancies are already open for young Bachelor graduates who were working while studying, gaining practice, and acquiring the necessary skills.

It is a great option to get a decent salary of $33,903 per year right after the end of the study. Annual GS 6 pay can be $44,073 at max. In the US army, all three levels E-6, E-7, and E-9 are considered equal to the civilian 6th payscale.

GS GradeStep 1Step 2Step 3Step 4Step 5Step 6Step 7Step 8Step 9Step 10


GS 7 is the last paygrade, which marks as an entry-level job position. The 7th level positions require no lower than Bachelor’s Degrees and 1 year of professional experience.

On Step 1, the worker gains at least $18.05 per hour (depends on location). Base gs 7 pay starts between $37,674 and $48,978. Today, many recruiters, programmers, secretaries, engineers, and analysts are working at this level for 2-3 years.

GS GradeStep 1Step 2Step 3Step 4Step 5Step 6Step 7Step 8Step 9Step 10


GS 8 opens mid-level job positions, which mostly intended for white-collar employees. White collars work in different organizations at professional, administrative, managerial positions. They also play management roles and develop business strategies in companies.

However, GS 8 is the very initial stage for white-collar employees. And of course, the main requirements are a Bachelor’s Degree and official 1-year working experience. By the gs pay scale 2021, salary steps progress from $41,723 to $54,242. In the military, the rank of First Lieutenant is roughly equated to gs-8.

GS GradeStep 1Step 2Step 3Step 4Step 5Step 6Step 7Step 8Step 9Step 10


For these positions, recruiters will look for candidates with Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. And of course, as with all previous levels, at the 9th paygrade minimum requirement is 1-year work at the previous level.

Hourly payment starts from $22.08, when and the modest figure for the month will be $3,840. GS 9 pay scale range between $46,083 and $59,907 per year. Naturally, such positions imply only full time, most often office-based jobs.

GS GradeStep 1Step 2Step 3Step 4Step 5Step 6Step 7Step 8Step 9Step 10
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Positions are reserved for candidates with Master’s Degrees and year job experience at equal to gs-9 scale. There are several of the most popular occupations by “opm gs pay scale”: accountant or auditor, medical or health services manager, civil engineer, real estate appraiser or assessor, and database administrator. Such professions require a prestigious education, appropriate knowledge, and high-level skills.

Max GS 10 salary per month is $5,305, and annual varies from $50,748 to $65,976. In the U.S. Army, gs-10 is equal to Captain rank (O-3).

GS GradeStep 1Step 2Step 3Step 4Step 5Step 6Step 7Step 8Step 9Step 10


This level is not much different from the 10th, but the person needs to have stronger knowledge and more impressive experience. It also requires a Master’s Degree and year of work at the previous level.

Though an hourly charge is almost on $3 more, the annual gs 11 pay scale would be $55,756 for the beginner and about $72,487 for the proficient employer

GS GradeStep 1Step 2Step 3Step 4Step 5Step 6Step 7Step 8Step 9Step 10


In General Schedule, the 12th scale is the last one mid-level position. Best position white-collar employees are frequently well educated, have a higher social class, have better skills, and many years of professional experience.

Officially to apply this position person should have a Master’s Degree or Ph.D. and a career trial. Most of the employees must have a vast number of skills like leadership, time management, public speaking, foreign languages, and many others. By the gs 12 pay scale, employees may earn from $66,829 to $86,881.  

GS GradeStep 1Step 2Step 3Step 4Step 5Step 6Step 7Step 8Step 9Step 10


From the 13th level, positions become Career Competitive. That’s mean that all these positions must be public, and registered on so that any U.S. citizen can apply.

For Gs-13 workplaces or above, most companies and organizations have a limited number of jobs. Such positions include a team-leading roles, which have about 10-15 people in submission. The Master’s degree and 1 year of working at an equal to gs-12 workplace are a minimum for all candidates. GS 13 pay scale vary between $79,468 and $103,309 per year.

GS GradeStep 1Step 2Step 3Step 4Step 5Step 6Step 7Step 8Step 9Step 10


These are positions of top-level as prime professionals, high-level specialists, and supervisors with advanced degrees. So, only a giant career trial, along with a Ph.D., will qualify job seekers for GS-14 jobs.

With today’s technological advances, elite technicians, top developers, and best engineers of different directions may claim on the gs 14 pay scale places and can be equated to a university professor level. 14th grade is open for scientists and researchers who are successful in their field, or who start research in vital areas. Annual salary starts from $93,907 and can reach $122,077.

GS GradeStep 1Step 2Step 3Step 4Step 5Step 6Step 7Step 8Step 9Step 10


GS-15 is the highest federal job position that exists at the moment, named Senior Level Service (SES). GS 15 job places are only available for senior administration positions, as well as for the government’s most significant researchers. The applicant must have at least 1-year work experience at GS-13 or GS-14 and a Ph.D.

The hourly pay of a GS-15 employee is $52.93 per hour. But the salary is limited to the Executive Schedule at level V and starts at $110,460 per year. The most significant annual federal wage in 2021 is $143,598.

The G.S.15 pay scale also varies according to location. In the D.C. area, getting promoted to GS-13, 14, or 15 is far easier because half of the jobs at those grades are still not occupied.

GS GradeStep 1Step 2Step 3Step 4Step 5Step 6Step 7Step 8Step 9Step 10

When people know the government pays a grade scale that they could qualify for, it could help them target jobs that they have the best chance of getting. The public nature of the government GS pay scale system grants people the ability to understand how their compensation could increase during a career.

Check Out the Related Articles: 

GS Pay Scale Explained

General Schedule (GS) Pay Scales

2021 GS Pay Scales | General Schedule Pay Scale | WG Pay Scale | Executive Pay Scales


On this page you will find government pay scale & salary information for various pay grades & localities in 2021. All General Schedule (GS) government employees in the U.S. earn more than the base rate pay through locality adjustments. Locality pay rates for all areas are listed on this site. For those not in a specific locality area use the table titled Rest of U.S. The GS-9 step-1 pay on the Base Rate Chart is $46,083. The same grade pays $53,433 on the Rest of U.S. chart and $65,180 in the San Jose, San Francisco-Oakland areas. Look up the locality tables for your metropolitan area to determine the actual salary for your location.

2018 Pay Increase Federal civilian employees will see an average 1% pay increase starting January 1, 2021; a 1% increase in basic pay, with no increase in locality pay. The President signed an Executive Order in December .  The 1% pay raise 2021 charts are now available. 

2021 Annual Rates by GS Pay grade and Step

New 2021 Pay Charts

Approximately 10 percent of total federal non-postal employment is classified under the Wage Grade (WG) blue-collar pay schedules. Wage Grade workers, typically those who work in the trades or general labor, are placed in a five step pay system and their pay is based on competitive rates that are established by an annual wage survey. The Department of Defense employs the largest number of Wage Grade workers. If you work in this group view the Wage Grade Rate Tables for these occupations. Just look for your GS pay grade and pay grade step to find your annual rate.

Salary Charts & Pay Information:





Check out the 2021 GS pay scale below. Annual base rates by grade and step

Note: This is a base rate chart. All federal employees receive pay adjustments above the base rate chart in the form of  locality pay adjustments. To determine what your annual pay will be for your location view our Locality Pay Charts.


Note: This is a base rate chart for those not covered in one of the 47 Locality Areas. If your town is not included in a specific locality areas this chart reflects your pay.

2020 Executive & Senior Level Employee Pay Tables


General Schedule (GS) How it Works

General Schedule (GS) base pay varies from the GS-1 level at $19,738 per annum to $143,598 per annum at step 10 of the GS-15 grade, not including locality pay adjustments. The Senior Executive Service salary tops out at $219,200 per annum. The average annual salary for full-time non-postal employees has increased to just over $87,500 in 2019. Starting pay depends on the level of experience, education and complexity of the position applied for. You may also be able to negotiate your starting salary if your previous employer pay was greater than step 1 of the pay grade you are hired into.

Each GS grade has 10 pay steps. Currently, a GS-9 starts at $46,083 for step 1 and reaches $59,907 per year at step 10 (not including locality pay adjustments). At the GS-9 grade, each pay step adds $1,536 to the annual salary. Pay steps are earned based on time in service and the employee’s work performance. General Schedule employees are referred to as white-collar workers under the federal classification system. There are 53 locality pay areas.

2021 Locality Payments

Locality pay adjustments basically level the playing field for all federal employees across the country in different major metropolitan areas. OPM is added the following Locality Pay Areas: Birmingham-Hoover-Talladega, AL; Burlington-South Burlington, VT; San Antonio-New Braunfels-Pearsall, TX; and Virginia Beach-Norfolk, VA-NC last year. The proposed rule also added two “Rest of U.S.” locations to the geographic definitions of two existing locality pay areas and making minor, clarifying changes to the names of two locality pay areas. The 53 designated locality area salaries are adjusted by comparing GS and non-Federal pay in each locality pay area, based on salary surveys conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). 

The lowest adjustment to the basic rate schedule listed above is for the “Rest of the US.” This group includes federal employees that do not reside in one of the 53 locality rate areas. The highest locality rate is assigned to for the San Jose, San-Francisco-Oakland California locality area.  You can determine what your salary would be at any location by using OPM’s salary calculator that you will find under resources on this page. 

Locality Pay Tables (Click on the locality area to view the pay table)

  • REST OF UNITED STATES (Consisting of those portions of the United States and its territories and possessions as listed in 5 CFR 591.205 not located within another locality pay area.)
  • 2021 Locality pay rates (Consolidated listing for all locality areas)

Historical Rates


UPDATE: Six additional areas will be added in 2018, one for Virginia Beach, VA and a second one for those working in and around Burlington, Vt. There were thirteen cities added to the 2016 locality rate tables. The 13 cities included Albany, N.Y.; Albuquerque, N.M.; Austin, Texas; Charlotte, N.C.; Colorado Springs, Co.; Davenport, Iowa; Harrisburg, Pa.; Kansas City, Mo.; Laredo, Texas; Las Vegas, Nev.; Palm Bay, Fla.; St. Louis, Mo.; and Tucson, Ariz.

Basic Pay

It’s important to note that a locality rate is considered basic pay for computing the following, as applicable:

  • Deductions for benefits including retirement
  • Premiums for life insurance and benefits
  • Premium pay and premium pay limitations
  • Pay Advances
  • Severance pay
  • Lump-sum payments for accrued and accumulated annual leave
  • Post differentials under 5 U.S.C. 5925(a) and danger pay allowances under 5 U.S.C. 5928 for an employee temporarily working in a foreign area when the employee’s official worksite is located in a locality pay area
  • Post differentials under 5 U.S.C. 5941 and 5 CFR part 591, subpart B, for an employee temporarily working in a nonforeign area when the employee’s official worksite is located in a locality pay area”–with “Nonforeign area cost-of-living allowances and post differentials under 5 U.S.C. 5941 and 5 CFR part 591, subpart B
  • Relocation, recruitment, and retention incentives, supervisory differentials, and extended assignment incentives
  • Performance-based cash awards when the award is computed as a percentage of an employee’s rate of basic pay
  • GS pay administration provisions (e.g., promotions) to the extent provided in 5 CFR part 531, subpart B
  • Pay administration provisions for prevailing rate employees which consider rates of basic pay under the GS pay system in setting pay (except as otherwise provided in 5 CFR part 532), subject to the requirement that, if the employee’s actual locality rate would not apply at the official worksite for the prevailing rate position, that locality rate must be converted to a corresponding rate on the locality rate schedule for that official worksite; and
  • Grade and pay retention to the extent provided in 5 CFR part 536

Reference: 5 U.S.C. 5304(c)(2) and 5 CFR 531.610.)

Wage Grade (WG) How it Works

The government’s Personnel Classification System includes Wage Grade occupations grouped into families of like jobs. The 36 occupational families range from WG-2500 to WG-9000. Each occupational family has its own group number and title which makes it distinctive from every other family grouping. View the list of the Wage Grade Families that are concentrated in the trades and labor occupations.  

Wage Grade Salary Tables

The Department of Defense (DOD) issues wage schedules and they conduct Federal Wage System (FWS) surveys. The Department of Defense’s Advisory Service maintains these rates and publishes them on their website. Visit the FWS wage schedules website for updated 2021 WG pay scales & schedules for your area. 

Special Compensations Systems

There are a number of special compensation systems that augment the general schedule pay scale. Physicians receive signing bonuses for a one-year continued-service agreement and additional bonuses for two years. The Federal Aviation Administration pays employees in safety-related careers under a “Core Compensation” multi-pay band system. Organizations such as the General Accounting Office (GAO), NASA, and the Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology either are exempt from or have exceptions to the GS pay system.  You can search special rate schedules for your area at the OPM website.

Federal employee special pay and benefits apply to eligible civilian employee that are assigned to duty in designated foreign areas, including Iraq and Afghanistan. Three departments, including The Department of Defense, the Department of State, and the Department of Labor administer most of the pay and benefits programs offered to such employees.  Certain foreign areas may be determined to have a special status due to U.S. military operations in the area or for other reasons.  Pay and benefits may vary depending on pay system of the employee, the assignment location, scope and nature of duties, and nature other assignment.

As missions in overseas locations change, certain authorities and benefits can also change.  We recommend that employees contact their agency’s human resources and/or benefits officers to determine if their overseas location qualifies for the authorities listed below.


Physician’s Comparability Allowance (PCA)

The head of each agency must determine categories of physician positions for which there is a significant recruitment and retention problem. A PCA may be paid only to physicians serving in positions in one of the categories. In determining the categories the agency must, as a minimum, establish as separate categories the following types of positions:

Clinical Positions: Positions primarily involving the practice of medicine or direct service to patients, involving the performance of diagnostic, preventive, or therapeutic services to patients in hospitals, clinics, public health programs, diagnostic centers, and similar settings.

Research Positions: Positions primarily involving the conduct of medical research and experimental work, including the conduct of medical work pertaining to food, drugs, cosmetics, and devices (or the review or evaluation of such medical research and experimental work), or the identification of causes or sources of disease or disease outbreaks.

Occupational Health: Positions primarily involving the evaluation of physical fitness, or the provision of initial treatment of on-the-job illness or injury, or the performance of preemployment examinations, preventive health screenings, or fitness-for-duty examinations.

Disability Evaluation and Administration of Health and Medical Programs: Positions involving disability evaluation and rating, the performance of medicolegal autopsies, training activities, or the administration of medical and health programs, including the administration of patient care or medical research and experimental programs.

  • PCA Payments: Agencies may pay a PCA of up to $14,000 annually to a physician with 24 months or less of service as a Government physician. Agencies may pay a PCA of up to $30,000 annually to a physician with more than 24 months of service as a Government physician. PCAs are subject to the aggregate limitation on pay under 5 U.S.C. 5307 and 5 CFR part 530, subpart B.

Pay – Related Legislative Changes

These changes are incorporated in the National Defense Authorization Act, FY 2019

Additional Resources


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General Schedule (US civil service pay scale)

The General Schedule (GS) is the predominant pay scale within the United States civil service. The GS includes the majority of white collar personnel (professional, technical, administrative, and clerical) positions. As of September 2004[update], 71 percent of federal civilian employees were paid under the GS. The GG pay rates are identical to published GS pay rates.

The remaining 29 percent were paid under other systems such as the Federal Wage System (WG, for federal blue-collar civilian employees), the Senior Executive Service and the Executive Schedule for high-ranking federal employees, and other unique pay schedules used by some agencies such as the United States Securities and Exchange Commission and the Foreign Service. Starting in 2009[update], some federal employees were also paid under Pay Bands.[1]


The GS was enacted into law by the Classification Act of 1949, which replaced Classification Act of 1923. The GS is now codified as part of Chapter 53 of Title 5 of the United States Code sections 5331 to 5338 (5 U.S.C. §§ 5331–5338). The pay scale was originally created with the purpose of keeping federal salaries in line with equivalent private sector jobs. Although never the intent, the GS pay scale does a good job of ensuring equal pay for equal work by reducing pay gaps between men, women, and minorities, in accordance with another, separate law, the Equal Pay Act of 1963.[citation needed]

Prior to January 1994, GS personnel were generally paid the same amount (for a given grade and step) regardless of where they worked. This system ignored the growing reality of regional differences in salaries and wages across the United States, and this led to a perception that in many locations federal civil service salaries were increasingly uncompetitive with those in the private sector, thus affecting recruiting and retention efforts by federal agencies. In January 1994, the Federal Employees Pay Comparability Act of 1990 (FEPCA) introduced a "locality pay adjustment" component to the GS salary structure. Both Republican and Democratic administrations have complained about the methodology used to compute locality adjustments and the projected cost of closing the pay gap (as determined by FEPCA) between federal salaries and those in the private sector. In December 2007, the President's Pay Agent reported that an average locality pay adjustment of 36.89 per cent would be required to reach the target set by FEPCA (to close the computed pay gap between federal and non-federal pay to a disparity of five per cent). By comparison, in calendar year 2007, the average locality pay adjustment actually authorized was 16.88 per cent. As a result, FEPCA has never been fully implemented.[citation needed]


The United States Office of Personnel Management administers the GS pay schedule on behalf of other federal agencies.

Changes to the GS must normally be authorized by either the president (via Executive Order) or by Congress (via legislation). Normally, the President directs annual across-the-board pay adjustments at the beginning of a calendar year after Congress has passed the annual appropriations legislation for the federal government.

Under FEPCA, the Bureau of Labor Statistics conducts annual surveys of wages and salaries paid to non-federal workers in designated locality pay areas. Surveys are used to determine the disparity, if any, between federal and non-federal pay in a given locality pay area. The Federal Salary Council (created by FEPCA) prepares recommendations concerning the composition of the designated locality pay areas and the annual comparability adjustment for each area, as well as an adjustment for all other workers outside these areas, referred to as "Rest of U.S.". The council's recommendations are transmitted to the President's Pay Agent (also created by FEPCA), which then establishes, modifies, or disestablishes individual locality pay areas and makes the final recommendation on pay adjustments to the president, who may either accept the agent's recommendations or (in effect) reject them through the submission of an alternative pay plan.

FEPCA also provides for an automatic annual across-the-board adjustment of GS pay rates. A common misconception is that the annual federal pay adjustments are determined according to cost of living fluctuations and other regional considerations. In fact, the across-the-board adjustments to the GS (but not locality pay) are determined according to the rise in the cost of employment as measured by the Department of Labor's Employment Cost Index, which does not necessarily correlate to the better-known Consumer Price Index, which tracks consumer prices.

Grade and step structure[edit]

US Government Employees Pay Comparison

The GS is separated into 15 grades (GS-1, GS-2, etc. up to GS-15); each grade is separated into 10 steps. At one time, there were also three GS "supergrades" (GS-16, GS-17 and GS-18); these were eliminated under the provisions of the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 and replaced by the Senior Executive Service and the more recent Senior Level (non-supervisory) pay scale.

Most positions in the competitive service are paid according to the GS. In addition, many positions in the excepted service use the GS as a basis for setting pay rates. Some positions in the excepted service use the grade designator "GG"—for example, "GG-12" or "GG-13". The GG pay rates are generally identical to published GS pay rates.

The GS-1 through GS-7 range generally marks entry-level positions, while mid-level positions are in the GS-8 to GS-12 range and top-level positions (senior managers, high-level technical specialists, or physicians) are in the GS-13 to GS-15 range. A new GS employee is normally employed in the first step of their assigned GS grade, although the employer has discretion to, as a recruiting incentive, authorize initial appointment at a higher step (other agencies may place the employee at a higher grade). In most professional occupations, entry to mid-level positions are classified at two-grade intervals—that is, an employee would advance from GS-5 to GS-7, then to GS-9 and finally to GS-11, skipping grades 6, 8 and 10.

Advancement between steps within the same grade[edit]

Permanent employees below step 10 in their grade normally earn step increases after serving a prescribed period of service in at least a satisfactory manner. The normal progression is 52 weeks (one year) between steps 1–2, 2–3, and 3–4, then 104 weeks (two years) between steps 4–5, 5–6, and 6–7, and finally 156 weeks (three years) between steps 7–8, 8–9, and 9–10.[2] However, an employee can be rewarded for outstanding work performance via a "quality step increase" ("QSI"), which advances the employee one step within grade regardless of time at the previous step.[3] (When a QSI is awarded, the date of the QSI becomes the starting date for the next step increase, which (if future step increases are awarded on the normal progression) will shorten the overall time for an employee to reach the final step within a grade.)

Advancement between grades[edit]

Depending on the agency and the work description, a GS position may provide for advancement within a "career ladder," meaning that an employee performing satisfactorily will advance between GS grades, normally on an annual basis, until he(she) has reached the top GS grade for that job (which represents full performance). Advancement beyond the top grade (to either a specialized technical position or to a managerial position) would be subject to competitive selection.

Not all positions, however, provide for such a "career ladder," thus requiring employees who seek advancement to consider other career paths, either within their agency or outside it.

An example is the "career ladder" for auditors within the Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA). The traditional "entry level" grade within DCAA is the GS-7 level (some employees come in either at the lower GS-5 level or higher GS-9 or GS-11 levels) and the "career ladder" is GS-7 to GS-9 to GS-11 and finally to GS-12, with the employee expected to advance between grades after one year and to reach the GS-12 level after three years. Beyond the GS-12 level, advancements to the higher levels (GS-13, GS-14, and GS-15, most of which are managerial positions) are based on competitive selections.

Furthermore, if an employee is promoted to a grade which is not part of the career ladder (such as a promotion to a supervisory position), the employee's salary is set at the step within the higher grade nearest the employee's current salary (but never below the current salary), plus additional steps to reward the employee for the promotion and to account for the increased responsibilities that go along with the new position. As an example (and not including locality adjustments), an employee at GS-12 Step 10 (base salary $86,881) being promoted to a GS-13 position would initially have his/her salary set at GS-13 Step 4 (base salary $87,415, as it is the nearest salary to GS-12 Step 10 but not lower than it), and then have his/her salary adjusted to a higher step (such as GS-13 Step 6, having a base salary of $92,713).

Salary calculation[edit]

Salaries under the GS have two components: a base salary and a "locality pay adjustment".

Base salary[edit]

The base salary is based on a table compiled by Office of Personnel Management (the 2021 table is shown below),[4][needs update] and is used as the baseline for the locality pay adjustment. The increases between steps for Grades GS-1 and GS-2 varies between the steps; for Grades GS-3 through GS-15 the increases between the steps are the same within the grade, but increase as the grade increases. The table is revised effective January of each year to reflect the basic cost of living adjustment (known as the General Schedule Increase).

Grade Step 1 Step 2 Step 3 Step 4 Step 5 Step 6 Step 7 Step 8 Step 9 Step 10
1 $19,738 $20,400 $21,056 $21,709 $22,365 $22,749 $23,398 $24,052 $24,078 $24,690
2 $22,194 $22,722 $23,457 $24,078 $24,349 $25,065 $25,781 $26,497 $27,213 $27,929
3 $24,216 $25,023 $25,830 $26,637 $27,444 $28,251 $29,058 $29,865 $30,672 $31,479
4 $27,184 $28,090 $28,996 $29,902 $30,808 $31,714 $32,620 $33,526 $34,432 $35,338
5 $30,414 $31,428 $32,442 $33,456 $34,470 $35,484 $36,498 $37,512 $38,526 $39,540
6 $33,903 $35,033 $36,163 $37,293 $38,423 $39,553 $40,683 $41,813 $42,943 $44,073
7 $37,674 $38,930 $40,186 $41,442 $42,698 $43,954 $45,210 $46,466 $47,722 $48,978
8 $41,723 $43,114 $44,505 $45,896 $47,287 $48,678 $50,069 $51,460 $52,851 $54,242
9 $46,083 $47,619 $49,155 $50,691 $52,227 $53,763 $55,299 $56,835 $58,371 $59,907
10 $50,748 $52,440 $54,132 $55,824 $57,516 $59,208 $60,900 $62,592 $64,284 $65,976
11 $55,756 $57,615 $59,474 $61,333 $63,192 $65,051 $66,910 $68,769 $70,628 $72,487
12 $66,829 $69,057 $71,285 $73,513 $75,741 $77,969 $80,197 $82,425 $84,653 $86,881
13 $79,468 $82,117 $84,766 $87,415 $90,064 $92,713 $95,362 $98,011 $100,660 $103,309
14 $93,907 $97,037 $100,167 $103,297 $106,427 $109,557 $112,687 $115,817 $118,947 $122,077
15 $110,460 $114,142 $117,824 $121,506 $125,188 $128,870 $132,552 $136,234 $139,916 $143,598

Some positions have their own unique GS scales. One notable example being patent examiner positions who can receive a supplement of more than 50% from the standard GS scale. Under the laws governing special GS scales, employees whose positions are covered by those scales earn either the special scale salary, or the standard GS scale salary plus a locality adjustment (see below), whichever is higher.[5]

Locality adjustment[edit]

The second component of the GS salary, the locality pay adjustment, was introduced in 1994 as part of the Federal Employees Pay Comparability Act of 1990 (FEPCA). Prior to FEPCA, all GS employees received the same salary regardless of location, which failed to reflect both the disparity between public sector and private sector pay as well as differences in cost of living in major metropolitan areas. As noted earlier, an employee in a position with a special GS scale does not receive a locality adjustment unless the pay under the special scale is lower than using the locality pay adjustment.

Under FEPCA, specified metropolitan areas, plus Alaska and Hawaii, are designated to receive pay adjustments in excess of the general adjustment provided to the "Rest of U.S.". Salary adjustments in other U.S. Territories and for overseas employees are separate from this adjustment. As of 2020[update], 52 areas, plus the entire states of Alaska and Hawaii, have been designated to receive this excess adjustment.[6]

The total pay with locality is calculated as follows (the result of both equations is the same):

{\displaystyle {\text{Total pay}}={\text{Locality}}\%\cdot ({\text{Base pay}})+{\text{Base pay}}}
{\displaystyle {\text{Total pay}}={\text{Base pay}}\times (1+{\text{Locality}}\%)}

FEPCA places a cap on the total salary of highly paid employees (mainly those at the higher GS-15 Grade steps) – the total base pay plus locality adjustment cannot exceed the salary for employees under Level IV of the Executive Schedule.

The locality pay adjustment is counted as part of the "high-3" salary in calculating Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) and Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) annuities, as well as the baseline for individuals having a percentage of salary deducted for deposit into the Thrift Savings Plan.


Personnel based outside the United States (e.g. U.S. territories, foreign overseas areas) receive a lower locality adjustment (4.76 percent for 2010). However, they may also receive certain non-taxable allowances such as cost-of-living allowances, post allowances and housing allowances in accordance with other laws, such as the Foreign Service Act. Federal civilian workers based in CONUS do not normally receive housing allowances or government-furnished housing. Also, some civilian personnel stationed overseas do not receive housing allowances; this may include military dependents working in federal civilian positions overseas, military members that left the service while overseas and were hired into an overseas position, and U.S. citizens hired into overseas positions while traveling abroad.

In contrast, the tax-free allowances paid during overseas assignments (especially the housing allowances) are generally considered to be an incentive to serve overseas, as they can be quite generous. While this situation may be advantageous to some personnel during their assignment overseas, these tax-free allowances are not considered to be part of one's salary, therefore they are not counted when computing a civil service annuity at retirement. CONUS locality adjustments, however, are counted when computing annuities.

Employees stationed in Alaska and Hawaii were formerly considered OCONUS and received a cost of living adjustment, but are being phased into the domestic locality pay system.

Note:"Employees of the U.S. Government are not entitled to the foreign earned income exclusion or the foreign housing exclusion/deduction under section 911 because 'foreign earned income' does not include amounts paid by the U.S. Government as an employee. But see Other Employment, later"[7]

Comparison between civilian and military rank equivalents[edit]

US Government Employees Pay Comparison

Protocol Precedence Lists for civilian and military personnel have been developed by each of the Department of Defense organizations to establish the order of government, military, and civic leaders for diplomatic, ceremonial, and social events. Protocol is a code of established guidelines on proper etiquette. Precedence is defined as priority in place, time, or rank. In the government, military and diplomatic corps, precedence among individuals' positions plays a substantial role. Equivalency between civilian pay grades and military rank is only for protocol purposes and informally for delegated supervisory responsibilities. While the authority of military rank extends across services and within each service, the same does not exist for civilian employees and therefore, there is no equivalency of command or supervisory authority between civilian and military personnel external to the local organization. The "Department of the Army Protocol Precedence List" is developed by the Army Protocol Directorate. Another form of the Army "Precedence List" can be found in Appendix D of DA PAM 600-60: A Guide to Protocol and Etiquette for Official Entertainment. The Department of the Navy "Civilian and Military Pay Grades" list can be found in Annex D of OPNAVINST 1710.7A: Social Usage and Protocol. The Department of the Air Force "Military and Civilian Rank Equivalents" can be found in Attachment 10 of AFI 34-1201. Consolidated DOD lists have been compiled by JMAR.[8]

Geneva Convention category Military GS
V: General officer O-7 through O-10 Senior executive service
IV: Field grade officer O-6
III: Company grade officer O-3
II: Non-commissioned officer (NCO) E-8/E-9
WL/WS/GS-1 through GS-4
I: Enlisted E-1 through E-4 WG/WL

The comparison of GS and military ranks with respect to financial accounting has different rules than those treating protocol. According to DoD 7000.14-R Financial Management Regulation Volume 11A, Chapter 6 Appendix B (January 2011):[9]

Geneva Convention category GS/SES Military
V: General officer ES Level III
ES Level IV
ES Level V
IV: Field grade officer GS-15
III: Warrant officer/company grade officer GS-12
O-3, WO-5/WO-4
O-2, WO-3
O-1, WO-2/WO-1
II: Non-commissioned officer/senior non-commissioned officer GS-08
I: Enlisted GS-04

Pay for performance[edit]

In recent years, there have been several attempts to eliminate the GS and replace it with various pay systems emphasizing "pay for performance" (i.e., a system in which pay increases are awarded based more on merit and work performance and less on seniority and length of service). The pay structure which enables this is typically known as pay banding. The best known efforts in this area are the pay systems created for the Departments of Homeland Security and Defense (the National Security Personnel System)[10] in 2002 and 2003, respectively. These efforts were challenged by federal labor unions and other employee groups.[citation needed] Many supervisory and non-bargaining-unit employees, however, were converted from their GS positions into equitable NSPS positions. As part of his fiscal 2007 and 2008 budget proposals, President George W. Bush proposed the eventual elimination of the GS to be replaced by a pay-for-performance concept throughout the Executive Branch of the government. The Office of Management and Budget prepared draft legislation, known as the "Working for America Act",[11] but as of January 2008[update][needs update] Congress has not implemented the proposal. President Barack Obama signed the legislation repealing the NSPS system on October 29, 2009. Under the terms of the 2010 Defense Authorization Act, Public Law 111-84, all employees under NSPS must be converted back to their previous pay system not later than January 1, 2012. The law also mandates that no employees lose pay as a result of this conversion.[12] In order to ensure this, a set of conversion rules has been developed. In most cases, if an employee's current NSPS salary falls between two step levels of the GS grade to which their position is classified, their salary will be increased to the higher step. Employees whose salary was increased beyond the GS step 10 amount while under NSPS will be placed on retained pay, meaning they will receive 50% of the annual cost of living increase until the GS table catches up to the level of salary they are earning.[13]

List of other pay scale terms[edit]

  • AD: Administratively Determined
  • DB: Demonstration Army Engineers and Scientists External Link
  • DE: Demonstration Army Technical and Business Support External Link
  • DJ: Demonstration Army Administrative External Link
  • DK: Demonstration Army General Support External Link
  • DN: Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board External Link
  • DO: Demonstration Air Force Business Management and Professional External Link
  • DP: Scientific and Engineering (S&E) External Link (page 10)
  • DR: Demonstration Air Force Scientist and Engineer External Link
  • DS: Technical Specialist External Link (page 10)
  • DU: Demonstration Air Force Mission Support External Link
  • DX: Demonstration Air Force Technician External Link
  • ES: executive schedule
  • FO, FP, FS: Foreign Service (Department of State, USAID, Commerce, Agriculture)
  • FR: Federal Reserve SystemExternal Link
  • FV: Federal Aviation Administration[14]
  • GG: General schedule, excepted service (except patent examiners)
  • GM, GL, GP, GR: e.g., see General Schedule Supervisory Guide and U.S. Personnel Management – Pay & Leave
  • HS: House Employee Schedule, governs salaries of employees of the United States House of Representatives and is maintained by the Committee on House Administration.[15]
  • HWS: House Wage Schedule, similar to the House Employee Schedule but applies to certain House employees not employed by Member offices.[15]
  • IA: Defense Civilian Intelligence Personnel System (DCIPS)—used by the Navy and others External link
  • IC: Incident Command – FEMA Exempted Service Intermittent Disaster Staff (FEMA Reservist)
  • IT: Incident Teams – FEMA Exempted Service Incident Management Staff (FEMA CORE) Pay Band I–V
  • JS: Judiciary Salary – U.S. Courts
  • NF: Non-Appropriated Fund
  • NH, NJ, NK: AcqDemo (DOD Civilian Acquisition Workforce Personnel Demonstration Project [16]
  • NY: Corporation for National and Community Service[17]
  • SK: United States Securities and Exchange Commission pay scale
  • SV: Department of Homeland Security excepted service (i.e., Transportation Security Administration)
  • VN: Federal medical careers
  • WG: Wage grade
  • WM: Wage Mariner. Operates government owned, government operated (GOGO) ships for National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Military Sealift Command (MSC) among other agencies.
  • Y (National Security Personnel System): Formerly used for Department of Defense (DoD) civil service jobs (approx. 2006–2012)[18] There are four Career Groups: (1) Standard: YA, YB, YC, YP, (2) Scientific and Engineering: YD, YE, YF, (3) Medical: YG, YH, YI, YJ, (4) Investigative and Protective Services: YK, YL, YM, YN (NSPS was repealed in 2009; see National Security Personnel System for more info)
  • Z: National Institute of Standards and Technology's Alternative Personnel Management System (APMS)[19]


  2. ^"GENERAL SCHEDULE WITHIN-GRADE INCREASES". Office of Personnel Management.
  4. ^"Salary Table 2020-GS"(PDF). U.S. Office of Personnel Management. Retrieved February 12, 2020.
  5. ^"Special Rate Table Number 0576". U.S. Office of Personnel Management. January 1, 2017. Retrieved March 26, 2017.
  6. ^"Locality Pay Area Definitions". 2020. Retrieved February 12, 2020.
  7. ^"Publication 516 (11/2018), U.S. Government Civilian Employees Stationed Abroad | Internal Revenue Service".
  8. ^"Precedence Codes". Retrieved 2014-05-08.
  10. ^"National Security Personnel System". Office of the Secretary of Defense. Archived from the original on 2007-04-06.
  11. ^"Archived copy"(PDF). Archived from the original(PDF) on 2012-11-07. Retrieved 2014-07-21.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  12. ^
  13. ^"National Security Personnel System – Frequently Asked Questions". Archived from the original on January 24, 2010.
  14. ^"Jobs". Federal Aviation Administration. 2014-02-24. Retrieved 2014-05-08.
  15. ^ ab"[USC02] 2 USC 293: Compensation schedules".
  16. ^"About AcqDemo". Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment (A&S). 2019-02-21. Retrieved 2019-03-31.
  17. ^"Home | AmeriCorps".
  18. ^"Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-04-10. Retrieved 2007-04-11.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  19. ^[1]Archived February 2, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  • Army Regulation 570-4, p. 39–40.

External links[edit]


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