Federal Salaries and Pay Schedules

Government pay schedules are determined by Congress, and may vary by region. The actual salary that an agency offers you for a specific position will vary based on a few factors, including the location of the position and your education. Salaries are only posted for permanent annualized jobs, and the salaries that we discuss here are not meant to include seasonal or summer jobs. As you start searching for job announcements, you will have to pay close attention to what is known as the grade scale level. Announcements are classified by the Federal Government’s General Schedule pay scale, also known as the GS.

Did You Know? A great number of government workers make much more than people working in similar jobs in the private sector. In addition, the federal government provides about four times the amount of benefits.

Pay Scale and Grade Range Salaries Explained

Using the GS grade system streamlines the government pay scale and makes it easy to understand the general qualifications that are needed to qualify for that pay grade. For example, many times job announcements will list an education or experience requirements that the applicant must have in order to earn that pay grade. To understand pay grades, please click here.

Grade

Education and Experience

Pay (example only)

GS-1

None

$252/week

GS-2

High school graduation or equivalent, 6 months general experience

$281/week

GS-3

1 year above high school with 6 semester hours of related course work, 6 months general experience, 3 months specialized experience

$305/week

GS-4

2 years above high school with 12 semester hours of related course work, 6 months general experience, 3 months specialized experience

$345/week

GS-5

4-year course of study above high school leading to a bachelor’s degree with 24 semester hours of related course work, at least 1 year of GS-4 experience or equivalent

$384/week

GS-7

1 full academic year of graduate education related to the occupation or superior academic achievement, at least 1 year of GS-5 experience or equivalent

$476/week

GS-9

2 full academic years of graduate level education or master’s degree or equivalent graduate degree related to the occupation, at least 1 year of GS-7 experience or equivalent

$582/week

GS-11

3 full academic years of graduate level education or Ph.D. or equivalent doctoral degree related to the occupation, at least 1 year of GS-9 experience or equivalent

$704/week

GS-12 and above

At least 1 year of experience at next lower grade level or equivalent

$853/week

Federal Government Pay Schedules

The chart above is just an example of how grades relate to education and work experience. The GS pay scale is adjusted geographically and accounts for different costs of living in different states. This chart represents the minimum pay rates for each grade. Pay rates outside of the continental U.S. are generally 10-25 percent higher, as are some of the positions that are more difficult to fill, including medical jobs.

It should also be noted that within each pay grade there are ten steps and each step represents a pay increase. Once you have reached the 10th step in any grade level, the following year you should be able to advance to the next GS level. Most government employees are paid bi-weekly after the first month of employment. That means that you should be prepared to have no income for the first four weeks of working. But knowing that will allow you to plan ahead and be prepared to cover all of your expenses during this time until you start getting paid on the regular bi-weekly schedule.

Salaries and Pay Schedules Summary:

  • The Federal Government’s General Schedule pay scale, also known as GS, is public information. It helps to keep the information streamlined, which makes it easier to track career advancement.
  • There are 15 different scales known as GS-1 – GS-15. Within each scale level there are ten steps to advance through in order to get to the next GS level.
  • Each step and each level of advancement earned by employees includes a salary increase.
  • The government pay scale is adjusted across the U.S. in each state in order to account for the differences in cost of living.

 

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