Federal Salaries and Pay Schedules
Government pay schedules are determined by Congress, and may vary by region.
Did You Know? A great number of government workers make much more than people working in similar jobs in the private sector. For instance, a federal employee enjoys an average annual salary of $80,000, while private sector employees in like jobs earn an average of $50,000. 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. The GS scale starts at 1 (lowest) and goes thru 15 (highest), but we will just look at the grade scale up to GS-12 for now. Below is a chart that better explains the GS scale and what experience or education is needed for each level, along with the minimum salary that you can expect when starting at that pay grade.
Federal Government Pay Schedules
The chart above should be used as a general reference guide for salaries and is based on the west coast pay scale and cost of living. 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.
Did You Know? Private sector workers have only had a 10 percent increase in compensation after inflation since 2000, but federal workers have enjoyed a 35 percent increase.
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.
- Government employees can expect at least a 1.50% pay increase regardless of the country's economy.