How Does The GS Pay Scale Work?

In the U.S., most federal workers or employees receive pay according to the GS (General Schedule) pay scale. To determine the pay scale, the Office of Personnel Management uses salary surveys as well as “pay data” from the U.S. BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics) of non-federal workers that perform similar roles or work types. Understanding how the GS Pay Scale works helps candidates to negotiate their salaries during their initial interviews along with pay raises while progressing through their careers. Also check WG Pay Scale

What Are The Grade Levels?

The General Schedule includes 15 Grade Level classifications from GS-1 to GS-15. These are defined loosely by the responsibilities, qualifications, and difficulty required by the specific role or job. Grade levels that are given to jobs often represent the “base pay salary” with a higher grade level corresponding with a higher salary. In general, the entry-level positions for which a bachelor’s degree or minimal experience is required will receive the GS-1 through to GS-7 grade level designations. The jobs that require master’s degrees, and more experience beyond the entry-level or require supervisory or management experience receive grade-level designations from GS-8 to GS-12. The positions that require professional and advanced degrees such as psychologists or physicians, or the jobs that require a high-level specialist receive grade-level designations from GS-13 to GS-15.

GS Steps

Each GS classification includes 10 different steps, with each offering slightly higher salaries when compared to previous steps. In general, federal departments and agencies provide a starting salary at Step One in the grade level, but candidates often negotiate “up” these Steps when they believe that their experience warrants a specific salary level. Every year federal employees receive performance reviews, where they may be eligible for a raise which corresponds with the next step (at the discretion of the manager or supervisor). From Step One to Step Four, performance reviews will occur in 1-year intervals. From Step Five to Step Seven, these reviews will occur in 2-year intervals, and from Step Eight to Step Ten, the review occurs in 3-year intervals.

Locality Pay

To match up to the costs of living, the locality pay is added to a base salary based on the position on the General Schedule scale. Since 2011, around 35 metropolitan areas all received a specified locality pay, equating to more than regular adjustments when compared to what the remainder of the U.S. receives. For instance, regular adjustment rates is around 14.16% for 2011, while the jobs based in Atlanta received locality pay of 19.29%, and people in Los Angeles received 27.16%.

GS Pay Scale 2021

GS GradeStep 1Step 2Step 3Step 4Step 5Step 6Step 7Step 8Step 9Step 10
GS-119738204002105621709223652274923398240522407824690
GS-222194227222345724078243492506525781264972721327929
GS-324216250232583026637274442825129058298653067231479
GS-427184280902899629902308083171432620335263443235338
GS-530414314283244233456344703548436498375123852639540
GS-633903350333616337293384233955340683418134294344073
GS-737674389304018641442426984395445210464664772248978
GS-841723431144450545896472874867850069514605285154242
GS-946083476194915550691522275376355299568355837159907
GS-1050748524405413255824575165920860900625926428465976
GS-1155756576155947461333631926505166910687697062872487
GS-1266829690577128573513757417796980197824258465386881
GS-137946882117847668741590064927139536298011100660103309
GS-149390797037100167103297106427109557112687115817118947122077
GS-15110460114142117824121506125188128870132552136234139916143598

What Are Grade Level Promotions?

Some of the positions within federal agencies or the government, like the administrative and professional positions, provide “career ladder” opportunities, allowing employees to work towards higher grade levels of their position. In general, if a career-ladder opportunity is available for a certain position, it will usually appear in the federal vacancy announcement. Some of the careers also offer ladders designed to increase according to grade-level intervals, which means the employee may be able to jump 2 GS grade levels when they are promoted. If the worker is eligible, they will receive this promotion during their annual performance review. Those that jump of the GS grade levels typically receive pay increases of a couple of thousand dollars.

Gs Pay Scale 2021

What Is An Automatic Raise?

The last factor used for determining pay according to the GS Pay Schedule includes the person’s location. There are currently 34 pay localities spread across the U.S. Every locality adds different percentages to the base pay. Locality accommodates for increases costs-of-living around and in major cities. The locality rates will be at their highest around Washington D.C. and San Francisco, which are both expensive areas to reside in. The locality rate is worked out on where the person works, rather than where they live. For those that are not working around major cities or metropolises, these employees fall under what is known as the “Rest of U.S.” locality area.

To work out the employee’s “final” adjusted pay, the base pay is multiplied by the locality rate. For example, if the employee is a GS-7, Step Four, in New York in 2014, the base pay would have been $37,751 and the locality rate would have been 28.72%. The adjusted pay of the employee would have been 37,751 X 1,2872 which would equal a yearly salary of $48.593.