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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, 71 percent of federal civilian employees were paid under the GS.

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, some federal employees were also paid under Pay Bands.[1]



The GS was enacted into law by the Classification Act of 1949, which replaced a similar act of the same name (except for the 1949 part) enacted in 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. §§ 53315338). 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]

United States Colleges and Universities used to follow the British and Commonwealth countries in issuance of professional degrees as first degrees (professionals) but later made them post graduate degrees (as they are called in the UK and other Commonwealth Countries) or simply graduate / professional degrees in the United States. This was due to the implementation of minimum educational attainments required to progress beyond certain General Service (GS) pay scales and steps.

For instance, the US General Service Administration (GS) pay scale has required the minimum of a Masters degree to progress to GS-10 and beyond. GS-12 employees have to have a minimum of either a masters or a doctoral (typically Ph.D. for Econometricians or Statisticians employed by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics or Census Bureau every 10 years in the United States that causes a demand shock for economist who are apt at statistics or statisticians from the other domains that they are usually employed in. Econometricians are usually employed at the doctoral level at think tanks (i.e. Dun & Bradstreet), investment funds (Soros Fund Management) and governmental agencies (NBER, Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Census - Current Population Survey) or universities and enjoy some degree of job stability and tenure. Hence it is quite difficult to convince someone who has tenure or can publish with reasonable accuracy and is of notability amongst their peers to leave a tenured (guaranteed job) as a research Assistant or Associate Professor at a University to take a "temporary contract position" every 10 years when the Census is needed.

Statisticians on the other hand are the "home and founding" discipline of econometrics and other fields and they tend to be very rigorous like mathematicians are known to be. Some are pure theorist (requiring proofs) and hardly work with applied methods as those would not be rewarded in their field and are not counted for promotion or tenure. Examples of which are mathematical statisticians that work on proofs or vector spaces or vector calculus to proof distribution function properties in the three or high dimensions. So the Y = aX + b + error term fitting line you learn about in high school statistics or college statistics is in a class of models called linear models and a simple equation may be adequate for a two dimension graph but definitely not when more dimensions are thrown in (such like when you are trying to position which populations are segmented by price, performance and reliability when buying a car). Each population "for each dimension" would have a probability density function and it will look like some sort of a hill or double or more peaked hill in 3-D. So this linear form of a straight line fit by drawing a minimum error eve balling is done my minimizing the squared errors summed between the observation points and the actual line. The more complex versions of the General Linear Model and proofs of their properties was written by a University of Florida distinguished professor of statistics during his dissertation days and published as General Linear Models textbook. It can be found here [2].

Marketing and other fields of businesses are interested in statistics due to the multiple distributions that account for inter arrival times of passengers, airplanes, customers, to predict how many products to order and stock as well as how many staff to employ and when to expect to see the customer again before they are considered to have been lost for ever. Statisticians that can publish in marketing or bio-statistics journals at business schools and medical schools respectively get paid very highly. Almost two to three times what they would otherwise make as a senior faculty in statistics. This is same and true of economics and sociology and education departments who would love to produce better results and theories but all these departments appear to have a very hard time recruiting theoretical or classical die hard statisticians.

Many hard core theorist would rather not make two or three times more at business schools and shy away from theoretical rigor and research nor would they want to do applied work in bio statistics (that also heavily draws on statistics and a branch of statistics called hazard rate modeling and survival statistics for modeling epidemiology, drug trial effectiveness, public health outbreaks and when and how they should be contained. You would not expect to find a person's life span and expectancy to be bell shaped and equal during infancy compared to during their elderly years and so a lot of methods for testing drug efficiency trials from early methods were flawed and the populations died off before any useful statistics were gathered as you introduced a hazard rate into the experimental arena. Hence many results were flawed and useful drugs were some times not pursued due to primitive errors in statistical methodology since most of these methods or sub areas of statistics requires you to know mathematical statistics and many distributions aside from the standard normal, which can get very mathematical and you do not deal with arithmetic of algebra variables but variables but matrix operators of large excel like matrix entries into dot and cross products and do matrix calculus on these array of numbers. Despite medical schools trying their hardest to recruit at upwards of USD 150,000 for bio-statistician faculties, they have had a hard time doing so since these guys chose statistics and not medicine or epidemiology. These can be considered the more liberal and less rigorous empirical type statisticians.

Another group of statisticians called modern bayesian or computational statisticians are less theoretical rigorous in methodology and causality and do not assume to know the nature of the probability density function that the data is derived from. It may not have been invented yet, is to be determined or its mathematical form is assumed to be laden or exists in hierarchies or compounded like basic algebra functions 3x^2 * 4/x (x^4 - ln(x)) where the order of the generation function is not known but the order is important for understanding the data derived since it corresponds to something critical like how many damage items are produced in an assembly line every day and at which point to correct it. Other instances exist where there is sparse real data, like when trading volume in a stock exchange is very low and there are not enough data sample points to yield any meaningful analysis or understanding for weird observations that defy the best theory available at present. These guys help by replicating the data many hundred times to billions of times using computer programs and then sample from these generated data in the counterfactual. Instead of say assuming that a coin is fair and gives Heads or Tails with 50 percent probability, these guys assume the coin is not fair and just keep tossing the coin the maximum number of times are then extracting a probability density function and associated probability parameters based on the sampling. As the number of sampling events tend to infinity, it is assumed that the estimates will tend to their true value using the law of large numbers and other theoretical applications. For anything with more than two outcomes, the experiments and computations and the sampling require cluster computers to process. Back to the coin analogy, it is not to assume that one person is tossing the coin maybe 1,000,000 times but rather you have a whole school of students tossing the coin and you select one's student's count rate of Heads or Tails as 1 sample for the 1,000,000 observations you wanted. You then choose another student randomly and that is how you can get 1,000,000 observations from a dataset that is compiled only by say 40 - 100 students. So you can see how computationally intensive a binary outcome and simple Heads or Tail experiment is if you were asked to generate data that is similar to the 40 Heads or Tail observations you are given and then infer using the 1,000,000 observations what the underlying function is.

These group of statisticians also do not usually get much regard from theoretical colleagues as they feel that a science should have a logical progression and should be replicated or calculated to the exact result if it were to be called a science. They are usually pre-occupied at proving their area of expertise to their classical or theoretical colleagues and do not wish to leave the home discipline either or be contracted to do analysis for medical schools, political analyst during elections or other agencies. Few places other than a major university with a high computational availability cluster (a super computer) would support these kinds of research.

Back to the General Service (GS) pay scale, the General Service (GS) pay scale was amended to have sufficient room to accommodate the huge demand shocks for statisticians or econometricians during the census leap years or when other datasets are generated by congressional demand or other acts of the government. For instance, during the labor unrest following the industrial revolution and high unemployment. GS-12, GS-13 - GS 15 requires one to have a "doctoral" degree and many federal workers were capped below GS-10 - GS 12 even with a masters degree.

As it was told by a prominent labor economist (that also needed to be an econometrician due to the shortage and reluctance issues mentioned above) that was attached as an Economic Advisor Council to the President, the second largest group of employees of the US government, the attorneys of the United States wanted higher salaries beyond what they were receiving (and this was capped since the President of the United States till 2004 made a prescribed amount of USD 200,000) and almost everything was capped below that.

Law schools were the first to oblige and push for their Bachelor of Law (LLB) to be made into a doctoral designated professional degree by requiring applicants to have a first degree that was four years or 120 credits or more prior to admission. The new degree was termed a Doctor of Jurisprudence (JD) and not to be confused with the real doctoral degree in that field which is known as a SJD (Doctor of Judicial Science). That is the reason that you would notice an inversion of degree progressions in the legal field or studies where you would first earn a JD, then specialize in Taxation or Intellectual Property by getting a LLM. The next progression is a SJD or LLD (Doctor of Judicial Science - Research Based or Doctor of Legal Letters - Publishing/ Research or Commentator Based). The progression would seem more sensible if the LLB (Bachelor of Law were retained) as in would be LLB, LLM, LLD/SJD. Virtually all law schools in North America and other countries have switched over to the JD designation to aid their graduates in having comparable degrees and also for integration into the US market. The curriculum was beefed up with the inclusion of a articling component to position the degree as a professional degree with job proficient training and integration. Individuals from prestigious and older institutions in Europe and other countries have continued to use the LLB designation to show seniority and adherence to the founding principles of their profession and alma mater and these can sometimes be found to be true of senior partners of successful law partnerships or firm. Hence, the Doctorate (not to be confused with a Doctor) like its French counterpart, the Doctorat or the DPhil degree in the UK and the Spanish and German Specialist Doctor of Science degrees are different from practitioner doctorate degrees like the Doctor of Business Administration (which is a higher form of the MBA applied degree with added requirements of independent contribution and scholarly publication) or the PsychD Doctor of Psychology degree not to be confused with the Doctor of Philosophy in Business or Psychology as these like the DPhil, Specialist Doctorates require original and independent contribution in a substantive area of significant merit or contribution to the field of instruction.

Almost all degrees outside of the three year Bachelors in the UK (starting with the Bachelors with Honors) require a thesis of substantial merit and it is a decision left to the student to decide whether or not to pursue a Bachelors with a thesis requirement since the completion rate tends to be a lot lower when a thesis or first major publication is required of a graduate or undergraduate student since these are judged by a committee of known experts that the student would engage who have not had to lower themselves to a bachelor level for a long time and may not understand or underestimate the quality of a first time major publication. Almost all good masters degrees in the UK and Europe and Asia still require a thesis component that can be finished in as little as 1 year with 1 - 1.5 years dedicated to the coursework but the maximum time allowed for one to complete a thesis in a masters program, known as the time in residence, can be as long as 7 years before the are timed out of the program and no longer deemed to be in candidacy for a masters degree.

The thesis for the doctoral program in the UK and European countries are very similar to the Doctor of Philosophy in whatever subject you are choosing in the United States and requires one to structure and defend and show contribution of substantial original and independent merit to a major area within the discipline that will be subject to the scrutiny of the experts within the student's committee and anyone else who chooses to attend the doctoral defense. It is called a dissertation in lieu of a thesis in North America. The idea is that the dissertation will be broad enough and the student will be an expert and authority in an area with sufficient open questions for investigation that will sustain his or her major publications for their entire and remaining career.

The medical schools, followed suit with the Bachelor of Medicine (BM) being renamed to the Doctor of Medicine (MD) or Doctor or Osteopathy (DO) and so have Doctor of Optometry (OD) and Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) and even Dachelor of Pharmacy (RPh or PharmD) have followed suit. Very old schools in the UK and other countries including Asia and Australia have retained the use of the name Bachelor of Medicine (BM) and Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) to once again stick to their founding principles and accentuate grandeur in their old names that existed prior to the MD designation [3].

The positive thing about attending one of these programs after completion of high school with equivalent IB/AP credits in the main areas of Physics, Chemistry and Biology is that the program can be completed in essentially three full academic years leaving one year for practicum training or a head start on a specialization: like orthopedic surgery or general surgery yielding the dual designation of Medical Bachelors and Bachelor of Surgery. Practitioner specialist would get additional recognition from joining associations or orders formed by royal charter such as the American Child Psychiatry Association or the Royal College of Surgeons as a Member or a Fellow.

Non Clinical or Adjunct Faculty but permanent full time faculty who are engaged actively in research or have had famous inventions or discoveries are usually who are appointed to medical schools with those at the best not having to commit to any patient time at all or teaching time but are funded to engage in their research for medical or equipment inventions or contributions to the field. Many have MD followed by PhD in genetics or PhD in Molecular Biology but it is not required. Others also have Doctorate of Science ScD or Doctorate of Medical Research or Doctorate in Medicine and Diseases and a lot of these research honorific doctorates are by appointment or based on contribution and individually crafted for the person. These are not the same as Medical Doctors, which is a professional degree that you get to visit different departments of the hospital and take notes for 3 - 6 months but are not certified to provide any care or medication that requires a billing or control number.

However, it seems than the attempts to increase the salaries have back fired since they have to justify the increase in degree title with the attainment of a bachelor 4 year degree and that leaves medical school graduates in about USD 800,000 of debt where they start to accumulate interest on the first day of their residency training. The same is almost true of lawyers and other fields. Statistics should be available from the records or placement office of every medical, law, dental or other schools.[4]


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 structureEdit

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 gradeEdit

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.[5] 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.[6] (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 gradesEdit

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 $79,936) being promoted to a GS-13 position would initially have his/her salary set at GS-13 Step 4 (base salary $80,426, 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 $85,300).

Salary calculationEdit

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

Base salaryEdit

The base salary is based on a table compiled by Office of Personnel Management (the 2017 table is shown below),[7] 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 $18,526 $19,146 $19,762 $20,375 $20,991 $21,351 $21,960 $22,575 $22,599 $23,171
2 $20,829 $21,325 $22,015 $22,599 $22,853 $23,525 $24,197 $24,869 $25,541 $26,213
3 $22,727 $23,485 $24,243 $25,001 $25,759 $26,517 $27,275 $28,033 $28,791 $29,549
4 $25,514 $26,364 $27,214 $28,064 $28,914 $29,764 $30,614 $31,464 $32,314 $33,164
5 $28,545 $29,497 $30,449 $31,401 $32,353 $33,305 $34,257 $35,209 $36,161 $37,113
6 $31,819 $32,880 $33,941 $35,002 $36,063 $37,124 $38,185 $39,246 $40,307 $41,368
7 $35,359 $36,538 $37,717 $38,896 $40,075 $41,254 $42,433 $43,612 $44,791 $45,970
8 $39,159 $40,464 $41,769 $43,074 $44,379 $45,684 $46,989 $48,294 $49,599 $50,904
9 $43,251 $44,693 $46,135 $47,577 $49,019 $50,461 $51,903 $53,345 $54,787 $56,229
10 $47,630 $49,218 $50,806 $52,394 $53,982 $55,570 $57,158 $58,746 $60,334 $61,922
11 $52,329 $54,073 $55,817 $57,561 $59,305 $61,049 $62,793 $64,537 $66,281 $68,025
12 $62,722 $64,813 $66,904 $68,995 $71,086 $73,177 $75,268 $77,359 $79,450 $81,541
13 $74,584 $77,070 $79,556 $82,042 $84,528 $87,014 $89,500 $91,986 $94,472 $96,958
14 $88,136 $91,074 $94,012 $96,950 $99,888 $102,826 $105,764 $108,702 $111,640 $114,578
15 $103,672 $107,128 $110,584 $114,040 $117,496 $120,952 $124,408 $127,864 $131,320 $134,776

Some positions have their own unique GS scales, with one notable example being patent examiners. For example, as of 2017, a newly hired examiner at the lowest possible pay for that position (GS-5, Step 1) currently earns $43,674, whether based at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia or the agency's satellite offices in Dallas, Denver, Detroit, and Silicon Valley. 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. GS-5 examiners receive a 53% supplement from the standard GS scale; this supplement drops until reaching a final value of 33% at GS-12 and up. Of the metropolitan areas that have USPTO offices, only the San Francisco Bay Area has a locality adjustment higher than 33% (more precisely, 38.17%); this means that the only examiners who would be paid on the standard scale are GS-12 and higher employees based in Silicon Valley. The high end of the examiner scale is also elevated with respect to the normal GS scale; a GS-15 examiner at Step 7 or higher earns a salary of $161,900.[8]

Another notable exception is the United States Secret Service Uniformed Division. The pay scales for Uniformed Division employees replace grade numbers with ranks, and the lowest starting salary a new officer can receive, with the locality adjustment for basic training, is $56,681 as of January 2017[9].

Locality adjustmentEdit

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 standard scale plus the adjustment elevates the employee's salary to a higher level than that called for in the special scale of that position.

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 2017, 44 metropolitan areas, plus the entire states of Alaska and Hawaii, have been designated to receive this excess adjustment. The designated areas (shown by major city, except for Alaska and Hawaii) and their 2017 pay adjustments (plus the "Rest of U.S." adjustment) are as follows:

Area Adjustment Area Adjustment Area Adjustment Area Adjustment Area Adjustment Area Adjustment
Alaska 27.13% Cincinnati 19.52% Harrisburg 15.63% Los Angeles 29.65% Portland 21.95% Washington, D.C. 27.10%
Albany 15.85% Cleveland 19.71% Hartford 27.57% Miami 22.13% Raleigh 19.02% "Rest of U.S." 15.06%
Albuquerque 15.36% Colorado Springs 15.99% Hawaii 17.92% Milwaukee 19.61% Richmond 18.19%
Atlanta 20.70% Columbus 18.49% Houston 30.97% Minneapolis 22.72% Sacramento 24.14%
Austin 15.97% Dallas 22.61% Huntsville 17.82% New York City 31.22% St. Louis 15.83%
Boston 26.73% Davenport 15.56% Indianapolis 15.85% Palm Bay 15.48% San Diego 26.98%
Buffalo 18.66% Dayton 17.59% Kansas City 15.59% Philadelphia 23.87% San Jose 38.17%
Charlotte 15.65% Denver 24.65% Laredo 16.68% Phoenix 18.57% Seattle 24.24%
Chicago 26.85% Detroit 25.68% Las Vegas 15.93% Pittsburgh 17.86% Tucson 15.66%

As an example of the overall calculation, in 2016 a GS employee, Grade GS-12, Step 10 in Dallas would have received a base salary of $80,731 plus a locality pay adjustment of 21.04 percent (an additional $16,986) for a total salary of $97,717. By comparison, a similar employee in San Antonio (which then was not one of the 47 designated areas for an increased adjustment; it was added in 2019) would have received only the standard "Rest of U.S." 14.35 percent increase (an additional $11,585) over the same $80,731 base salary, for a total salary of $92,316. (A patent examiner at the same grade and step level would have received $107,372 at any location except the Silicon Valley office, where the salary would be $109,592 [$80,731 plus $28,861 locality adjustment].)

However, 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, which as of January 2017 was $161,900.

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 outside the United StatesEdit

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"[10]

Comparison between civilian and military rank equivalentsEdit

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.[11]

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):[12]

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 performanceEdit

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)[13] 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",[14] but as of January 2008[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.[15] 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.[16]

List of other pay scale termsEdit


  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ "GENERAL SCHEDULE WITHIN-GRADE INCREASES". Office of Personnel Management.
  7. ^ "Salary Table 2017-GS" (PDF). U.S. Office of Personnel Management. Retrieved April 20, 2017.
  8. ^ "Special Rate Table Number 0576". U.S. Office of Personnel Management. January 1, 2017. Retrieved March 26, 2017.
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ "Precedence Codes". Retrieved 2014-05-08.
  13. ^ "National Security Personnel System". Office of the Secretary of Defense. Archived from the original on 2007-04-06.
  14. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-11-07. Retrieved 2014-07-21.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  15. ^
  16. ^ [1] Archived January 24, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  17. ^ "Jobs". Federal Aviation Administraiton. 2014-02-24. Retrieved 2014-05-08.
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^ "About AcqDemo". Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment (A&S). 2019-02-21. Retrieved 2019-03-31.
  21. ^
  22. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-04-10. Retrieved 2007-04-11.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  23. ^ [2] Archived February 2, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  • Army Regulation 570-4, p. 39–40.

External linksEdit