Federal Pay Plans

Customer Service Hours

Monday to Thursday: (0730 - 1200), (1300 - 1530)

Friday: (1300 - 1530)

Over 70 percent of the Federal workforce is paid according to the General Pay Scale (GS).The scale can be difficult to understand for both new and even experienced Federal employees.

 The nearly 30 percent of the Federal workforce not covered under the General Scale are either paid hourly under the Federal Wage System (FWS) system (10 percent), or operate under the separate systems of the U.S. Postal Service, the Foreign Service, the Veterans Health Administration, and Senior Executives.

 Every job in the Federal Government is classified according to its Pay Plan, its Grade (01-15), and its within-Grade Step (01-10).

General Schedule
(GS)The General Schedule includes the majority of white collar personnel (professional, technical, administrative, and clerical) positions. The GS was enacted into law by the Classification Act of 1949, which replaced a similar act of the same name 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. §§ 5331–5338). The intent of the GS is to keep federal salaries equitable among various occupations and between men and women ("equal pay for equal work"). The 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.

 The Federal Employees Pay Comparability Act of 1990 (FEPCA) 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.

 Each Federal job is given a specific rating (Grade) from one to fifteen depending on the amount of education and experience required for each position. While there is no specific correspondence between the GS rate and each position’s educational requirements, Bachelor’s degrees are usually required for GS-5 positions, and Master’s degrees for GS-9.

Federal Wage System (FWS)
Before the FWS, there was no central authority to establish wage equity for Federal trade, craft, and laboring employees. In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson ordered the former Civil Service Commission to work with Federal agencies and labor organizations to study the different agency systems and combine them into a single wage system that would be sensible and just. President Johnson called for common job-grading standards and wage policies and practices that would ensure interagency equity in wage rates. He established two basic principles for these policies and practices: Wages will be set according to local prevailing rates, and; there will be equal pay for equal work and pay distinctions in keeping with work distinctions.

 Congress established the FWS by law in 1972. It created a joint labor-management Federal Prevailing Rate Advisory Committee (FPRAC) with an independent Chairman. Agencies and labor unions are members of the Committee. FPRAC studies all matters pertaining to prevailing rate determinations and advises the Director of the OPM on appropriate pay policies for FWS employees.

 The Federal Wage System (FWS) is a uniform pay-setting system that covers Federal appropriated fund and nonappropriated fund blue-collar employees who are paid by the hour. The system's goal is to make sure that Federal trade, craft, and laboring employees within a local wage area who perform the same duties receive the same rate of pay. The FWS includes 132 appropriated fund and 125 nonappropriated fund local wage areas. Successful labor-management partnership is the hallmark of the FWS, with labor organizations involved in all phases of administering the pay system.

 Under this uniform pay system –

◾Your pay will be the same as the pay of other Federal jobs like yours in your wage area, and
◾Your pay will be in line with pay for private sector jobs like yours in your wage area
Senior Executive Service (SES)
The Senior Executive Service consists of the men and women charged with leading the continuing transformation of government. These leaders possess well-honed executive skills and share a broad perspective of government and a public service commitment which is grounded in the Constitution. The keystone of the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978, the SES was designed to be a corps of executives selected for their leadership qualifications.

 Members of the SES serve in the key positions just below the top Presidential appointees. For protocol purposes, SES positions correspond to flag officers (e.g., generals, admirals) in the military. In general, SES members are the major link between the Presidential appointees and the rest of the Federal (civil service) work force. At the executive level, they operate and oversee nearly every government activity in approximately 75 Federal agencies.

 The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) manages the overall Federal executive personnel program. OPM Staff provides the day-to-day oversight of and assistance to agencies as they develop, select, and manage their Federal executives.

 Unlike the General Schedule, SES pay is determined at agency discretion within certain parameters, and there is no locality pay adjustment.

 The minimum pay level for the SES is set at 120 percent of the basic pay for GS-15 Step 1 employees ($119,554 for 2010). The maximum pay level depends on whether or not the employing agency has a "certified" SES performance appraisal system.