Understanding Federal Government Pay Scales & Grades

Everyone likes a paycheck. That’s why you work and, as we know some jobs pay better than other jobs. It’s a fact of life. And when you’re choosing a summer job, you’ll want to pick a job that pays well that still let’s you do what you enjoy. One of the most important things is to enjoy your summer; paychecks are an added bonus.

If you work for the federal government, your pay is determined by Congress.

It may vary a little bit based on location and cost of living, but overall “the suits” in the government determine it. It can be confusing, if you don’t understand it.

The General Schedule is basically a big chart of grades and steps that gives fixed salaries and hourly pay. It eliminates pay negotiation and basically makes it easier for the government. It also ensures that there is equal work for equal pay. Take a look at the Pay Grade Scale here: http://www.opm.gov/oca/11tables/html/gs_h.asp.

There are 15 grades, each with 10 steps. The grades are determined by education, responsibilities and requirements of the job. They are GS-1, GS-2, etc. through GS-15. The steps are incentive increases or bonuses that you’ll make. You’ll earn these after a certain time period or by being an outstanding employee.

Entry-level jobs are usually GS-1 through GS-7 and start at step 1. This means you will make from $7.97 to $15.21 an hour. Plus you can earn step increases that will boost those numbers. The chart also shows your overtime pay, which can range from $11.96 to $22.82.

The general schedule changes regularly, so check back before you sign on for your dream summer. Also be sure to verify at what grade and step you will be paid at for the summer. You may be thrilled with it, or you may want to look for a different outdoor job if the pay does not meet your standards.

Once you start working, it will take 4-weeks to get your pay organized, but once all the paperwork is straightened out, you’ll receive paychecks every two weeks – just like most jobs. But be sure you have enough spare cash to cover yourself for that first month.

If you have questions or concerns about government pay, feel free to call your employer or your regional Office of Personnel Management. They are the experts and know this stuff like the back of their hands. They can answer all of your questions, hopefully with smile on their faces.


NEXT PAGE: Government Employee Housing and Salaries