“Our revenue grew $26.8M in 4 years on the GSA Schedule Program” – Ted M.

GSA Pay Scale: The Essentials

GSA Pay Scale

One of the best opportunities receiving a GSA Schedule can afford your company is a higher pay rate. Even though government salaries may not be as high as those in the private sector, many federal posts offer competitive wages, generous benefits, and the prospect of rapid advancement.

The GSA pay scale emulates these benefits to ensure they attract highly qualified professionals for each job.

Essentially, pay is determined according to pay scales regulated by the government, and more than 70 percent of federal employees get produced according to the General Schedule.

Here is a comprehensive overview of the GSA Pay Scale to help you understand it all

About 1.5 million federal civilian white-collar employees get covered by the General Schedule Pay System (or GSA Pay Scale). The jobs range from clerical work and administrative work to professional work and technical work.

The grades range from GS-1 to GS-15 in the system. And each grade has a total of ten steps. According to the government agency, each job gets classified based on its responsibilities, credentials, and other factors.

As a general rule, the educational backgrounds of grades are as follows:

For federal employees, wage raises, promotions and other benefits are available depending on years of service.

Calculating GSA Pay Scales

The US Office of Personnel Management (OPM) calculates the GSA pay scale. The General Schedule pays the vast majority of Civilian Feds, as opposed to the Executive and Senior Level Pay Tables.

With that out of the way, here are some factors in calculating the GSA Pay Scale.

GS Pay Grade

The GS Pay Grade system consists of 15 pay range categories. The lowest grade is GS-1, while the highest is GS-15. Based on the level of responsibility, requirements, and other variables, jobs get granted a grade.

For instance, a GS-2 position may demand a high school diploma but no experience in the relevant field. Positions requiring a master’s degree are typically on the GS-9 tier.

GS Pay Step System

GS Pay Steps divide each pay grade into ten steps. For every three steps up the ladder, an employee earns around 3% more income.

Employees advance to the next level when they get promoted or acquire a new degree of seniority. In most cases, it takes 18 years to progress from the bottom to the top of a single grade.


It is also important to know where a person works, also referred to as their locality. This factor adjusts the base pay rate to consider the local cost of living. Pay rates may differ from one location to the next even when every employee falls into the same grade and pay step.

As a result, workers in more expensive locales like California and major metropolitan regions can take advantage of the system. To answer the most basic issues about how to pay a workforce, consider the following three factors:

The Current GS Locality Pay Areas

The lower 48 states and Washington, DC, Alaska, Hawaii, and the US territories and possessions currently get covered by more than 40 locality pay zones.

Two locality pay areas cover entire states—Alaska and Hawaii—while the rest of the United States and the country’s territories and possessions get included in the catch-all Rest of the United States (RUS) area.

Locality pay is not available to GS workers outside the United States. The President and Congress may change the generally applicable across-the-board and locale pay adjustments.

Moreover, because of the difficulty in filling certain GS grade level positions in specific geographic regions, OPM may authorize higher-than-normal GS rates in the GSA Pay Scale.

Calculating the Locality Adjustment

Locality adjustments are the most difficult to predict out of the three deciding variables.

The adjustment gets derived as a percentage rate based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Annual National Compensation Survey. The tool collects compensation information from the country’s public and private sectors. After comparing this information with federal employees in similar positions, the locality pay adjustment factor gets calculated.

Locality adjustments are determined by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) using 53 locality regions for all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and all United States territories and possessions.

The OMB relies on pre-determined Metropolitan Statistical Areas and Combined Statistical Areas. The pay scales in Alaska and Hawaii are unique, as are the pay scales in the other 51 locale regions based on large metropolitan centers around the country. Locations that don’t fit into any recognized locality region get referred to as the “Rest of the United States.”

Using the Locality Pay Adjustment Factor Information

Due to the location pay adjustment, federal civilian employees often get a higher salary. You can obtain the adjustment rate for your area by visiting the OPM-published locality area pay definitions.

This tool is particularly handy if you are considering applying for similar employment in a different country/region. It allows you to assess how much higher or lower the pay might be in a new place.


To summarize, the GSA Pay Scale is a method of paying federal public servants, with evaluation and compensation varying according to rank.

Education, background, accomplishments, and experience are all considered when determining if you meet the qualifications for a specific GS-level position. Moreover, federal salaries are public information, so your salary may be made available to the general public through government websites.

The primary goal of a pay progression model is to establish a clear path for employees to move up the pay scale within a certain salary range. To attract and retain top people, the GSA Pay Scale promotes internal pay parity and ensures that individual success gets rewarded adequately.

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