GS Pay Scale 2021

GS Pay Scale 2021 – One must think through on the suitability of government employment based on the pay a job opportunity offers. Perhaps the pay from most jobs in the government cannot be compared to the pay from private companies. However, opportunities in federal employment with a competitive salary and great potential for quick promotion are quite common. Salaries from employment in the federal government are determined by pay scales designed by the government.

A majority of federal employees (over 70% of the population) are paid based on the General Schedule (GS) pay scale, making it the most common type of pay scale. Noteworthy, other forms of pay scales determine the pay for other federal employees.

New GS Pay Scale 2021

2021 GS Pay Scale

The General Schedule Pay Scale 2021

The General Schedule is the pay scale that determines the salary for a majority of employees more so those in the clerical, administrative, technical and professional positions in government.

The pay scale ranges between 15 pay grades, from GS-1 which is the lowest in rank to GS-15 which ranks as the highest grade. In each of the 15 grades, there are 10 steps in form of graduating stratification.

Each of the 15 grades has a specific salary attached for an employee recognized in that grade. The grade level for each job position in government will limit the pay for that job.

The Grade Levels in the General Schedule (GS) Pay Scale :

  • GS-3 or GS-4: This grade determines the pay ranges for jobs for interns and students
  • GS-5 to GS-7: This grade determines the pay for entry-level job positions. Holders of these jobs are employees with small or no job experience
  • GS-8 to GS-12: This grade determines the pay for mid-level job positions in government
  • GS-13 to GS-15: This grade determines the pay for top-level supervisory positions in government
  • Above GS-15: This grade determines to pay for employees who are part of the Senior Executive Service


GS (General Schedule) Pay Scale 2021 Tables

GS Grade Step 1 Step 2 Step 3 Step 4 Step 5 Step 6 Step 7 Step 8 Step 9 Step 10
GS-1 $20,051 $20,723 $21,390 $22,053 $22,720 $23,110 $23,768 $24,433 $24,460 $25,084
GS-2 $22,545 $23,082 $23,829 $24,460 $24,735 $25,462 $26,190 $26,917 $27,645 $28,372
GS-3 $24,599 $25,419 $26,239 $27,059 $27,878 $28,698 $29,518 $30,338 $31,158 $31,977
GS-4 $27,615 $28,535 $29,455 $30,376 $31,296 $32,216 $33,137 $34,057 $34,977 $35,898
GS-5 $30,896 $31,926 $32,956 $33,986 $35,016 $36,046 $37,077 $38,107 $39,137 $40,167
GS-6 $34,440 $35,588 $36,736 $37,884 $39,032 $40,180 $41,328 $42,476 $43,624 $44,773
GS-7 $38,271 $39,546 $40,821 $42,097 $43,372 $44,647 $45,923 $47,198 $48,473 $49,749
GS-8 $42,384 $43,797 $45,210 $46,622 $48,035 $49,448 $50,861 $52,274 $53,686 $55,099
GS-9 $46,813 $48,374 $49,934 $51,495 $53,055 $54,616 $56,177 $57,737 $59,298 $60,858
GS-10 $51,552 $53,271 $54,989 $56,708 $58,427 $60,145 $61,864 $63,582 $65,301 $67,019
GS-11 $56,639 $58,527 $60,415 $62,303 $64,191 $66,079 $67,966 $69,854 $71,742 $73,630
GS-12 $67,887 $70,151 $72,414 $74,677 $76,941 $79,204 $81,467 $83,731 $85,994 $88,258
GS-13 $80,727 $83,418 $86,109 $88,800 $91,491 $94,183 $96,874 $99,565 $102,256 $104,947
GS-14 $95,394 $98,574 $101,754 $104,933 $108,113 $111,292 $114,472 $117,651 $120,831 $124,011
GS-15 $112,210 $115,950 $119,691 $123,432 $127,173 $130,913 $134,654 $138,395 $142,136 $145,877

Government agencies are at liberty to announce job vacancies and hire suitable personnel based on their education background, job experience and skills.*These salaries table aren’t official. It is calculated based on the 1% proposed pay increase. If the 1% pay increase passes the Congress, the base salary in 2021 will look like the above table.

An applicant can grow and use their education and their level of experience to qualify for entry to a higher pay grade regardless of whether they have worked in a government set up before.

Upon being hired, the job holder will get a pay raise after every promotion from one step to another and from one grade to another. In many cases, it is estimated a federal employee will move up a step each year in employment.

There are some positions in federal employment referred to as ‘career ladder’ positions. Holders of these positions can move from one low pay grade to a higher pay grade without changing job positions. For instance, job holders in the GS-5/7/9 career ladder can move from GS-5 to a GS-7 to a GS-9 within three years and without changing jobs.

You can find more on the grade and potential for promotion for various jobs on our overview section of the job announcement.

Pay and Allowance for Cost of Living.

Payment for salary using the General Schedule (GS) Pay Scale is categorized into two parts: a base pay amount and another pay amount adjusted to suit the local economic factors where the job is located. The payment is adjustment is made to account for differences in the cost of living in various geographical localities.

To better illustrate this, a biologist in San Francisco will be paid more than a biologist in Atlanta while still under the same GS-7 grading because the cost of living in San Francisco is higher than that of Atlanta. Additionally, federal workers outside the continental space of the USA are generally paid 10-25% more as a compensation offer that is referred to as the Cost of Living Allowance (COLA).

To better illustrate, workers living in Alaska, Hawaii and other far grounds of the USA will receive Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) from the government to compensate for the high cost of living.

Other Special Payment Rates.

Most agencies in the federal government rely on the GS pay scale. However, over 40 agencies or agency subcomponent rely on a different pay schedule.

Some government agencies will rely on special pay rates set within the General Schedule (GS) Pay Scale. The government has purposely established higher base rates to incentivize hiring and retaining top talent in jobs positions that have limited potential suitors often in the field of science and technology and medicine.

For instance, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) are some of the federal agencies with special payment rates.

Alternative Salary Schedules

Other agencies rely on alternative pay structures such as the Federal Wage System, the Foreign Service, and the Senior Executive Service.

The Federal Wage System (FWS) is a payment plan for blue-collar workers who are often paid by the hour. This payment plan ensures there is an alignment of salaries for wage laborers in the federal employees to those in the private sector.

The Foreign Service payment plan is designed for officers in Foreign Service in the Department of State, Commerce, or Agriculture. This payment plan has 9 pay grades ranging from the lowest rank of FS-09 to the highest level FS-01. Each of these 9 grades has 14 steps.

The Senior Executive Service (SES) utilizes a payment structure devoid of any graded stratification. The salary to be paid to an employee is determined by the performance of the individual federal employee. The basic pay in the Senior Executive Service (SES) ranges from $120,000 to $165,000. Additionally, employees paid based on this system do not receive any locality-based compensatory pay.

Other agencies such as the Federal Reserve System, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission rely on their internal and unique payment plans.

Most of the alternative payment schedules are pay banded systems which pool together grading from the GS scale and combining with an extensive group or “band” of grades.

There are a few ranges of salary in a pay banded system instead of 15 different grades. Graduation from one pay band to another is performance-based and promotions are determined by an appraisal of the employees’ work conducted by their supervisor.

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