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General Schedule (GS) Pay Scale


The General Schedule (GS) Pay Scale is a standardized system for determining the salaries of U.S. federal government civilian employees. It consists of 15 pay grades (GS-1 to GS-15), with each grade containing 10 pay steps that reflect an employee’s experience, education, and job performance. The GS Pay Scale is primarily used to establish salary rates for white-collar workers in professional, technical, administrative, and clerical positions.

Key Takeaways

  1. The General Schedule (GS) Pay Scale is the primary system for determining federal civilian employee salaries in the United States, including those who work for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
  2. This pay scale consists of 15 grades, each with 10 steps, which account for variations in experience, education, and job responsibilities. As employees gain experience and demonstrate good performance, they can advance to higher steps within their grade or even be promoted to higher grades.
  3. The actual pay rates for each grade and step are determined by adjusting the base pay rates established by Congress to account for regional differences in the cost of living, known as locality pay adjustments. This ensures that federal employees receive competitive salaries based on their locations.


The General Schedule (GS) Pay Scale is important for VA benefits because it serves as the primary structure for determining the salary levels of federal employees, including those who work for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

This standardized pay system ensures that Veterans Affairs employees receive a consistent and competitive remuneration for their services, taking into account factors such as job responsibilities, qualifications, experience, and location.

By establishing a clear and transparent framework for compensation, the GS Pay Scale not only helps attract and retain skilled professionals to the VA but also enables the VA to effectively serve and support the needs of veterans and their families.


The General Schedule (GS) Pay Scale serves a vital purpose in ensuring a systematic and equitable approach to the remuneration of federal civilian employees across various agencies, including those working for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). As a standardized salary structure, the GS Pay Scale aims to create a unified and consistent mechanism to determine pay levels for federal workers, taking into account their job responsibilities, qualifications, experience, and the cost of living in their respective geographic locations. In essence, the pay scale promotes fairness, transparency, and uniformity in federal compensation, contributing to a motivated and productive workforce that can better serve the American public, including our valued veterans.

To achieve its objectives, the GS Pay Scale comprises 15 pay grades, each with ten incremental steps that reflect employee performance and tenure. This tiered system enables employees to advance and receive pay raises as they gain experience and demonstrate exceptional performance in their roles over time.

Additionally, the GS pay scale incorporates locality adjustments, ensuring that federal employees stationed in areas with a higher cost of living or a competitive job market can maintain a decent standard of living. In the context of VA benefits, when veterans become federal employees within the VA system, the GS Pay Scale allows for a structured and well-defined pathway in their careers, ensuring that they are suitably compensated and have ample opportunities for professional growth and development.

Examples of General Schedule (GS) Pay Scale

The General Schedule (GS) Pay Scale is a federal employee compensation system that covers most civilian White-Collar employees in the United States government. It is comprised of 15 grades and 10 steps within each grade. Here are three real-world examples about the GS Pay Scale:

Entry-level Federal Jobs: A recent college graduate with a bachelor’s degree could enter the federal workforce at a job with a GS-5 pay grade. This grade has an annual base pay range from $31,208 to $40,369, depending on the step (from GS-5, Step 1 to GS-5, Step 10). However, depending on the employee’s geographic location, there could be locality adjustments, which can raise the pay.

Mid-level Federal Jobs: A government employee who has worked for several years and has gained experience, skills, and education can advance to a mid-level position. For instance, the employee with a master’s degree could be promoted to a position at a GS-12 pay grade. The annual base pay range for a GS-12 employee falls between $67,827 and $88,175, also subject to locality adjustments.

Senior-level Federal Jobs: A high-ranking federal official, such as a scientist, researcher, or program manager, could be paid at a more senior grade like GS-

The annual base pay range for a GS-15 employee falls between $109,366 and $142,180, depending on the step, plus locality adjustments. These positions are often considered experts in their field, requiring a high level of expertise and experience.In each of these situations, the General Schedule compensates federal employees based on the complexity, responsibility, and qualifications of their positions. The GS Pay Scale system helps ensure fair and consistent pay structures across the federal workforce.

FAQ on General Schedule (GS) Pay Scale Benefits

1. What is the General Schedule (GS) Pay Scale?

The General Schedule (GS) Pay Scale is a structure used to compensate federal employees in the United States. It establishes 15 different pay grades (GS-1 to GS-15), consisting of various pay rates within each specific grade level. The system ensures consistent pay across various government jobs, taking into account the job title, region, and experience of the employee.

2. How does the GS Pay Scale work?

GS Pay Scale consists of 15 pay grade levels and 10 steps within each level, which dictate an employee’s base pay. A federal employee is placed within a specific grade based on their job title and experience. As an employee gains experience or is promoted, they move up steps within their grade or advance to a higher pay grade altogether. The higher the grade and step, the higher the salary and benefits.

3. How is locality pay factored into the GS Pay Scale?

Locality pay is an adjustment to the base GS Pay Scale to account for the variation in costs of living in different areas within the United States. It is a percentage added to the basic pay, which varies depending on the employee’s work location. The adjusted salary ensures that federal employees receive comparable pay regardless of their geographic location.

4. How are promotions and raises determined under the GS Pay Scale?

Promotions and raises in the GS Pay Scale are mainly based on an employee’s performance, experience, and time in their position. Within-grade step increases typically occur after completing a specific period of service at the current step, while promotions to a higher pay grade involve applying for and being selected for a higher-graded position.

5. How often are GS Pay Scales updated?

GS Pay Scales are reviewed and updated periodically, usually on an annual basis. These updates may include cost-of-living adjustments or any changes to locality pay percentages. Any revisions or proposed changes are thoroughly evaluated by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) before being implemented.

Related VA Benefit Terms

  • GS Base Pay: The basic salary paid to employees according to their assigned General Schedule Pay Scale level and step.
  • GS Locality Pay: The additional pay granted to employees based on the cost of living and services in the specific geographic area where they work.
  • GS Pay Steps: Increments within each GS Pay Scale level, representing time-in-grade and performance-related increases in salary.
  • GS Pay Table: An annual resource published by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), providing information on GS pay rates for each level and step, including locality adjustments.
  • GS Promotion: Movement to a higher level on the General Schedule Pay Scale, typically resulting from increased job responsibilities or improved performance.

Sources for More Information

  • U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM): The official website for the United States Office of Personnel Management, which administers the General Schedule (GS) Pay Scale.
  • FedWeek: A comprehensive source that covers federal employment news, including the General Schedule (GS) Pay Scale.
  • GovernmentJobs.com: A job portal for professionals looking for employment in state, local, and federal government positions, including those on the General Schedule (GS) Pay Scale.
  • Government Executive: A news and analysis website that covers topics related to federal government management and operations, including the General Schedule (GS) Pay Scale.