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General Schedule (GS) Steps


The General Schedule (GS) Steps refer to the incremental pay raises within a specific GS grade in the federal employee compensation system. These steps, numbered 1-10, represent specific pay levels within a grade and are earned based on performance, tenure, or successful completion of training programs. GS Steps serve as a way to reward and promote employees over time while working in a federal government position.

Key Takeaways

  1. The General Schedule (GS) Steps are a series of progressive pay raises within a given GS grade that reward federal employees for their experience, time in service, and satisfactory job performance.
  2. There are 10 steps within each GS grade, and eligible employees generally advance one step at a time, usually on an annual basis, provided they meet necessary requirements and demonstrate good performance.
  3. GS Steps play a significant role in the overall federal pay system, as they help ensure equitable and competitive compensation for employees within the same grade and contribute to the retention and motivation of the workforce.


The General Schedule (GS) Steps term is critical in understanding VA benefits because it directly affects the salary and career progression of employees within the federal government, including those working for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

It refers to the system that determines pay scale and incremental advancements based on years of service and performance.

By comprehending the GS Steps, VA employees can better anticipate their income growth and promotion opportunities within the organization, therefore playing a crucial role in retaining a skilled and motivated workforce dedicated to serving veterans and their families effectively.


The General Schedule (GS) Steps system is a pivotal instrument designed to serve a dual purpose, working as a guideline for structuring salaries and determining career progression of federal employees, including those in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). This purposeful framework not only ensures uniformity and transparency in salaries of federal employees across different departments, but also fosters a sense of job satisfaction among workers through a clear career progression path. By establishing structured increments anchored on various factors such as experience, competencies, and performance, the GS Steps model contributes to the establishment of a motivated workforce that ultimately elevates the quality of services provided to veterans and their families.

VA benefits administered by federal employees play a vital role in the lives of millions of veterans, and as such, attracting and retaining skilled and committed employees in this sector is of utmost importance. The GS Steps system facilitates career development by incentivizing employees to advance through ten steps of progression within their respective pay grades.

As their experience and knowledge grow, they are rewarded accordingly through this advancement system, promoting a dedicated and knowledgeable workforce. Furthermore, the framework also serves as a useful tool for managers in making informed personnel decisions pertaining to promotions, compensation adjustments, and other critical aspects of employee management.

This translates into an overall efficient and effective administration within the VA system, further ensuring that veterans receive the support and resources they deserve.

Examples of General Schedule (GS) Steps

The General Schedule (GS) steps, also known as “within-grade increases” or “step increases,” are a way to reward federal employees by moving them through the steps of their assigned grade level. These within-grade increases recognize employees for their performance and length of service. Here are three real-world examples:Example 1: An employee is hired as a Veteran Service Representative (VSR) in the Department of Veterans Affairs. They are initially assigned to a GS-7 level position. After satisfactory performance and completion of a one-year waiting period, the employee is eligible for a step increase to move to GS-7, Step

This step increase would result in a higher salary for the employee.Example 2: A nurse working for the VA Medical Center is currently a GS-9, Step 3 employee. After demonstrating commendable performance for two years in their current position, they become eligible for a step increase to GS-9, Step

The nurse’s immediate supervisor submits a positive performance appraisal, and the employee receives their step increase with a salary increase.Example 3: A finance specialist at the Department of Veterans Affairs is a GS-12, Step 5 employee. This employee has worked in the federal government for 10 years and has received multiple step increases during their career. They are currently waiting for the required three-year waiting period to be eligible for their next step increase, which will move them to GS-12, Step 6 once they meet the required performance standards.

FAQ – General Schedule (GS) Steps

1. What are General Schedule (GS) Steps?

General Schedule (GS) Steps are the pay rates within each grade of the General Schedule classification and pay system. They represent the levels of pay within each grade, with higher steps correlating to higher pay rates.

2. How many steps are there in the General Schedule pay system?

There are 10 steps within each General Schedule (GS) grade. These steps progress from Step 1 to Step 10, with Step 1 being the lowest pay rate and Step 10 being the highest pay rate within each grade.

3. How do employees move up in steps within the General Schedule pay system?

Employees can move up in steps via step increases, which are based on satisfactory job performance, completing a specific period of service, or obtaining a promotion to a higher grade level.

4. How long does it take for an employee to advance to the next step in the General Schedule pay system?

The waiting period to advance to the next step in the General Schedule pay system varies depending on the employee’s current step. The waiting periods are as follows:

  • Steps 1 to 2: 1 year
  • Steps 2 to 3: 1 year
  • Steps 3 to 4: 1 year
  • Steps 4 to 5: 2 years
  • Steps 5 to 6: 2 years
  • Steps 6 to 7: 2 years
  • Steps 7 to 8: 3 years
  • Steps 8 to 9: 3 years
  • Steps 9 to 10: 3 years

5. Are there other factors that affect an employee’s GS step?

Yes, factors such as job performance, education, and specialized experience can influence an employee’s General Schedule step. For example, employees with higher education levels might start at a higher step when entering federal service.

6. Can an employee be promoted to a higher GS grade without waiting for the required waiting periods for step increases?

Yes, employees can be promoted to a higher GS grade without waiting for the required waiting periods for step increases if they receive a promotion to a higher grade level based on their job performance or due to a vacancy in a higher grade level position.

Related VA Benefit Terms

  • GS Pay Scale
  • GS Step Increases
  • GS Locality Pay Adjustments
  • GS Promotion Potential
  • GS Position Classification Standards

Sources for More Information

  • Office of Personnel Management (OPM): The official website for OPM, which is the governing body responsible for the General Schedule system.
  • Fedweek: The largest provider of news, analysis, and compliance information to the federal education and healthcare community, often covering GS pay updates and changes.
  • GovLoop: A popular online community for government employees that often discusses and shares information about GS steps and other federal employee topics.
  • FederalPay.org: A government pay resource that frequently provides detailed information about GS steps, Locality Pay, and other federal pay structures.