How do I increase my Grade or Step? - FederalPay.org
For the General Schedule (GS), Federal Wage System (FWS) and the Law Enforcement Office (LEO) Schedule pay is based on grade and step.
Grade increases are considered promotions and are linked to title, job responsibilities, education and experience. Pay steps are based on length of service within your current grade. Step increases are raises but are not considered promotions. Once you have worked the required length of time within the current grade and as long as you have received a satisfactory score on your performance review, you will automatically receive a step increase. Required length of service ranges from 6 months to 3 years depending on pay scale and current step.
There are 10 steps in each of the GS and LEO grades. There are only 5 steps for the FWS schedule. For GS and LEO, the first three step increases occur every year, the next three step increases occur every two years, and the final three step increases occur every three years. It takes 18 years to advance to the step 10. For the FWS schedule, the first step occurs after 6 months, the second step increase occurs after 18 months and the final two step increases occur after two years.
Most employees start at step 1 but under some conditions you may be given a higher step to start. The percentage raise between steps depends on where you are in the pay scale. Step increase generally equate to 2 or 3 percent raise.
If you get a grade increase your step increase time restarts and your step will usually be two steps lower in your new grade. For instance, if you are a GS-11, Step 7 and receive a promotion to GS-12 you will still be at step 5 and will have to wait two years to receive a step increase, regardless of how long you were in the GS-11, Step 7 position. Your salary at the new grade will always be higher than it was at the lower grade even though your step may now be lower. When increasing grade, your step will be lowered in the new grade so that your net raise is equal to two step increases within your old grade.
Escalation of duties, additional education or a change in position can also qualify an individual for a grade increase Grade increases may be guaranteed when a person is hired. As long as the employee receives a satisfactory review they will a promotion automatically. Also, as an employee gains experience in their current position they may qualify for a grade increase. Employees may advance 1 or 2 grades per year for their first 2 or 3 years based on position and job performance, before beginning to move laterally up the 10 pay steps. The time frame for advancement may vary between organizations.
Promotions up to GS-12 and below can be given automatically or at management’s discretion. Below GS-12 is considered non-competitive. At GS-13 and above, positions are considered competitive and must be listed publicly on USAJobs.gov for any qualified U.S. citizen or current federal employee to apply. The only way to receive a GS-13 or above position is to apply for a competitive position.
A grade increase equates to approximately a 10 percent raise, however this varies based on step and grade.
Once an employee has reached the highest grade within their pay schedule they may encounter a cap on their pay. GS and LEO pay is capped at SES Level IV yearly salary.
In addition to grade and step increase, an entire pay schedule may be increased by a certain percentage each year. The yearly increases are designed to keep up with inflation and growing costs of living. The entire pay scale increases are based on the president’s discretion. For years, the pay scales received regular increases of between 1 and 3 percent. More recently the federal government has cut back on these yearly raises. From 2010 to 2013 the pay scales were frozen. In 2014, 2015, and 2016 the pay scales were increased by only 1 percent each year.
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