Federal government wages are based on salary scales, and the predominant government pay scale is referred to as the General Schedule, or GS, grades GS-1 through GS-15. Based on the 2018 U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) government pay scale tables, the federal employee salaries for those at the GS-14 level start at $89,370 at Step 1 of the GS-14 level and based on GS step increases, rise to $116,181 at Step 10. The GS pay scale also varies according to location. Depending on where they are on the GS pay scale – meaning GS grade and step – federal employees in large metropolitan areas may earn more than their counterparts in smaller cities throughout the U.S.
What Is a GS-14 Employee?
An employee who is classified as a GS-14 typically has supervisory authority, meaning she has direct reports who might be GS-1s through GS-13s. The supervisory level in the federal government typically begins at the GS-13 grade, so someone at a GS-14 pay scale is likely an experienced manager who functions as an associate or assistant director within the government agency. There are two levels above the GS-14: GS-15 and Senior Executive Service (SES). Political appointees are considered a level above SES in terms of ranking within the agency. However, they are usually paid at the SES level unless their credentials or qualifications justify special pay rates as can occur with medical doctors and judges.
GS Step Increases
The nearly $30,000 range between GS-14 Step 1 and GS-14 Step 10 is because of within-grade (GS grade) step increases. Every GS grade in the federal government has 10 steps. When an employee is promoted from one step to the next, the within-grade step increase comes with more money. Employees are promoted based on satisfactory job performance; it doesn't have to be outstanding. Provided a federal employee is performing her job duties satisfactorily, she is eligible for a GS step increase.
Step increases may be awarded annually for Step 1 through Step 4. However, step increases from Step 4 through Step 6 require two years of employment in the previous step. Increases for Step 7 through Step 10 require three years of service in the previous step. For example, a GS-14 Step 4 employee must have two years of what the government calls creditable service in Step 4 before she can become a GS-14 Step 5 employee. A GS-14 Step 9 employee must have three years of creditable service in Step 9 before she is eligible for promotion to GS-14 Step 10. In some cases, federal employees who demonstrate stellar performance can receive quality step increases, but those are limited to one GS step increase per year.
GS Pay Scale Classification and Basis
The federal government likely has the most structured pay scales of any employer, and the GS classification covers the vast majority of white-collar employees. Approximately 1.5 million employees across the world, including employees deployed to foreign countries, are classified under the GS pay scale in a wide range of positions that are professional, technical, administrative or clerical. Qualifications for the GS pay scale range from high school diploma, which is entry level for GS-1 through GS-4, to GS-9 positions that may require an advanced degree, such as a master's degree or MBA.