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Federal salaries are based on an assigned classification, which is determined by your experience, education and the amount of time you've been with the federal government. Although you'll be assigned a classification that you can't typically change, these classifications come with salary ranges rather than specific salaries. The right negotiation strategy may help you boost your earnings.
Get Credit for Your Work
Your salary negotiations begin before you even get the job. Federal pay scales are based on your education and training, so it's key to seek credit for all the work you've done, even if it doesn't seem directly relevant to the job. For example, a law school graduate applying for a job that does not require a juris doctor should still put the degree on her resume. Likewise, if you've worked for the federal government before, make sure that you get credit for your previous time, as this can help you move up a bit in pay scale.
Review Pay Scales
Every government job has a specific pay scale assigned to it, and the pay scale can help you determine both whether you're qualified and what you'll make. Within each pay scale, there are several "steps" based on education, experience and training. Reviewing this information can help you determine both the high and low end of your earning potential. Looking up how much actual federal employees in your job make can also give you leverage. For example, if the only man in your division makes more than all the women, this could be a negotiating tool to help you assert that your current pay isn't fair.
Ask for a Higher Step
Ask to be classified according to a higher step within your pay scale. If your job is particularly demanding or you have to move, your boss may be willing to give you a higher step. Drawing attention to previous experience, success on a recent project, or how another employee's absence has influenced your workload can also help you get a higher step.
Capitalize on Perks
Many government jobs come with plenty of perks, including inexpensive insurance and tuition reimbursement. By taking advantage of these perks, you can increase your disposable income, gain access to more education, and receive more compensation than you receive with salary alone. Ask about specific job perks, then sign up for the programs so you can maximize your compensation.
Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.