Federal employees got some good news recently. On December 22, President Biden issued an executive order effectively confirming a pay raise for government workers. As of January 1, 2022, all General Schedule (GS) employees will see their pay increased by 2.2 percent. While Congress does have the authority to halt or reverse the increase, there is no indication that this will happen. The paychecks of federal workers will be a little bigger in 2022.
Locality adjustments are included with the increase. Those that live in areas like northern California and here in the Washington D.C. area could see their raise ultimately rise over 3 percent. Other parts of the country are estimated to settle around 2.4 percent by the time locality factors kick in.
The Big Picture of Government Salaries
The pay for GS employees follows a standard schedule, where a salary–-based on the 2021 schedule—might be as low as $19,738 and rise to a peak of $143,598. Keep in mind of course that the GS schedule does not cover political appointees (Cabinet officials, White House staff, etc.) who serve at the pleasure of the president. The General Schedule covers civil service white-collar jobs.
In the GS system, your salary is based on three factors: grade, step, and location.
The GS grade is the most basic factor in determining salary. There are 15 grades in the standard schedule. Where you begin depends on your previous education, experience, and the job you are taking. Someone straight out of high school doing a basic job might start at GS 1. Someone with an MBA and extensive experience that takes over a senior management job will land much higher up the grade scale. There are minimum standards for each grade within the schedule.
Within each grade are ten different steps. You move through these steps based on service time. Location is the final factor. The GS schedule classifies the country into 34 different locations, and salaries are structured based on the cost of living in each area.
How Do I Earn More Money?
In these inflationary times, government workers–like everyone else–may be looking for ways to move up the ladder and increase their pay. The step process is the natural way, so to speak. Your service time gives you a bump up in salary that accompanies general increases like the one just authorized. A move from one step to the next generally results in a pay increase of 2 to 3 percent. You can earn these by getting satisfactory scores on an annual performance review conducted by your supervisor.
Grade increases are more significant and are formally considered promotions. A change in grade comes with greater responsibilities, a significant increase in education (i.e., getting your master’s degree in a relevant field) or applying for a different job within the government and getting it.
Making the Most of Your Benefits
The benefits package is often considered the prime attraction in the federal government’s compensation package. Even if you’re not in a position to significantly increase your salary, you can investigate several benefits that can improve your quality of life.
A prime example of this is student loan repayment. You can get help on your loans for amounts up to $10,000 per year and $60,000 in total. Getting relief from the debt burden can far outstrip a pay increase in value.
Depending on what part of the government you work for, your agency may be able to offer flexible work schedules. These are helpful to anyone and certainly to parents, who may find the ability to get their kids to and from extracurricular activities more valuable than salary at this stage of their children’s lives. You may also qualify for childcare benefits.
On the other end of the life spectrum, some federal employees have responsibilities to care for their parents. Federal benefits include elder care.
In the meantime, those who represent federal workers are cognizant of the fact that this welcome 2022 pay increase should be a stepping stone for more. “It’s important to note that this pay raise was calculated…well before current inflation woes,” said Ken Thomas, President of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association. “It will be crucial…(to) adhere to the same method of determining increases in the next year so the 2023 pay raise reflects recent changes in…inflation.”
Pines Federal is dedicated to representing federal employees, from making certain they are treated fairly to helping them get the most from their compensation package. If you’re a government worker and need representation, call us at (888) 898-9902 or drop us a note here online.