Pay Systems

Civilian Pay Systems

Generally, the pay systems may be grouped into four categories:

The General Schedule;
The Senior Executive Service;
Prevailing rate systems; and
Other systems, schedules and authorities.

General Schedule

  • Statutory authority
    The General Schedule (GS) system, sometimes called the Classification Act system, is one of the three statutory systems covered by 5 U.S.C. &Sect; 5301 which establishes the policy of equal pay for substantially equal work and comparability of Federal pay rates with those in private enterprise. (The other two statutory systems are those for the Foreign Service and for the Department of Medicine and Surgery, Veterans Administration.) This system is prescribed by Chapters 51 and 53, Title 5, U.S. Code. The positions of General Schedule employees are classified in accordance with the procedures prescribed by Chapter 51, and a range of pay rates or steps is established for each of these grades through the procedures prescribed by Chapter 53. Revisions of General Schedule pay rates are promulgated by Executive orders and are subsequently published in salary tables.

Senior Executive Service

  • The Senior Executive Service (SES), 5 U.S.C. §5381 - §5385 covers many career and a limited number of noncareer managers as defined in 5 U.S.C. §3132(a)(2). These rates are adjusted by an amount determined by the President when comparability adjustments are made in General Schedule. The head of the agency determines, in accordance with criteria established by the Office of Personnel Management, at which of the rates of basic pay each appointee under his/her jurisdiction will be compensated (5 U.S.C. §5376).

Prevailing Rate Systems

These are the systems, by which the pay of employees in recognized trades or crafts, or other skilled mechanical crafts or in unskilled, semiskilled, or skilled manual labor occupations is fixed and adjusted from time to time as nearly as is consistent with the public interest in accordance with prevailing rates, usually on a locality basis.

  • Federal Wage Schedules
    The great majority of prevailing rate employees are paid under Federal wage schedules. These schedules are provided for in Subchapter IV, Chapter 53, Title 5, U.S.C., and are implemented by Part 532, Title 5, CFR and Office of Personnel Management Operating Manual 532-1.

  • Crews of vessels
    a. Generally the pay of officers and members of crews of vessels is fixed and adjusted from time to time as nearly as is consistent with the public interest in accordance with prevailing rates and practices in the maritime industry (5 U.S.C. §5348). However, pay of vessel crews of the Department of the Army Corps of Engineers, is fixed in accordance with regular prevailing rate procedures (5 U.S.C. §5348(c)).

Other Systems, Schedules, and Authorities

There are other systems, schedules, and authorities for fixing the pay of civilian employees, some of which are established by statute, and others which are established administratively (sometimes identified as an administratively determined "AD" pay plan) within guidelines or limitations established by statute.

Illustrative of these other systems are the following:

  • the Executive Schedule-5 U.S.C. Chapter 53, Subchapter 11;
  • the Foreign Service system - Title 22;
  • the system of the Department of Medicine and Surgery, Veterans Administration-38 U.S.C. Chapter 73;
  • the authority for fixing the compensation of experts and consultants contained in 5 U.S.C. §3109 and various other provisions of law; and
  • other pay fixing authorities identified in 5 U.S.C. §5102(c).

5 U.S.C. §5306 provides for the adjustment of administratively fixed pay and 5 U.S.C. §5373 sets a limitation on such pay.

Content last reviewed: 5/30/2006-RJM

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This page was last revised: 12/5/2011