How Much Do Federal Employees Make?

average salary of federal employees

Jobs with the federal government are highly sought after—and for good reason. Those who are employed by the federal government get job security, top-tier health benefits, an outstanding retirement package, travel opportunities, unique training programs, and the ability to work nationwide or even overseas.

On top of all of that, federal jobs offer a paycheck that is at least on par with and often exceeds what you can make in the private sector. Let’s look at the financial compensation a federal worker can expect to receive.

What is a Federal Workers’ Salary? 

The average annual salary for a full-time federal government employee is currently above $90,000. Compare this to an average private sector employee who earns an average of $74,000 annually, according to the United States Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Approximately 70% of the federal workforce is paid under the General Schedule (GS) pay scale. The GS pay scale has 15 grades of pay for civilian workers. Within those grades are 10 steps that represent pay increases based on worker’s length of service and how well they perform in their respective jobs.

Most newly hired federal employees start at the first step of any grade they are hired into. However, there are exceptions to this rule if the position in question is hard to fill or requires the applicant to have a specialized skill set. For example, medical professionals and engineers are usually hired at step 3 or 4 within their respective grade.

As of January 2022, employees hired at grade one, step one of the GS pay scale will receive an annual base salary of $20,172. That’s the lowest possible salary on the GS pay scale. By comparison, those federal employees at the highest end of the GS pay scale—grade 15, step 10— will earn just under $147,000 per year. And, just for comparison, if a worker were in a grade eight, step 6 role, they’d earn approximately $50,000 annually.

Those numbers give you a basic idea of what types of salaries are offered to federal employees. Check out this chart to view the current salaries for all 15 grades and 10 steps.

What is Locality Pay?

average salary of federal employees

As we all know, the cost of living and labor market conditions vary from state to state and region to region. In order to ensure all federal workers are compensated fairly, locality pay is added to most paychecks.

The amount of locality pay a worker receives is tied to average private sector wages, cost of living, and other factors that are relevant to a specific geographic area. The maximum amount of locality pay a federal worker can receive as of 2022 is 26% above base salary. 

Every January, locality pay and GS pay is adjusted to ensure it keeps pace with the rate of private sector pay.

Do Federal Workers Get Sick Days and Vacation Days? 

All federal workers receive the following vacation days:

  • 13 days of paid vacation per year for the first 36 months of employment
  • 20 days of paid vacation per year from year 4 to year 15 of employment
  • 26 days of paid vacation per year from year 15 forward

In addition, workers accrue 13 paid sick days each year. Any unused days from one year are carried to the next. It’s not uncommon for federal workers to accrue more sick days that they’ll ever use. The unused sick days can be exchanged for an increase in a federal worker’s annuity payment upon retirement.

Finally, all federal workers receive these 11 paid holidays:

  • New Year’s Day
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday
  • Washington’s Birthday
  • Memorial Day
  • Independence Day
  • Juneteenth
  • Labor Day
  • Columbus Day
  • Veterans Day
  • Thanksgiving Day
  • Christmas Day


Do Federal Workers Receive Health Benefits?

average salary of federal employees

Medical insurance plans are available to all federal employees. The Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) plan is known for providing excellent coverage. There are a variety of benefit programs employees can choose from. Both the employee and the employer pay for the coverage.

Federal employees also receive comprehensive dental and vision care under the Federal Employees Dental & Vision Insurance Program (FEDVIP). Again, this coverage is competitively priced and offers a wide range of options depending on the level of care a person needs.

Do Federal Workers Receive Retirement Benefits? 

Federal employees receive retirement benefits through the Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS).  Employees who are covered by FERS get their retirement income from three main sources:

  1. The Basic Benefit Plan: An annuity payout that equals the average of your three highest annual salaries. Usually, this is the last three years of employment.
  2. Social Security: These are the same benefits everyone who pays into the Social Security System during their working years are entitled to receive.
  3. Thrift Savings Plan: This is similar to 401(k) plans you see most often in the private sector. Federal workers contribute a percentage of their paycheck to their TSP account. Their employer matches their contributions up to a certain percentage. The bulk of a federal workers’ retirement income will come from the TSP.


Get a Federal Job Today 

When you consider the salary and benefits, you quickly realize that federal employees receive a competitive compensation package. 

If you’re interested in the salary and benefits that come with a federal job, then contact Empire Resume today. We are experts in creating resumes that help both military Veterans and civilians find their dream jobs within the federal government.

Additionally, our constantly updated blog page offers plenty of advice and guidance on interviewing, resume writing, networking, and more.

Dr. Phillip Gold is President/CEO of Empire Resume and has vast experience writing resumes for both professionals and servicemembers transitioning from the military into civilian roles. He served as a Captain in the U.S. Air Force and was responsible for leading nuclear missile security. Phillip is a Certified Professional Resume Writer and holds a BA in Communications from The Ohio State University, an MS in Instructional Technology, an MBA in Finance, and a PhD in Finance.

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