REVIEWING AND NEGOTIATING YOUR FEDERAL JOB OFFER

You received an offer—well done! Now you need to weigh your interest in the position and evaluate the complete job offer. Many individuals think it is hard to negotiate employment terms with the Federal government. It is not entirely impossible. It is unlikely that you will be able to negotiate your grade level, but you can potentially negotiate the steps within your grade. More importantly, you should consider all aspects of your compensation package. Items to discuss when offered a Federal job:

Grade and step level

Pay is a critical factor to consider as you pursue Federal employment. While government pay may not compare with what some companies may offer, many government jobs offer a competitive salary with rapid promotion potential as well as benefits.
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Pay and the General Schedule (GS)

Pay is a critical factor to consider as you pursue federal employment. While government pay may not compare with what some companies may offer, many government jobs offer a competitive salary with rapid promotion potential as well as benefits.

Federal employees are compensated according to government-regulated pay scales. More than 70 percent of federal employees are paid according to the most common pay scale, the General Schedule (GS), but there are a variety of alternative pay schedules as well.

Photo of dollar bills

THE GENERAL SCHEDULE

The General Schedule (GS) is the predominant pay scale for federal employees, especially employees in professional, technical, administrative or clerical positions. The system consists of 15 grades, from GS-1, the lowest level, to GS-15, the highest level. There are also 10 steps within each grade. The grade level assigned to a position determines the pay level for that job.

Grade levels

GS-3 or GS-4: Typically internships or student jobs

GS-5 to GS-7: Most entry-level positions

GS-8 to GS-12: Mid-level positions

GS-13 to GS-15: Top-level supervisory positions

Positions beyond GS-15 are part of the Senior Executive Service

Agencies can advertise and fill jobs at whatever grade level they think appropriate. You can use your experience and education to qualify for a higher grade, whether or not you’ve worked in the government before. Once you are hired, you’ll receive a raise every time you are promoted across steps and grades. Federal employees often move up one step per year......Read More

Health benefit options

The government provides its employees with a first-class benefits package. In fact, studies conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics reveal that the gap concerning benefits between the private and public sectors has been growing-in favor of the public sector.
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Federal health, retirement and other benefits

The government provides its employees with a first-class benefits package. In fact, studies conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics reveal that the gap concerning benefits between the private and public sectors has been growing-in favor of the public sector.

Once you've been selected to be a part of the government team, you'll have access to first-class health care (and other) benefits.

HEALTH CARE BENEFITS

Health insurance

Through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP), federal employees, retirees, and their families enjoy the widest selection of health insurance plans in the country. More than 200 plans participate in the program, so you can choose the plan that best fits your individual healthcare needs.

Specific benefits vary by plan, but no plan requires a waiting period or a medical exam to enroll. There are no restrictions based on age or physical condition, and the program provides guaranteed protection that cannot be canceled by the health plan.

Your federal agency will cover the majority of the health care costs, usually between 70 and 75 percent.

Flexible spending accounts

A flexible spending account allows you to put aside some of your pre-tax salary to pay for common out-of-pocket expenses. The federal government offers a Health Care Flexible Spending Account of up to $5,000 annually. You can use it to pay for any eligible health care expenses not covered by the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, such as over-the-counter medications or plan premiums.

RETIREMENT BENEFITS

The government provides all employees with a comprehensive retirement benefits package named the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS). This system includes three different contributions to your retirement.

Basic Benefit Plan

Each pay period you’ll pay a small amount to the Basic Benefit Plan and your agency will pay one percent of your annual pay. This plan also provides for long-term disability and survivor benefits for your spouse and children. You must have worked at least five years in the federal government to receive retirement benefits from the Basic Benefit Plan.

Thrift Savings Plan

The Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) offers benefits similar to a traditional 401(k) plan. Whether or not you choose to contribute to this account, your agency will contribute one percent of your salary. They will also match a certain amount of what you personally contribute each pay period, up to five percent of your salary......Read More

Retirement plan (called FERS)

The government provides its employees with a first-class benefits package. In fact, studies conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics reveal that the gap concerning benefits between the private and public sectors has been growing-in favor of the public sector.
READ MORE

Life insurance

The Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance (FEGLI) program is the largest group life insurance program in the world. It covers over 4 million current and retired federal employees and their families.

Unless you waive coverage, almost all full and part-time federal employees are automatically enrolled in a life insurance plan equal to their salaries. As with health insurance, employees do not have to prove insurability, so no physical is required.

Employee Assistance Programs

All federal agencies offer Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) — a free, voluntary service to help employees address issues that negatively affect their job performance and personal health. Staffed by professional counselors, EAPs help employees overcome problems like alcohol and drug abuse, work and family pressures, and job stress.

Child and dependent care

Child and dependent care: There are many different programs available to federal employees for child and/or dependent care. It’s best to talk to the human resources representatives at your particular agency to find out what specific child or elder care is available in your workplace.......Read More

Student loan repayment

The Federal government offers assistance with educational loans through two programs: the federal student loan repayment program and the public service loan forgiveness program.
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Student loan repayment and forgiveness

The federal government offers assistance with educational loans through two programs: the federal student loan repayment program and the public service loan forgiveness program.

Federal Student Loan Repayment program

Through the Federal Student Loan Repayment program, participating agencies may award $10,000 a year, up to a total of $60,000, towards the payment of your student loans. In return, you have to work at that agency for at least 3 years.

All 15 cabinet-level departments participate in the program, plus more than 20 independent agencies. Many agencies specify the types of degrees necessary to qualify for the program and will tailor their plans to recruit highly qualified candidates for hard-to-fill positions.

The most common educational loans which qualify for repayment include:

  • Federal Family Education Loans (such as subsidized and unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loans)
  • Direct Loans, such as the Direct PLUS Loan

If you are interested in applying, contact an individual agency to find out more about their specific loan repayment program. Many agencies also include information about loan repayment on their websites.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness program

Through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, the government will forgive the remaining balance on your eligible student loans if you have worked in a public service job for at least 10 years......Read More

Professional development

Tuition benefit

Recruitment bonuses

titleRelocation expenses

Start date (also called an EOD for “entrance on duty”)

Flexible schedules and telework policies

Alternative Work Schedules allow you to balance work and personal responsibilities. There are two main types of Alternative Work Schedules: Flexible Work Schedules and Compressed Work Schedules.
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Leave, holidays and flexible work arrangements

LEAVE AND HOLIDAYS

The federal government offers generous vacation, sick leave and holiday policies.

Vacation

When you first enter the federal workforce, you will receive 13 days of paid vacation per year, and your number of vacation days increases with your length of service. You can also carry over up to 30 days of vacation time for the following year.

Length of service

Vacation days per year

1 to 3 years

13 days

3 to 15 years

20 days

15 or more years 26 days

Sick leave

Federal employees accumulate 13 days of paid sick leave each year regardless of length of service. You are not limited to the amount of sick leave that can add up over time. Sick leave can count for any of your own medical needs, if you need to take care of anyone in your family, are having a child or are going through an adoption process......Read More

You received an offer—well done! Now you need to weigh your interest in the position and evaluate the complete job offer.

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