Federal law enforcement salaries are organized by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), which provides policy leadership for the General Schedule (GS), the Law Enforcement Officer (LEO) Pay Schedule, and the executive and senior-level employee pay tables.
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General Schedule Classification
The General Schedule (GS) classification and pay system covers the majority of white-collar federal employees within professional, administrative, technical and clerical positions. This worldwide system covers more than 1.5 million employees and more than 400 occupations.
The GS has 15 grades, with GS-1 being the lowest and GS-15 being the highest. It is the responsibility of the individual federal agencies to classify the grade of each job based on the qualifications, responsibility, and difficulty associated with it. Generally, individuals who possess a high school diploma with no additional experience or education qualify at the GS-2 position. Individuals with a bachelor’s degree qualify for the GS-5 position, and those with a master’s degree qualify for the GS-9 position.
Within each position (grade) are 10 steps, with each step being worth about 3 percent of the employee’s salary. The steps are designed to award individuals with additional performance and longevity higher pay within a specific pay grade. If an employee remains in a single GS grade, it would take 18 years to advance from Step 1 to Step 10. However, employees who demonstrate outstanding performance ratings may achieve step increases at a rate of one per year (maximum). New employees are usually always hired at Step 1 of the applicable GS grade level.
In addition to an employee’s base salary, locality pay may be considered, depending on the location of the assignment or post. Locality pay is paid when work is conducted in specific metropolitan areas, as well as Alaska and Hawaii. The Bureau of Labor Statistics currently conducts locality pay surveys for 34 separate geographical areas.
The GS base pay schedule is adjusted on January of each year according to nationwide changes regarding cost of living and the salaries of private industry workers. The GS pay schedule, as of 2014, was:
Law Enforcement Officer (LEO) Pay Schedule
The Law Enforcement Officer (LEO) Pay Schedule organizes federal law enforcement salaries to reflect the standard wages for law enforcement officers in the private sector. In addition to the LEO Pay Schedule, federal law enforcement officers may receive locality pay, based on the location of their post or assignment, as well as availability pay. Availability pay is a type of premium pay for criminal investigators.
Availability pay is typically offered to criminal investigators because the nature of the work often requires them to work a number of “unscheduled duty” hours. Criminal investigators eligible for availability pay must be properly classified in the GS-1811 (criminal investigations) and GS-1812 (game law enforcement) positions. Availability pay is fixed at 25 percent of the criminal investigator’s base rate of pay.
The LEO pay schedule, as of 2014, is:
Note: It is typical for some agencies to also utilize both the GS and the LEO pay schedules. For example, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) utilizes the GS to determine industry operations investigator salaries and the LEO pay schedule for ATF special agent salaries.
Although the GS and LEO pay schedules outline the requirements for each level, individual law enforcement agencies set the specific requirements regarding experience and education.
Other Federal Law Enforcement Pay Schedules
Although the majority of federal law enforcement agencies utilize the GS or GL pay schedules, the Coast Guard utilizes the military pay schedule, and the Transportation Security Administration utilizes the SV grading system when determining salaries for the officers of the Federal Air Marshals and its criminal investigators. The TSA salary system has higher pay ranges than the GS system.
The SV grading system, as of 2014, was:
Other federal law enforcement officers not covered by the standard LEO pay schedule include:
Capitol Police: The salary schedule for the Capitol Police is maintained by the Capitol Police Board. Salaries for Capitol Police are significantly higher than GS police officers and higher than the schedules for Park Police officers and the Secret Service’s uniformed division.
Judicial Branch: The Supreme Court Police nearly identical to Capitol Police. The Supreme Court Police are not covered under the definition of LEO in federal retirement laws and are therefore not included in the LEO pay schedule.
United States Postal Service: The U.S. Postal Service has a separate pay authority for its Office of Inspector General, which is comparable to criminal investigators under the GS pay schedule.
United States Secret Service Uniformed Division and U.S. Park Police: The pay system for both USSSUD and Park Police officers is higher than GS police officers, with the pay range for these officers ranging from $42,129 to $75,864, compared with GS police officers at the most common GS-6 grade ranging between $37,839 and $49,196.
Additional law enforcement personnel not covered by standard federal pay systems include:
- Internal Revenue Service criminal investigator senior managers
- Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation criminal investigators
- Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) special agents (covered by the Foreign Service pay system)
- U.S. Postal Service Police security force personnel
- Bureau of Engraving and Printing and U.S. Mint police officers
- Defense Protective Service (DPS) police (Secretary of Defense administers a special pay system for police officers who protect the Pentagon and surrounding areas.)
- National Security Agency (NSA) Police (covered by an NSA-administered pay plan)
- Government Printing Office (GPO) police
- National Zoological Park police officers