How Much Will a Promotion Boost Your $alary?

If you get a federal grade increase in the federal GS pay scale, your new, higher salary will be computed according to the so-called “two-step rule.” Here’s how it works.

How the “Two Step Rule” Works

To predict where on the GS career ladder the two-step rule would position you, obtain from the Office of Personnel Management’s website (opm.gov) the federal salary table that covers your current job’s location. Then, find your current grade/step/salary on the table.

Next, identify the step/salary you would reach if you advanced two steps within your current grade; this higher step/salary would be your “two-step salary.” Next, scan the grade that is immediately above your current grade.  Finally find the step within that higher grade whose salary is immediately above your two-step salary; that would be your post-promotion step/salary.

For example, suppose you were a grade 14/step 8 in Washington, D.C. You could predict your salary after you were promoted under the two-step rule by:

  1. Obtaining the salary table covering Washington, D.C.
  2. Finding on the table the annual salary for grade 14/step 8, which is $132,368.
  3. Identifying your two-step salary, which would be $139,523.
  4. Finding the step in grade 15 whose salary is immediately above $139,523. This is step 5, which pays $143,079 — which would be your post-promotion step/salary.

How the Two-Step Rule Works from Step 10

If you’re currently at your grade’s highest step (step 10), you could predict your post-grade increase step/salary under the two-step rule by:

  1. Subtracting the salary for step 9 from that of step 10 in your current grade. This calculation reveals the salary difference between steps in your current grade.
  2. Doubling the number derived in the above step.
  3. Adding the sum calculated in the above step to your current salary to derive your two-step salary.
  4. Scanning the grade that is immediately above your current grade. Within that higher grade, find the step that has the salary immediately above your two-step salary; and that would be your post-promotion step/salary.

More Tips

After you receive a grade increase, the minimum waiting period for a within-grade step increase will depend on which step you arrived at after your promotion. For specifics about such waiting periods enter the term “within-grade increase” into the search window at opm.gov.

Mid-level and senior-level feds on the GS scale usually cannot skip grades as they advance. However, in some cases, grade 14s or equivalent may be admitted straight into Senior Executive Service certification programs or land SES jobs without ever serving in grade 15 jobs.

Agencies in the excepted service generally pay higher and have more flexibility in setting salaries than do competitive service agencies on the GS scale. (Find lists of Excepted Service agencies by “Googling” for them.) Therefore, if you move from a competitive service agency to an excepted service agency, you may receive a far higher pay increase than afforded under the two-step rule — particularly if you negotiate your salary.

By Lily Whiteman, author of How to Land a Top-Paying Federal Job and consulting career coach and seminar leader. Twitter: @Lilymwhiteman

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