Like most federal workers, USDA Forest Service employees are paid on the General Schedule (GS) pay plan. Blue collar employees such as heavy equipment operators, are paid on the Wage Grade (WG) pay scale. Each position is assigned a grade, and pay is set between steps 1 and 10, with step 10 the highest. Employees with good performance remaining in a grade advance to higher steps over time.
Applicant qualifications are evaluated against requirements for positions through education, work experience, or a combination of both.
- Starting pay for college graduates with no other creditable experience are usually hired at the GS-5 grade level. Outstanding academic credentials may allow hiring at the GS-7 level if the job advertises this feature.
- Master's degree holders may be hired starting at the GS-9 level.
- PhD degree holders are often hired starting at the GS-11 level.
Pay as a Federal Employee
Federal salary determinations can be complex. For GS positions, the Federal government has an annual nationwide pay foundation, which serves as a basic structure from which all other pay factors are built upon. Your actual pay level adjusts upward based on the following factors:
- Geographic location
- Locality pay
- If the position is deemed a shortage occupation (i.e., difficult to hire) or other relevant factors (e.g., Information Technology positions are on a special pay scale).
Working for the USDA Forest Service
This is where longevity and good work really add up. Factors that can actively increase your pay every year as a Federal employee include:
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- Comparability pay increases (% varies year to year);
- Within grade increases (with good performance, 2% guaranteed each year for the first three years; then at two year intervals for the next 3 years, and so on);
- Some types of performance awards can add to pay (i.e., quality step increases)
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