To continue my series looking at US Federal Archaeologists I will take a look at ‘GS’ and what it means for Federal Archaeologists. The General Schedule (GS) is the pay scale system that the Federal Government uses for the majority of Federal Archaeologists, and majority of Federal employees. There are other pay scales, like the Senior Executive Service and the Executive Schedule pay scales for high-ranking federal employees, but almost all archaeologists, in the Federal Government are on the GS.
The General Schedule has 15 grades from GS-1 (lowest) to GS-15 (highest). Each government agency establishes the grade of each job based on the level of difficulty, responsibility, and qualifications required. The OPM states that, ‘Individuals with a high school diploma and no additional experience typically qualify for GS-2 positions; those with a Bachelor’s degree for GS-5 positions; and those with a Master’s degree for GS-9 positions.’ So when you see an advertisement for a Federal job and it says GS-blah you know they are talking about a pay level, and a little bit more (I will get to that).
Each grade has 10 step rates (steps 1-10) that are each worth approximately 3 percent of the employee’s salary. Steps are essentially incremental pay increases based on performance and length of service. Usually, one starts on the first step for each grade.
The length of service increases typically occur in the following order:
• steps 1-3 take a year each
• steps 4-6 take two years each
• steps 7-9 take three years each
It normally takes 18 years to advance from step 1 to step 10 within a single GS grade, assuming you remain in that single grade. However, employees can advance steps based on outstanding performance ratings, though only one per year.
GS grades do not just denote levels of pay but also levels of responsibility for the work undertaken. There is even a guidance laying out the responsibilities associated with 0193 archaeologists and the different GS grades.
“Regardless of the specialization, positions in this series are characterized, at the full performance levels (GS-9 and above), by the ability to apply professional knowledge and skills to the solution of problems generally concerned with nonroutine phases of archeological work.
Also included in this series are positions generally at the lower levels (GS-5 and GS-7) involving performance of archeological duties in a trainee or developmental capacity when the following factors are present: An actual objective of the work is to prepare the employees for full-professional archeological work of a higher level; there is a line of promotion to full-professional positions in the organization; assigned duties are of such a nature and variety as to constitute important elements of preparation for full-professional archeology work; assigned duties include or require the study of new developments in the technical literature in archaeology and related professional fields of work; the employees possess the qualifications which are consonant with professional scientific or technical training equivalent to that represented by graduation from an accredited college or university; and the supervision exercised over the positions is directed in part to the career development of the employees.”
Essentially, GS-9 and above positions are consider full professionals why those below are considered training positions. The implications of this can be seen in the distribution of the GS grades across both the 0193 and 0102 positions (see my last post on the difference between these two, 0193 archaeologists and 0102 SS Tech, and where the data below comes from). For example, for the 0193 positions most of the Archaeologists are a GS-9 or above (i.e. professional positions).
Interestingly there has been a decrease in GS-9, and below, positions since 1998 and an increase in GS-11 and GS-12 positions. A slight blip in N/A positions in the late 2000s might have been the result of different changes in pay scales during that time.
For 0102 archaeology-based jobs we see a very different picture with most of the positions being GS-5s or GS-7s. There are a few employed at higher grades and lower but overall these two grades dominate, between 70-80%, 0102 positions.
In the last few years there has been a switch between the percentage of GS-5 and GS-7 grades. A welcomed development as it means more of the seasonal archaeology staff for the Federal Government are being paid higher wages.
The combined spread of archaeologists shows a strong concentration in the GS 5, 7, 9, 11, and 12, grades with GS-11 having the highest current concentration. Around a quarter of all archaeology job are under the GS-11 grade.
What does this all mean if you are looking for a job? Well for one GS-7 and below are beginning jobs, so apply according to your skills. Also- don’t just narrow your search to 0193 positions most of the beginning training positions are actually labelled 0102 Social Science Aid or Technician.
Here is the data I used for those figures.
0102 Technician that are archaeologists-
|General Schedule and Related Grade – All||1,048||1024||1,073||1,158||1,180||1198||1,201||1,187||1,126||1,138||1,134||1,165||1,237||1,219||1,246|