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Salary Negotiation


Sabrina Thomas Springfield, VA

Good day. I am a military spouse and have never been employed with the Federal Government. I am up for selection for a position with the Federal Government. I have not received an offer letter yet; therefore, I do not know at this time what my salary will be exactly. However, if or when I do receive the offer letter, is salary negotiation something that should be considered? Furthermore, is salary negotiation a standard practice for Federal Government positions?

11 February 2020 3 replies Career Exploration



Lex Levin Ellicott City, MD


Yes, you absolutely can negotiate for a higher starting step with the Feds, if the initial offer is too low for you. The Feds usually offer the lowest starting salary on the GS table so this is quite common.

You will need to write a letter justifying your case for a higher starting step in response to the offer letter - list in bullet form all the reasons you believe you deserve a higher starting step (and tell them what step you do want).

The Feds will either say OK or Take It or Leave It, or they might counter your counter with a starting step lower than your proposal but higher than their initial offer.

People do this all the time, it's perfectly fine to do so and won't affect your job chances. Just be clear in your letter on the reasons for why you deserve a higher starting salary. Good luck!!


Michael Schindler Charlottesville, VA

Hi Sabrina,

Check OPM's page for the current General Schedule rates. This website has both annual and hourly charts.

Differences in pay vary by locality, so you'll have to find the schedule for where your job will be. For example, Washington DC has a 29.67% locality pay increase over the Base Schedule.

Within each pay grade, there are steps. These are bumps in pay achieved through seniority. They can also be given based on merit, but that is less prevalent. You are bumped a step every year for steps 1-3, every 2 years for steps 4-6, and every 3 years for 7-9. To your main question about salary negotiation. The government will state in your offer letter that you will start at GS-XX Step 1 (example, GS-12 Step 1). You absolutely can, and likely should, counter if you believe that you have the experience or current salary to make an argument for it.

If, for example, you have 20 years in the career field, you may be able to justify a higher starting step. I did this very thing when I received my offer letter. I wrote a Conditional acceptance of the job offer and explained why my current salary and 20 years experience rated a higher starting pay. I asked for a Step 7, and after a couple phone call discussions between myself, the hiring authority, and the personnel office, we settled at a Step 5.

I cannot say that you will get a step increase at the beginning, there is certainly no guarantee. During fiscally tough times, the Department of Defense has even had policies of no hire or no starting pay above base.

I hope this helps. Feel free to ask for more info, if needed.

Best regards,


Caitlin Hearle New York, NY

Hi Sabrina,

Good question! I'm not personally familiar with federal employment/salaries, but I did a bit of research and found the below articles that might be helpful.


The above article from MOAA seems to have some good insights.

I'd also recommend going to the community page, searching for advisors who work in "government" and perhaps direct messaging some folks who have federal jobs and might be able to speak to your question more directly.

I hope this helps!


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