The number of positions at the GS-10 grade under the federal government’s General Schedule job classification system is tiny compared with other grade levels, due in large part to a categorization quirk that has largely left the GS-10 out of many job tracks.
Of the over two million federal jobs, less than 0.6 percent are GS-10 positions, and such positions are a fraction of the number of GS-9 and GS-11 positions surrounding it, according to June 2019 Office of Personnel Management workforce data.
“The GS-10 grade level is used less frequently than other grade levels due to the normal grade patterns found in the General Schedule System,” an OPM spokesperson told Federal Times.
Positions in the General Schedule are categorized into occupational groups and series, which lump similar job types together, and those series generally fall into one of two categories: one-grade interval work, and two-grade interval work.
According to OPM guidance documents, one-grade interval jobs typically increase by a single GS-level and range from GS-2 through 8.
Two-grade interval work, on the other hand, has employees skipping every other grade, from a GS-5 to a GS-7 for example, until the employee reaches GS-11. At that point, the job progresses through job levels at a single-grade rate. The two-grade intervals most often progress along odd-numbered grade levels, though there is nothing preventing an agency from using even-numbered intervals.
GS-10 therefore tends to fall through the cracks in establishing most tracks for federal jobs, as the one-grade series do not normally reach as high a grade and the two-interval series tend to favor odd-numbered GS levels.
“Although the GS-10 grade level is unusual, federal agencies are not precluded from using the GS-10 grade level if the agency evaluation of work meets the GS-10 grade level and is appropriate,” the spokesperson said.
GS-10 positions are most often found in the Medical, Hospital, Dental and Public Health job series, though it is also used for General Administrative and Office Services, Engineering and Architecture, Legal and Kindred, and Investigation positions.
Some agencies do not use GS-10 positions at all, while others offer it for only a few dozen job types. The Department of Veterans Affairs houses the largest number of GS-10 positions, most of which are found in the legal and public health job series.
But the grade is also popular in U.S. military agencies, with the departments of the Navy, Army and Air Force each employing over a thousand GS-10 federal workers.
The Department of Justice also uses the grade with some regularity, with 2,702 GS-10 employees as of June 2019, most of whom are in the Investigation job series.
The federal government is currently hiring over 2,600 positions at GS-10, according to the USAJobs site, most of which are at the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Critics of the General Schedule have noted that the rigidity of the job classification system, combined with its dated job descriptions that are designed more for clerical work than for modern job types, have impeded federal hiring and promotion potential. Such critics have called for the federal government to do away with the system entirely and replace it with one that is more flexible and easier to understand.
But overhauling such a massive classification system is no small feat, and federal employee groups have been skeptical of the Trump administration’s proposed workforce reforms, due to proposed cuts to employee pay, benefits and union protections.
Jessie Bur covers federal IT and management.