Houston Gs Pay Scale: A Detailed Guide

With a population of over 2 million people, Houston is the largest city in Texas and the fourth largest city in the United States. As a major metropolitan area, Houston has a large presence of federal government workers across various agencies.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: The General Schedule (GS) pay scale used by the federal government has 15 grade levels, with 10 steps within each grade. In the Houston area, the base GS salary ranges from $22,792 (GS-1) to $166,500 (GS-15).

Locality pay is an additional percentage added to account for higher costs of living. In the Houston area, the locality pay rate is currently 29.32%.

In this comprehensive guide, we will break down exactly how the GS pay scale works in Houston, including how locality pay is calculated, the annual pay raise, and how you advance through the GS grades and steps. We’ll also look at sample salary ranges for popular occupations.

Whether you’re a current or prospective federal employee in Houston, this guide will help you understand your earning potential.

Understanding the General Schedule (GS) Pay System

The General Schedule (GS) pay system is a widely used pay scale in the United States federal government. It is used to determine the salaries of approximately 70% of federal civilian employees. Understanding how the GS pay system works is essential for those who are considering a career in the federal government or are already federal employees.

The 15 grade levels (GS-1 to GS-15)

The GS pay scale consists of 15 grade levels, ranging from GS-1 to GS-15. Each grade level represents a different level of responsibility and skill. The higher the grade level, the higher the salary. For example, GS-1 is typically an entry-level position, while GS-15 is reserved for top-level executives and high-ranking officials.

It’s important to note that each grade level has multiple steps, which represent incremental increases in salary as employees gain experience and meet certain performance criteria.

The 10 steps within each grade

Within each grade level, there are 10 steps. These steps represent increases in salary based on an employee’s length of service and performance. As an employee progresses through the steps, their salary increases accordingly.

The exact amount of the increase varies based on the locality and current pay guidelines.

For example, a GS-5 employee may start at Step 1 and receive a higher salary after one year of service, at Step 2. Similarly, a GS-10 employee may start at Step 1 and progress to Step 10 over the course of their career.

How the GS scale determines a federal employee’s base salary

The GS scale determines a federal employee’s base salary by taking into account their grade level and step. The grade level represents the level of responsibility and skill required for the position, while the step represents the employee’s length of service and performance.

The base salary is determined by finding the intersection of the employee’s grade level and step on the GS pay scale. This base salary can then be adjusted based on locality pay, which accounts for the cost of living in different areas of the country.

The GS scale is designed to provide fair and consistent compensation for federal employees based on their qualifications and experience. It ensures that employees are compensated appropriately for their work and encourages career progression within the federal government.

For more information about the GS pay scale and how it is calculated, you can visit the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) website.

Locality Pay in Houston

What is locality pay?

Locality pay is a type of additional compensation that is provided to federal employees based on the cost of living in a specific geographic area. This additional pay is designed to help offset the higher expenses associated with living in certain cities or regions.

The General Schedule (GS) pay scale, which is used to determine the salaries of most federal employees, includes a base pay rate as well as an adjustment for locality pay.

How locality pay percentages are determined

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is responsible for determining the locality pay rates for different areas across the United States. These rates are based on surveys and analyses conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to assess the cost of living in various cities and regions.

Factors such as housing, transportation, and other essential goods and services are taken into account to determine the appropriate locality pay percentage for each area.

Current locality pay rate for Houston area (29.32%)

As of 2021, the locality pay rate for federal employees in the Houston area is set at 29.32%. This means that federal employees working in Houston receive an additional 29.32% on top of their base pay to account for the higher cost of living in the city.

This locality pay rate is subject to change each year based on the OPM’s evaluation of the cost of living in Houston.

For more information on the current locality pay rates for different areas, you can visit the OPM website.

Calculating a GS Salary in Houston

When it comes to determining a GS salary in Houston, there are a few factors to consider. The General Schedule (GS) pay scale is used to determine the salaries of federal employees, and it consists of 15 different pay grades.

Each pay grade has ten steps, and the salary for each step increases as you move up the pay scale.

Adding base GS salary and locality pay

One important factor to consider when calculating a GS salary in Houston is locality pay. Locality pay is an adjustment made to the base GS salary to account for the cost of living in a specific area. Houston is part of the “Rest of U.S.” locality pay area, which means that the locality pay rate for Houston is the same as the rest of the country.

To calculate your GS salary in Houston, you will need to determine your base GS salary based on your pay grade and step. Then, you will add the applicable locality pay percentage to your base salary. You can find the current GS pay scale and locality pay rates on the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) website.

Annual pay raise adjustments

It’s also important to note that GS salaries are subject to annual pay raise adjustments. These adjustments are based on changes in the Employment Cost Index (ECI), which measures the change in the cost of labor over time.

The amount of the annual pay raise can vary each year, so it’s important to stay up to date with the latest information from the OPM.

Sample salary calculations for popular jobs

Here are some sample salary calculations for popular GS jobs in Houston:

Job Title Pay Grade Step Base Salary Locality Pay Total Salary
Administrative Assistant GS-7 Step 1 $45,627 19.17% $54,379
IT Specialist GS-11 Step 5 $68,036 19.17% $81,078
Human Resources Manager GS-14 Step 3 $107,807 19.17% $128,517

Keep in mind that these are just sample calculations and actual salaries may vary depending on factors such as experience and qualifications. For more accurate salary information, you can use the FederalPay.org GS Salary Calculator, which takes into account the latest GS pay scale and locality pay rates.

Calculating a GS salary in Houston may seem complex, but understanding the base salary, locality pay, and annual pay raise adjustments can help you determine your total salary. It’s always a good idea to consult official sources like the OPM and use reliable tools like the FederalPay.org calculator to ensure accuracy.

Advancing Through the GS Pay Scale

Advancing through the GS pay scale is an important milestone for many government employees in Houston. It not only signifies professional growth but also comes with financial rewards. If you are curious about how to move up within the GS pay scale or progress to a higher grade level, here is a detailed guide to help you navigate the process.

Requirements for moving up steps within a grade

Moving up steps within a grade requires meeting certain criteria and demonstrating satisfactory performance. Typically, employees must serve a specific period of time at each step, such as one year, while also meeting performance expectations.

It’s essential to familiarize yourself with your agency’s specific guidelines and regulations regarding step increases. Additionally, employees may be required to complete certain training programs or certifications to qualify for a step increase.

What is required to move up to a higher grade level?

Moving up to a higher grade level within the GS pay scale often involves fulfilling specific educational and experience requirements. Generally, employees must meet the qualifications outlined in the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) standards for the desired grade level.

These qualifications may include a certain level of education, relevant work experience, or a combination of both. It’s crucial to review the OPM’s guidelines for the specific occupational series you are interested in to ensure you meet the necessary criteria.

For example, if you are currently in a GS-9 position and aspire to move up to a GS-11, you may need to acquire additional education or experience. This could involve pursuing advanced degrees or certifications or gaining relevant work experience in a particular field.

By meeting these requirements, you can position yourself for promotion to a higher grade level.

Timing and rules around grade promotions

Grade promotions within the GS pay scale are subject to specific timing and rules. The timing of promotions can vary depending on factors such as performance evaluations, availability of higher-level positions, and agency policies.

In general, promotions may occur annually or at specific intervals, such as every two or three years.

It is important to note that promotions are not automatic and are typically based on a competitive selection process. This process may involve submitting applications, participating in interviews, or undergoing assessments.

By actively seeking out promotional opportunities and demonstrating your qualifications, you can increase your chances of successfully advancing to a higher grade level.

For more detailed information on the GS pay scale and the requirements for advancing within it, you can visit the official website of the Office of Personnel Management at https://www.opm.gov/. This website provides comprehensive resources and guidance for federal employees navigating their career progression.

Remember, advancing through the GS pay scale requires dedication, continuous learning, and a commitment to excellence. By understanding the requirements and rules associated with moving up within the pay scale, you can develop a strategic plan to achieve your career goals.


The General Schedule pay scale allows federal employees in Houston to earn competitive salaries comparable to the private sector. While the base GS levels are standard nationwide, the additional percentage from locality pay allows compensation to keep pace with Houston’s robust local economy and higher cost of living compared to other parts of the country.

The GS system provides opportunities to earn higher pay through step increases within a grade as well as promotions to higher grades. Annual pay raises also provide a bump in salary. Understanding how the various components of the GS scale work together can help federal employees maximize their earning potential.

Sharing is caring!

Similar Posts