At, we utilize AI technology to assist in the creation of our content. However, we want to assure our readers that every article undergoes a thorough review and fact-checking process by our human editors before publication. Our goal is to provide accurate, helpful, and valuable information to our audience. Despite our best efforts, if you come across any inaccuracies or errors in our content, please reach out to us at [[email protected]], and we will promptly address the issue.

Nf Pay Scale Vs Gs Pay Scale: A Detailed Comparison

The General Schedule (GS) and National Finance Center (NFC) pay scales are two important compensation systems used by the federal government. Many federal employees wonder how these pay scales compare and what the key differences are.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: The main difference between the GS and NF pay scale is that the GS scale covers most white-collar civilian roles, while the NF scale is used for certain specialized occupations like nurses and trade/craft jobs.

Both use grade levels and steps, but NF jobs tend to have higher pay ceilings. Now, let’s dive into the details.

In this comprehensive 3,000 word guide, we will compare and contrast the GS and NF pay scales. We will examine how grade levels, steps, and salaries differ between the two systems.

We’ll also look at how raises and promotions work, which jobs use each pay scale, and how you can calculate your own GS or NF salary.

Overview and History of the GS and NF Pay Scales

When it comes to federal government employment, two common pay scales are the General Schedule (GS) and the Non-Appropriated Fund (NF) pay scales.

These pay scales play a crucial role in determining the salaries and compensation packages of federal employees.

Let’s take a closer look at the origins and key features of both systems.

Introduction and origins of the GS system

The General Schedule (GS) pay scale was established in 1949 as a way to standardize the salaries of federal civilian employees. It was designed to ensure fair compensation and provide a clear framework for career progression within the federal workforce.

The GS system consists of 15 pay grades, ranging from GS-1 to GS-15, with each grade having its own salary range.

This pay scale is widely used across various federal agencies and covers a wide range of occupations, including administrative, technical, professional, and clerical roles.

It is most commonly associated with positions within the federal government that are not covered by specific pay systems, such as the Department of Defense.


Introduction and origins of the NF system

The Non-Appropriated Fund (NF) pay scale, on the other hand, is specific to certain agencies within the federal government.

It was established to govern the pay and benefits of employees who work in non-appropriated fund instrumentalities, such as military exchanges, morale, welfare, and recreational activities.

Unlike the GS system, the NF pay scale does not have a standardized structure with distinct pay grades. Instead, the pay rates for NF employees are determined by factors such as job category, location, and experience level.

This flexibility allows agencies to set competitive salaries based on market conditions and the specific needs of their workforce.

Key agencies and occupations covered by each pay scale

The GS pay scale is used by a wide range of federal agencies, including the Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, and Department of Justice. It covers positions such as administrative assistants, engineers, scientists, and IT specialists.

The GS system is known for its structured career ladder, which allows employees to advance through the pay grades based on performance and experience.

The NF pay scale, on the other hand, is primarily used by agencies such as the Department of Defense Non-Appropriated Fund Instrumentalities (DoD NAF) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). It covers occupations such as retail associates, food service workers, recreation assistants, and fitness trainers.

The NF system offers flexibility in setting pay rates to attract and retain talent in these specific areas.

For more information on the GS and NF pay scales, you can visit the official websites of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) for GS and the Department of Defense NAF or NF.

IT specialists

How the GS Pay Scale Works

The General Schedule (GS) Pay Scale is a widely used pay system for federal employees in the United States.

Understanding how the GS pay scale works is essential for those interested in working in the federal government or those already within the system.

Grade levels in the GS system (1-15)

The GS system consists of 15 grade levels, ranging from GS-1 to GS-15. Each grade level represents a different level of responsibility and experience. The higher the grade level, the higher the salary range.

For example, GS-1 is typically an entry-level position, while GS-15 is reserved for top-level executives.

Steps within each GS grade (1-10)

Within each grade level, there are typically 10 steps. As employees gain experience and meet certain performance criteria, they can advance to higher steps within their grade.

Advancing to a higher step usually results in an increase in salary.

GS salary tables and pay bands

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) publishes salary tables that provide information on the base pay rates for each grade level and step within the GS system.

These tables help determine the salary range for a particular position. Additionally, pay bands are used to group together similar grade levels and steps, allowing for more flexibility in setting salaries based on job duties and responsibilities.

Locality pay adjustments

One unique aspect of the GS pay scale is the inclusion of locality pay adjustments.

These adjustments are made to account for the cost of living differences in different geographic areas.

Employees working in high-cost areas like New York City or San Francisco may receive higher salaries compared to those working in lower-cost areas.

New York City

Calculating your own GS grade and salary

Calculating your own GS grade and salary can be a bit complex, but there are resources available to help.

The OPM website provides a pay calculator that allows you to input your current grade, step, and location to determine your salary.

Additionally, the OPM publishes guidelines and regulations that outline the criteria for each grade level and step.

Getting raises and promotions in the GS system

Advancements in the GS system can come in the form of raises and promotions.

Raises are typically based on performance evaluations and can be given annually. Promotions, on the other hand, involve moving up to a higher grade level with increased responsibilities and salary.

Both raises and promotions are subject to agency policies and guidelines.

How the NF Pay Scale Works

The NF pay scale, also known as the Nonappropriated Fund (NF) pay scale, is a system used to determine the salaries of employees working for certain federal agencies.

Unlike the General Schedule (GS) pay scale, which is used for most federal employees, the NF pay scale is specific to employees who work in non-appropriated fund instrumentalities, such as military exchanges, recreation centers, and commissaries.

Grade levels in the NF system (1-15)

The NF pay scale consists of 15 grade levels, ranging from Grade 1 to Grade 15.

Each grade level corresponds to a certain level of responsibility and expertise required for the job. Higher grade levels are associated with higher salaries and more senior positions.

Steps within each NF grade (1-6)

Within each NF grade, there are six steps. These steps represent different levels of experience and performance within the grade level.

As employees gain more experience and demonstrate higher levels of performance, they are eligible to move up to the next step within their grade, which results in a higher salary.

NF salary tables and pay bands

The NF pay scale uses salary tables and pay bands to determine how much employees will be paid based on their grade level and step. These tables and bands outline the minimum and maximum salary ranges for each grade level and step.

Employees are typically paid within the pay band that aligns with their grade and step, but factors such as performance and locality pay adjustments can affect an employee’s actual salary within the pay band.

Locality pay adjustments

Similar to the GS pay scale, the NF pay scale also takes into account locality pay adjustments. These adjustments are made to account for the cost of living in different geographic areas.

Employees who work in areas with a higher cost of living may be eligible for a higher salary to offset the higher expenses. The amount of the locality pay adjustment varies depending on the employee’s location.

Calculating your own NF grade and salary

To calculate your own NF grade and salary, you will need to consider factors such as your job responsibilities, qualifications, and experience.

The NF pay scale has specific criteria for each grade level, which can help you determine where you fall within the scale.

Additionally, you can refer to the NF salary tables and pay bands to estimate your salary based on your grade level and step.

NF grade and salary

Getting raises and promotions in the NF system

Employees in the NF system can receive raises and promotions based on their performance, qualifications, and job responsibilities.

Raises are typically given within the same grade level, resulting in an increase in salary within the step. Promotions, on the other hand, involve moving to a higher grade level, which comes with a higher salary range.

The criteria for raises and promotions can vary depending on the agency and specific position.

For more information about the NF pay scale and how it works, you can visit the official website of the Department of Defense’s Civilian Personnel Management Service.

Key Differences Between GS and NF Pay

Range of salaries

The GS pay scale is more extensive than the NF pay scale, offering a wider range of salaries.

The GS pay scale consists of 15 grades, ranging from GS-1 to GS-15, with each grade having multiple steps. On the other hand, the NF pay scale typically has fewer grades, often ranging from NF-1 to NF-6.

This means that the GS pay scale provides more opportunities for employees to progress and earn higher salaries as they move up the grade levels.

Steps and promotions

Within the GS pay scale, each grade has multiple steps, allowing employees to receive regular salary increases as they gain experience and meet performance standards.

A promotion in the GS pay scale often involves moving to a higher grade level with increased responsibilities and a higher salary range. In contrast, the NF pay scale may have fewer steps and promotions, limiting the potential for salary growth and advancement.

Cost of living adjustments

The GS pay scale incorporates cost of living adjustments (COLA), which are additional increases in salary based on the geographical location of the job. These adjustments help to account for the differences in the cost of living between different areas.

The NF pay scale, on the other hand, may not include COLA adjustments, meaning that employees in high-cost areas may receive the same salary as those in lower-cost areas.

Highest grade levels

The highest grade levels within the GS pay scale are reserved for top-level positions, such as senior executives or high-ranking government officials.

These grade levels, such as GS-14 and GS-15, offer significantly higher salaries and increased responsibility.

In comparison, the highest grade levels within the NF pay scale may not reach the same level of compensation or prestige as the highest GS grade levels.

Jobs covered

The GS pay scale covers a wide range of federal government jobs, including positions in agencies such as the Department of Defense, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of Justice.

The NF pay scale, on the other hand, is typically used for non-appropriated fund positions, which are jobs that are not funded by congressional appropriations.

These positions are often found in morale, welfare, and recreation programs on military bases and other government facilities.

military base

Which Pay Scale is Better?

Advantages of the GS System

The General Schedule (GS) pay scale is widely used in the federal government and offers several advantages.

One of the main advantages is its structured system, which provides clear guidelines for salary increases based on experience and performance.

This allows employees to have a clear understanding of their potential earnings and career progression within the GS system.

Another advantage of the GS system is its consistency across different federal agencies.

Regardless of the agency you work for, the GS pay scale ensures that your salary is determined by the same set of rules and guidelines. This can provide a sense of fairness and equal opportunity for employees.

The GS system also offers a wide range of job classifications and levels, allowing employees to explore various career paths within the federal government.

This flexibility can be beneficial for individuals who want to switch roles or take on new challenges in their careers.

Advantages of the NF System

The Non-Appropriated Fund (NF) pay scale, on the other hand, is mainly used by government organizations that generate their own funding, such as military base exchanges and morale, welfare, and recreation programs.

One of the advantages of the NF system is its ability to offer higher salaries compared to the GS system.

Since NF positions are funded by revenue generated from non-appropriated funds, they have more flexibility in setting compensation levels. This can result in higher salaries for NF employees, making it an attractive option for those seeking better financial rewards.

Another advantage of the NF system is its potential for fast career progression.

NF organizations often have fewer bureaucratic hurdles compared to their GS counterparts, allowing employees to advance more quickly. This can be particularly appealing for individuals who are ambitious and want to progress in their careers at a faster pace.

How to Decide Which is Better for Your Career

Deciding which pay scale is better for your career depends on several factors. It’s important to consider your long-term goals, personal preferences, and the nature of the job you are seeking.

If you value stability, consistency, and a wide range of job opportunities within the federal government, the GS system may be the better choice for you. On the other hand, if you prioritize higher potential earnings and faster career progression, the NF system could be more suitable.

It’s also worth considering the specific agency or organization you are interested in. Research their pay scales, employee benefits, and career advancement opportunities to make an informed decision.

Consulting with professionals in the field or reaching out to current employees can also provide valuable insights.

Ultimately, there is no definitive answer to which pay scale is better as it depends on individual circumstances and preferences.

It’s important to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each system and choose the one that aligns with your career goals and aspirations.


The GS and NF pay scales have many similarities, like using grade levels and steps, but also some key differences in terms of salary ranges and promotions.

The GS scale covers more occupations, while the NF scale includes specialized fields like nursing.

Knowing how your own pay grade and salary are determined, whether you’re on the GS or NF scale, can help you better plan your career. Use the resources provided to look up pay tables and determine what you should be earning based on your specific job and location.

With this detailed comparison, you now have a solid understanding of how the GS and NF pay scales stack up. You can use this knowledge to your advantage when considering federal job opportunities and negotiating salary offers.

Sharing is caring!

Similar Posts