Federal Government Jobs

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Federal Employee Pay & Benefits

Includes Earnings, Leave, Insurance, & Retirement


Federal Employee Pay / Vacations & Sick Leave / Insurance

Job security, excellent benefits, good federal employee pay and an exceptional retirement system are just a few of the reasons most people seek federal employment. Others consider government careers because of desirable travel opportunities, training availability, diverse occupations, and the ability to locate jobs nationwide and overseas.

Federal Employee Benefits

There are 8 predominant pay systems. Approximately half of the workforce is under the General Schedule (GS) pay scale, 20 percent are paid under the Postal Service rates, and about 10 percent are paid under the Prevailing Rate Schedule (WG) Wage Grade classification. The remaining pay systems are for the Executive Schedule, Foreign Service, Special Salary Rates, and non-appropriated Fund Instrumentalities (NAFI) pay scales, and Veterans Health Administration.

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2019 Pay schedules 2024 Pay Schedules

2018 Pay Increase 2024 Pay Increase (4.7%):  The President signed an Executive Order in December.

Average annual salary for full-time federal government jobs now exceeds $90,500 and the average annual federal workers compensation, including pay plus benefits, now exceeds $130,050 compared to just $74,081 for the private sector according to the United States Bureau of Economic Analysis.

The majority of professional and administrative federal workers are paid under the General Schedule (GS). The General Schedule has 15 grades of pay for civilian white-collar and service workers, and smaller within-grade step increases that occur based on length of service and quality of performance. New employees usually start at the first step of a grade; however, if the position in question is difficult to fill, entrants may receive somewhat higher pay or special rates.

Almost all physician and engineer positions, for example, fall into this category. In an effort to make federal pay more responsive to local labor market conditions, federal employees working in the continental U.S. receive locality pay. The specific amount of locality pay is determined by survey comparisons of private sector wage rates and federal wage rates in the relevant geographic area. At its highest level, locality pay can lead to an increase of as much as 26 percent above the base salary. Every January a pay adjustment tied to changes in private sector pay levels is divided between an across-the-board pay increase in the General Schedule and locality pay increases.

Vacation and Sick Leave

All full-time employees receive 11 paid holidays, 13 days of vacation for the first three years’ service, 20 days of vacation with three to 15 years of service, and 26 days after 15 years. Additionally, 13 sick days are accrued each year regardless of length of service and employees can carry over any sick leave accumulation to the next year.

Many federal employees accrue sick leave balances of a year or more during their career. The site administrator had 2100 hours of sick leave, just over one year, accumulated when he retired in 2005. He was able to exchange his sick leave balance for an increase in his annuity payment. Military time counts toward benefits. If you have three years of military service, you begin with four weeks of paid vacation. Military service time counts toward civil service retirement. Below you will find a list of all 2016 federal holidays and the days that they fall on.

Read more about the federal employee’s sick leave benefits and view a conversion chart to see how it accumulates over one’s career. Employees that use all of their sick leave for a major illness or childbirth may be able to receive up to 6 weeks of advanced leave for additional coverage.  The advanced leave has to be paid back through future sick leave hours earned. There are also leave donation programs available where other federal employees can transfer part of their sick leave balance to another federal employee that has a severe medical condition.

  • New Year’s Day (January)
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday (Mid-January)
  • Washington’s Birthday (February)
  • Memorial Day (May)
  • Independence Day (July 4th)
  • Juneteenth (June 19th) – Added 2021
  • Labor Day (September)
  • Columbus Day (October)
  • Veterans Day (November)
  • Thanksgiving Day (November)
  • Christmas Day (December 25th)

“In Lieu of” Holidays

All full-time employees, including those on flexible or compressed work schedules, are entitled to an “in lieu of” holiday when a holiday falls on a non-workday. In such cases, the employee’s holiday is the basic workday immediately preceding the non-workday. A basic workday for this purpose includes a day when part of the basic work requirement for an employee under a flexible work schedule is planned or scheduled to be performed.

There are three exceptions:

If the non-workday is Sunday (or an “in lieu of” Sunday), the next basic workday is the “in lieu of” holiday. (See section 3 of E.O. 11582, February 11, 1971.) If Inauguration Day falls on a non-workday, there is no provision for an “in lieu of” holiday. If the head of an agency determines that a different “in lieu of” holiday is necessary to prevent an “adverse agency impact,” he or she may designate a different “in lieu of” holiday for full-time employees under compressed work schedules. (See 5 U.S.C. 6131(b).) An employee is not entitled to another day off as an “in lieu of” holiday if a federal office or facility is closed on a holiday because of a weather emergency or when employees are furloughed on a holiday.

More information is available at FederalPay.org/holidays.

Federal Holiday Dates 2024

Date Holiday
Monday, January 01 New Year’s Day
Monday, January 15 Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Monday, February 19 * Washington’s Birthday
Monday, May 27 Memorial Day
Wednesday, June 19 Juneteenth National Independence Day
Thursday, July 04 Independence Day
Monday, September 02 Labor Day
Monday, October 14 Columbus Day
Monday, November 11 Veterans Day
Thursday, November 28 Thanksgiving Day
Wednesday, December 25 Christmas Day

*This holiday is designated as “Washington’s Birthday” in section 6103(a) of title 5 of the United States Code, which is the law that specifies holidays for Federal employees. Though other institutions such as state and local governments and private businesses may use other names, it is our policy to always refer to holidays by the names designated in the law.

**November 11, 2018 (the legal public holiday for Veterans Day), falls on a Sunday. For most Federal employees, Monday, November 12, will be treated as a holiday for pay and leave purposes. (See section 3(a) of Executive order 11582, February 11, 1971.)

*This holiday is designated as “Washington’s Birthday” in section 6103(a) of title 5 of the United States Code, which is the law that specifies holidays for Federal employees. Though other institutions such as state and local governments and private businesses may use other names, it is our policy to always refer to holidays by the names designated in the law.

Leave Year Beginning and Ending Dates

A leave year typically begins on the first day of the first full biweekly pay period in a given calendar year and ends on the day immediately before the first day of the first full biweekly pay period in the following calendar year.

Employees are allowed to carry over to the next leave year, if desired, the maximum amount of accrued annual leave; typically, 240 hours for the majority of federal employees. “Use or lose” annual leave is the amount of the employee’s accrued annual leave that is in excess of the employee’s maximum annual leave limitation for carry over into the next leave year. Many federal employees accumulate and carry over the maximum amount of leave possible so that when they retire, they can cash this in for a lump sum payment.

 Employees must “use” their excess annual leave by the end of a leave year or they will “lose” (forfeit) it.

An agency may consider restoring annual leave that was forfeited due to an exigency of the public business or sickness of the employee only if the annual leave was scheduled in writing before the start of the third biweekly pay period prior to the end of the leave year.

NOTE: The beginning and ending dates of leave years 2017 through 2020 are shown below and apply to most employees. However, there are some agency payroll systems that use a different pay period schedule. Employees should contact their agencies payroll office to verify the beginning and ending dates of a particular leave year.

Leave Year Leave Year Beginning Date Leave Year Ending Date Deadline to Schedule “Use or Lose”
Annual Leave
2012 January 01, 2012 January 12, 2013 December 01, 2012
2013 January 13, 2013 January 11, 2014 November 30, 2013
2014 January 12, 2014 January 10, 2015 November 29, 2014
2015 January 11, 2015 January 09, 2016 November 28, 2015
2016 January 10, 2016 January 07, 2017 November 26, 2016
2017 January 08, 2017 January 06, 2018 November 25, 2017
2018 January 07, 2018 January 05, 2019 November 24, 2018
2019 January 06, 2019 January 04, 2020 November 23, 2019
2020 January 05, 2020 January 02, 2021 November 21, 2020
2021 January 03, 2021 January 01, 2022 November 20, 2021
*2022 January 02, 2022 December 31, 2022 November 19, 2022
2023 January 01, 2023 January 13, 2024 December 02, 2023
2024 January 14, 2024 January 11, 2025 November 30, 2024
2025 January 12, 2025 January 10, 2026 November 29, 2025
2026 January 11, 2026 January 09, 2027 November 28, 2026
2027 January 10, 2027 January 08, 2028 November 27, 2027
2028 January 09, 2028 January 06, 2029 November 25, 2028
2029 January 07, 2029 January 05, 2030 November 24, 2029
2030 January 06, 2030 January 04, 2031 November 23, 2030

Health & Life Insurance

Medical health plans and the Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance (FEGLI) programs are available to all employees. The Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) plan is an employee-employer contribution system and includes fee-for-service, consumer-driven, point-of-service, and HMO options. The costs are reasonable and the coverage excellent.

The federal government also offers comprehensive dental and vision care under the Federal Employees Dental & Vision Insurance Program (FEDVIP). Coverage is available from a number of healthcare providers and is competitively priced with standard and high options. The FEGLI program offers low-cost term life insurance for the employee and basic coverage for the family. FEGLI offers up to five times the employee’s salary in death benefits.

One of the primary benefits of federal employment is the satisfaction you experience from working in a challenging and rewarding job. Positions are available with the level of responsibility and authority that you desire.

Retirement System

Retirement alarm clock.

The federal retirement system is currently based on the following: Social Security contributions, an annuity based on 1 percent for each year of service times your three highest earning years, Social Security offset if you meet certain conditions, and an employee contribution system fashioned after a 401k defined contribution plan. You can elect to contribute up to 15 percent of your salary into a THRIFT savings 401k plan. The government matches contributions. Employees receive 1 percent automatically and they match the next 3 percent contributed by the employee and 50 cents per dollar for the next 2 percent contributed. Therefore, if you contribute a minimum of 5 percent Uncle Sam matches 5 percent. New hires should consider contributing a minimum of 5 percent to receive a 5 percent match from the government.

Contributions are tax-deferred and reduce taxable income by the amount contributed. The retirement benefit is determined by the amount accumulated during the employee’s career. This includes the interest earned and capital gains realized from the retirement fund. Visit http://federalretirement.net, our retirement planning Web site, for complete information and details about the federal retirement system.

There are many withdrawal options, including lump sum and various fixed term annuities. The THRIFT plan contribution payout is in addition to your federal retirement annuity and Social Security benefits that you will be eligible for at retirement.

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