Average Salary Much Higher In Some Agencies

By on August 28, 2016 in Pay & Benefits with 25 Comments

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The General Schedule (GS) pay system for federal employees is gradually disintegrating. There are some federal agencies paying employees outside the more traditional General Schedule (GS) pay system and the average salary differences are striking.

Individual salaries of many federal employees throughout government are available at FedsDataCenter.com.

There are several factors that influence the wide variations in federal employee salaries. Pay in the non-traditional agencies often involves regulatory work in a high-paying industry such as financial services. But, even for traditional jobs that exist in other agencies, the pay is often much higher in agencies with a higher average salary and which are outside the traditional GS pay system.

Moreover, while there was a pay freeze for several years, and the average federal salary increase has been going up very slowly, employees in some of these other agencies fared much better with their overall average salary. All of the data are based on compilations from the federal government but note the caveats below.

For example, in 2015, the average salary for the federal workforce was $81,578 with a median salary of $76,131.

Averages by Agency

Here are several examples of agencies that drive up this average salary:

Agency Average 2015 Salary Median Salary
SEC $173,854 $182,724
FDIC $139,413 $136,709
NRC $123,116 $125,213
EPA $113,036 $112,808

The agencies with the high average salaries usually have a workforce with different skills than other federal agencies and often have separate legislative authority for a different type of pay system.

At the other end of the scale, here are the agencies with the lowest average salaries:

Agency Average 2015 Salary Median Salary
Army $74,702 $51,437
Veterans Affairs $73,917 $62,725
Agriculture $73,451 $51,437
Air Force $73,047 $54,855

A federal employee who is seeking higher pay would do well to find a job at one of the agencies with a much higher average salary. As an example, a federal employee in human resources management would stand to do much better at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) than at the Forest Service (part of the Department of Agriculture).

At the Forest Service, one employee in human resources management makes about $177,000. Out of 464 people in the organization in HRM, 112 (24%) make over $100,000 per year. At the SEC, there are 56 people with the human resources management designation. Three of them make over $200,000 and 46 (82%) of them make over $100,000.

Securities and Exchange Commission

Year Average Salary Total Increase
2010 $147,849
2011 $150,654 1.9%
2012 $154,028 2.24%
2013 $157,014 .019%
2014 $162,856 3.8%
2015 $173,587 6.6%
2016 $176,869 1.9%
Total 19.63%

Commodities Futures Trading Commission

Year Average Salary Total Increase
2010 $116,349 N/A
2011 $120,605 3.66%
2012 $120,691 .07%
2013 $123,819 2.59%
2014 $127,295 2.8%
2015 $129,512 1.74%
Total 11.31%

Average Yearly Pay Raise for Federal Employees

The average salary is for permanent federal employees as determined by OPM.

Year Avg. Salary Yearly Increase
2011 $77,656 0%
2012 $78,467 0%
2014 $80,564 1%
2015  $81,578 1%
2016  ? 1.3%

These figures are based on publicly available data. The average salary for federal employees overall (the last table in this article) is compiled by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and published in yearly reports.

However, OPM has not calculated the average salary for each of the other agencies for each year. Therefore, we compiled the averages in this article based on the overall financial data available from OPM for these agencies.

© 2016 Ralph R. Smith. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from Ralph R. Smith.


About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources.