Average Fed Salary in DC Tops $112,000. Lowest State: About $66,000

Is there a difference between the states in the average salary paid to federal employees there? The wide differential may surprise some. DC comes out on top with an average salary now above $112,000 but California has 8.19% of the federal workforce within its borders and an average of $83,306.

Is there a significant difference between the salaries of federal employees and the states in which they reside? According to data from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), there is a big difference in different states.

Federal employees in some states (or the city of Washington) make more, sometimes much more, than federal employees in other states. Topping the list is Washington, DC with an average federal worker salary of $112,601, not including benefits.

The national average for federal employees is $81,578 with a median salary of $76,131. In 2014, the latest data available, the average American made $46,482.

There are likely a number of reasons for the differential between states. For example, employees working in the headquarters of an agency are likely to make more than employees working in a field office. No doubt, those working in the field offices would argue with the justification for the higher grades and higher salaries often paid to federal employees working in a headquarters organization but, regardless of the personal opinions of those working in field organizations, there is no doubt that jobs in HQ often pay more and there are higher grades of the employees working there.

Perhaps this is the reason that employees working in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia make a higher average salary (and higher grades) than all of the other states. These three areas come out at the top of the state rankings. (Yes, we know the District of Columbia is not a state but we are including DC as a state for the purpose of these salary rankings.) But, in any event, the average federal employee working for the federal government in Washington, DC now makes $112,601. At the bottom end of the salary scale among the states is South Dakota with an average salary of $65,782.

Some readers would argue that the cost of living in a state should make a difference in the wages of federal employees. And, of course, with locality pay, federal employees in some areas of the country do receive a higher salary differential and that drives up the average salary in those area.

But also consider this. The cost of living in Alabama is typically considerably less than in most other states. Despite this, federal employees in Alabama have an average salary of $81,483. This means that the average federal employee in Alabama is number 10 on the list of the highest paying states for federal employees.

Federal employees in Alaska, which has a high cost of living, have an average salary of $79,751 and they are ranked number 16 on the list of average federal salaries despite the pay differential in Alaska of more than 25%.

Federal employees in Hawaii have an average salary of $75,578, number 23 on the list of average salaries by state.

So, while the State of Alabama has a generally lower cost of living throughout the State, federal employees working there do much better than those working in other states. This is due, in large part, because of the locality pay in the Huntsville, Alabama area where there are a large number of engineers and scientists working on Redstone Arsenal for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration or the Department of the Army or other agencies located in that vicinity. There is also a significant presence in the Huntsville area of the Department of Veterans Affairs, including the Veterans Health Administration. Many of the jobs with these agencies pay a much higher salary than other federal jobs, and the relatively larger number of these higher paying jobs combined with the locality pay differential in the Huntsville area, the State of Alabama ends up with a higher average salary.

More information can be found at FedsDataCenter.com on individual federal employees salaries which allows searching by location as well as by agency.

In effect, looking at the average salary by state can easily be misleading because of the differences within the state, the federal presence within a state, the overall federal population of a state, and the type of federal jobs in the state.

Here is a list of each state (and DC) sorted from the highest to the lowest average salary.

State Average Salary Median Salary
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA $112,601 $111,923
MARYLAND $100,015 $99,296
VIRGINIA $90,695 $87,229
NEW JERSEY $88,821 $87,061
RHODE ISLAND $87,636 $84,995
NEW HAMPSHIRE $86,636 $78,958
MASSACHUSETTS $85,014 $81,654
CALIFORNIA $83,306 $78,889
ILLINOIS $81,704 $76,447
ALABAMA $81,483 $77,213
CONNECTICUT $81,382 $77,179
COLORADO $80,726 $76,131
MICHIGAN $80,467 $77,584
NEW YORK $80,293 $72,634
OHIO $80,094 $76,237
ALASKA $79,751 $76,667
GEORGIA $77,076 $70,898
OREGON $76,619 $70,275
TEXAS $76,442 $72,533
FLORIDA $76,315 $70,275
MINNESOTA $76,250 $68,255
WASHINGTON $76,206 $72,569
HAWAII $75,578 $72,427
NEW MEXICO $74,266 $70,192
PENNSYLVANIA $73,620 $66,490
DELAWARE $73,597 $64,558
VERMONT $73,349 $70,192
INDIANA $73,252 $68,322
WEST VIRGINIA $72,911 $64,614
ARIZONA $72,673 $70,192
NEVADA $72,001 $64,776
IDAHO $71,894 $66,370
TENNESSEE $71,735 $62,920
LOUISIANA $71,481 $66,370
NORTH CAROLINA $71,371 $64,418
SOUTH CAROLINA $71,370 $64,418
NEBRASKA $71,169 $66,370
MISSOURI $70,264 $62,920
NORTH DAKOTA $70,073 $65,857
MISSISSIPPI $69,608 $62,920
MONTANA $69,494 $64,567
KANSAS $69,472 $62,466
UTAH $69,060 $63,960
WISCONSIN $68,873 $62,466
MAINE $68,521 $64,020
OKLAHOMA $68,402 $60,702
ARKANSAS $68,401 $61,307
IOWA $67,932 $60,532
WYOMING $66,462 $62,466
KENTUCKY $65,785 $59,165
SOUTH DAKOTA $65,782 $58,562

Where are most federal employees located? Many would assume that Washington, DC has the largest number. That may be true if one considers the Washington Metropolitan area including Virginia and Maryland. But, within the confines of a state or within Washington, DC, California tops the list with 8.19% of the federal workforce and Virginia is second with 7.8%. Washington comes in third with a few more federal employees than the State of Texas. Delaware brings up the rear with 0.16 federal employees working within its borders.

Here is a list of the number of federal employees in each state:

State Number of Feds % of Total
ALL 1,838,352 100
CALIFORNIA 150,576 8.19
VIRGINIA 143,456 7.8
TEXAS 131,212 7.14
MARYLAND 119,595 6.51
FLORIDA 86,806 4.72
GEORGIA 70,436 3.83
PENNSYLVANIA 61,880 3.37
NEW YORK 60,870 3.31
WASHINGTON 51,969 2.83
OHIO 48,195 2.62
ILLINOIS 44,892 2.44
NORTH CAROLINA 41,940 2.28
ALABAMA 37,516 2.04
ARIZONA 36,934 2.01
COLORADO 36,478 1.98
OKLAHOMA 36,328 1.98
OUTSIDE THE U.S. 34,337 1.87
MISSOURI 33,252 1.81
MICHIGAN 27,329 1.49
UTAH 25,575 1.39
TENNESSEE 25,375 1.38
NEW JERSEY 24,466 1.33
HAWAII 23,018 1.25
KENTUCKY 22,460 1.22
INDIANA 21,944 1.19
NEW MEXICO 21,862 1.19
LOUISIANA 18,884 1.03
WEST VIRGINIA 18,282 0.99
MISSISSIPPI 17,304 0.94
OREGON 16,928 0.92
MINNESOTA 16,272 0.89
KANSAS 15,550 0.85
WISCONSIN 13,829 0.75
ARKANSAS 12,744 0.69
NEVADA 11,684 0.64
MAINE 10,789 0.59
ALASKA 10,463 0.57
NEBRASKA 10,186 0.55
MONTANA 8,462 0.46
IOWA 8,001 0.44
CONNECTICUT 7,942 0.43
IDAHO 7,521 0.41
SOUTH DAKOTA 7,227 0.39
RHODE ISLAND 6,577 0.36
NORTH DAKOTA 5,402 0.29
WYOMING 4,788 0.26
VERMONT 4,611 0.25
NEW HAMPSHIRE 3,920 0.21
DELAWARE 3,024 0.16
UNSPECIFIED 1,049 0.06


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. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47