Largest Number of Feds Making $200,000+ Per Year

August 18, 2020 12:44 PM
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5 vertical stacks of coins on a wooden surface growing in height as they go from left to right with the word 'salary' written on a small chalkboard sign behind the stacks

How much does the average federal employee make each year in salary (excluding the federal employee benefits package)?

According to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) in a 2019 report, the Average Annual Base Salary (adjusted to include locality pay) for Full Time Permanent federal employees was $87,312 per year.

The average General Schedule (GS) grade at that time was 10.41 but that average grade goes up to 12.61 in the Washington, DC-MD-VA-WV Core Based Statistical Area.

These are averages. There are many federal employees making more, sometimes a lot more, than the statistical average.

The general schedule pay system was established in 1949. According to the Office of Personnel Management, more than 75% of federal workers were in grade GS-7 or below in 1950. That compares to 20.4% at GS-7 or below at the end of September 2018. This is a decline of 54.6% at GS-7 or below. In large part, this is because of the increased specialization and automation of functions in the federal government. It is also probably due in some case to “grade creep” in agencies.

More than 27% of employees were on pay plans outside of the regular GS-scale at the end of fiscal 2018.

Agencies With the Most Employees Making $200,000+

For example, here is a list of federal agencies with the most employees making more than $200,000 per year:

Number of
Employees
Agency Name
2,581SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
2,505DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES
1,332FEDERAL DEPOSIT INSURANCE CORPORATION
699DEPARTMENT OF TREASURY
237FEDERAL HOUSING FINANCE AGENCY
236COMMODITY FUTURES TRADING COMMISSION
208FEDERAL RESERVE SYSTEM
164DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS
118NATIONAL CREDIT UNION ADMINISTRATION
118DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY
99DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
52FARM CREDIT ADMINISTRATION
13ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY
11DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
8NAT AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION
8PRESIDIO TRUST
8DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
7DEPARTMENT OF STATE
6FARM CREDIT SYSTEM INSURANCE CORPORATION
4ARMED FORCES RETIREMENT HOME

Agencies With Highest Average Salary

As one might expect, there is often a relationship between the largest number of federal employees making more than $200,000 per year and the highest average salary for an agency.

A list of the agencies with the highest average salary based on the 2019 salary data does not directly correspond with the largest number of employees making more than $200,000. Some of these agencies are highly specialized and have a relatively small number of employees. In other words, the average salary may be high but the number of agency employees is relatively small compared to other federal agencies.

AgencyAverage Salary
SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION196,556.67
FARM CREDIT SYSTEM INSURANCE CORPORATION184,168.00
COMMODITY FUTURES TRADING COMMISSION177,713.66
FEDERAL HOUSING FINANCE AGENCY173,515.23
PUBLIC BUILDINGS REFORM BOARD166,498.25
ARCTIC RESEARCH COMMISSION155,783.77
NUCLEAR WASTE TECHNICAL REVIEW BOARD152,077.68
MEDICARE PAYMENT ADVISORY COMMISSION147,176.63
FEDERAL DEPOSIT INSURANCE CORPORATION146,403.09
INTERNATIONAL JOINT CMSN: U.S. AND CANADA145,819.88
Salary data from FedsDataCenter.com

For federal employees hoping to increase their salaries, some of these agencies may be worth checking out. In at least some of them, the average salary is because of the highly specialized nature of the workforce, but administrative positions exist in all agencies. Oftentimes, these same agencies also pay more than other agencies for the same type of work.

Keep in mind many of these jobs, probably most, are located in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. That is not necessarily bad but the cost of living expenses may be much higher in Washington than in many other areas of the country.

© 2020 Ralph R. Smith. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from Ralph R. Smith.

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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

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