Agencies With Most $100,000+ Federal Employees and Lowest Average Salaries

September 9, 2020 7:48 AM
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Close up of the '100' in the bottom left corner on a stack of $100 bills

The federal workforce is highly diversified. No one really knows how many federal agencies there are (it depends on how one defines “agency” and who is doing the counting). One estimate is that there are 456. In any event, there are a lot of agencies and independent organizations in the federal government doing many different things.

In some agencies, the salaries paid to federal employees are much higher than in other agencies. Here is a list of agencies with the most employees that make more than $200,000 per year. The $200,000 figure only includes salary; it does not include bonuses or benefits. The highest-paid employees are often in agencies that are specialized and work with industries that employ highly paid people because of their expertise.

This information is compiled from the FedSmith salary database. Some federal employees are not included in these calculations as the government has concluded employees in some agencies are involved in national security work and that it is not in the public interest to release their individual pay information.

Average Salary for Federal Employees

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 at the time of the report.

The General Schedule pay system was established in 1949. According to OPM, 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% of lower graded employees. 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 cases to “grade creep” in agencies.

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

Agencies With Most Employees Making Over $100,000

With the average federal employee’s salary standing at $87,312, which agencies have the most employees that make significantly more than average?

Here is a listing of agencies with the highest number of employees who are paid at least $100,000.

Number of EmployeesAgency Name
95,458DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS
59,075DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY
46,752DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
44,873DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES
35,010DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION
30,440DEPARTMENT OF TREASURY
24,924DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE
15,946DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
14,371DEPARTMENT OF INTERIOR
13,996SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION
13,688NAT AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION
12,443INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE
11,145ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY
8,725DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY
7,284DEPARTMENT OF STATE
6,846DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
6,844GENERAL SERVICES ADMINISTRATION
5,358DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT
4,345FEDERAL DEPOSIT INSURANCE CORPORATION
4,189SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION

Keep in mind that the number of employees in each agency varies widely. For example, in 2017, OPM reported that among cabinet-level agencies, the Department of Veterans Affairs had more than 342,000 employees while the Department of Justice had about 112,000 and the Department of Agriculture had over 73,000.

Agencies With Lowest Average Salary

This article displays the agencies with the highest average salaries. At the lower end of the salary scale, which agencies have the lowest average salaries? Chances are, most Americans have never heard of some of these federal organizations as they are often small in comparison to other agencies. Here is the list:

Agency NameAverage Salary
BARRY GOLDWATER SCHOOL AND EXCELLENCE IN EDUCATION FOUNDATION$50,497.80
MORRIS K. UDALL AND STEWART L. UDALL FOUNDATION$62,032.16
ARMED FORCES RETIREMENT HOME$62,629.50
U.S. COMMISSION ON INTERNATIONAL RELIGIOUS FREEDOM$65,702.61
NATIONAL CREDIT UNION ADMINISTRATION$68,446.91
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE$68,911.78
INTERNATIONAL BOUNDARY AND WATER COMMISSION: U.S. SECTION$69,118.67
INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE$69,920.48
INTERNATIONAL BOUNDARY COMMISSION: U.S. AND CANADA$70,070.03
COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC ADVISERS$72,051.96

For readers seeking more information, a searchable database of individual federal employee salaries, Postal Service employee salaries, and the GS Pay Calculator can all be found at FedsDataCenter.com.

© 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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