Quickly Searching 1.4 Million Federal Pay Rates

Finding individual federal pay amounts is often possible with an easy-to-use online database. Here is how you can find individual federal employee salaries.

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Have you ever wanted to find individual federal pay amounts? In other words, how much is an individual federal employee’s salary?

It may not be possible to quickly and easily search all federal employees throughout the world, however, it is easy to search through about 1.4 million federal employees. Moreover, a researcher, or just a curious individual, can narrow down the search by name, agency, occupation, location, or salary.

This article explains below how this search can be accomplished.

People Want to Know: Am I Paid Enough?

How much did the federal employee who works down the hall from where you are sitting make in the last fiscal year? Are you paying or receiving alimony from a federal employee and wondering if the money you are paying or receiving is based on accurate salary data?

Perhaps you saw a new car in the parking lot for your agency and are wondering if a colleague that you thought was broke can afford to buy a new car. How much is that guy actually making and is it more than you are making?

We can pretend otherwise, but people like to know what others receive for a salary. Human nature being what it is, and with the importance of money in our society, most of us are curious. In fact, Parade publishes a popular annual issue on the topic of “the salaries of everyday workers across America.”

Knowing what others make gives us a chance to compare our salaries. Am I making the right amount of money? Am I underpaid or overpaid? If I move to a different agency or a different locality pay area would making more money be worth the time, effort, and expense?

Why Is Federal Pay Public Information?

The current policy of releasing names and federal pay started in 2005. At that time, the Bush administration started withholding salary information from the public for about 900,000 federal civilian employees. The practice of refusing to release the information was “breaking a tradition of openness that began in 1816” according to a lawsuit filed by a group at Syracuse University under the Freedom of Information Act.

The group argued that “Citizens have a right to know who is working for the government” and the new policy changed that policy.

The federal government began publicly naming its employees, their job category, salary, and workplace in 1816. The first entry in the 1816 version of the Federal Register was James Madison. He was identified as president of the United States at a salary of $25,000 and that his birthplace was in Virginia. The second entry was Secretary of State James Monroe and noted his salary of $5,000.

It wasn’t just political leaders who were listed. According to an article in the Washington Post, Treasury Department messenger John Connell was from Maryland and worked in Washington for the federal government at a salary of $410 a year, and another Marylander, Richard H. Briscoe, worked for the Comptroller’s Office clerk for $1,000 a year.

How to Use a Database of Individual Federal Pay Data

There are a few different sources now available for locating individual federal employee salaries.

For this article, unless otherwise indicated, the source for the information is FedsDataCenter.com. It has been around for a number of years and is widely used by those interested in obtaining the desired information. FedsDataCenter.com is not hosted or maintained by FedSmith but this article explains how to use the database to locate the salary of a federal employee.

The database of individual federal employee salaries contains data from fiscal year 2020, the latest available data as of the time of this writing. Here is a quick explanation of how to use this database to find the salary of a particular person.

Keep in mind that not all federal employees are listed. Some have been excluded by the federal government for national security or other reasons. Still, the database does contain salary data for about 1.4 million federal employees.

Filters are used to narrow a search for information in a database. Available filters are the fiscal year of the salary data, along with the employee’s name, location, agency, and occupation. The information is provided by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM).

Here are the filters that now appear at the top of the page when searching for the salary of a federal employee:

Screenshot showing the available filters for the federal employee salary search on FedsDataCenter.com
Filters for An Individual Federal Pay Search

How to Search by Name

The most frequent searches on the federal employee salary database are for information pertaining to a specific federal employee. If the last name is fairly unique, you can just type in the last name. Just type in a person’s name into the “name” search block. In this instance, the name used is “fauci”.

The search result will provide the results of every person in the database with the last name of “Fauci” or “fauci”. This technique works well with an uncommon last name.

Table of search results for salary search by last name "Fauci"
Results for searching on the last name

If searching for a specific federal employee with a common last name, just type in the person’s first and last name using this format: Smith,Ralph. Just typing in the name Smith is not very helpful as the result will be a list of about 9,296 people. Using the lastname,firstname approach will result in finding six people with this name in the database. Here is how your search result will appear:

Salary search results for name "Smith,Ralph"
Search Result for “Smith,Ralph”

Note to readers: The author of this article has the same name as those in these search results. As the author of this article is no longer a federal employee, while my name is on this list, these are all other individuals.

How to Search Federal Employee Salaries By Name and Agency

Searching for a person in the database is often not that easy. Perhaps you know the person you want to find has the last name of “Smith”. But, as it turns out, his name is not Ralph Smith. If you happen to know the individual you are seeking works for the Social Security Administration, you can use the database using a different search technique.

For example, you know “Smith,R” works for the Social Security Administration. In this case, you can type in “Smith,R” and “Social Security Administration” in the appropriate fields and you will narrow down your search considerably.

So, to narrow down the results that are displayed, we have listed the name of an employee in a specific agency. The result will display a list of about ten names but the list is now small enough to make the list useful in your search. Here are the search filters that were used to find the federal pay for “Smith,R” in the Social Security Administration.

Example of using the available filter options for a federal pay salary search
Screenshot showing the filter options for the federal employee salary search at FedsDataCenter.com with filters for name and agency filled out on the form.

Sorting by Federal Pay and Agency

The federal employee salary database also allows you to search by salary level as well as other search filters you may choose to use.

In this example, entering the name “Smith” into the database working at the Social Security Administration will display about 597 people. What if the person researching in the database wants to see which “Smith” has the highest federal pay? The database will display salary levels from the highest to the lowest using the results that have already been isolated. Just click twice on the salary column to sort the data already isolated.

The results will look like this:

Database search results using the last name, a specific agency and sorted by salary level from highest to lowest
Database search results using the last name, a specific agency and sorted by salary level from highest to lowest.

It is possible to do a salary sort for an entire agency or by any other criteria that have been entered and the results have been displayed on your screen.

One caveat: the data provided vary from year to year and vary between agencies. In some agencies, for example, the name that one would expect to use does not exist. Also, in some agencies, the information provided is sorted by a sub-division of the agency and may not be the name of the primary agency organization.

Searching by Occupation and Salary

Another common search in the federal pay database is searching for people by their occupation.

For example, if you want to see a list of federal employees with the occupation of “General Attorney” for all federal agencies, your search results will provide about 37,964 federal employees with this occupation. The first result is an alphabetical list of employees in this general occupation automatically sorted by “lastname,firstname”.

Here is an example of how to narrow down this type of search. In this example, you can locate all federal employees with the “General Attorney” occupation and simultaneously sort the list from their highest to the lowest federal pay amounts. To do this:

  1. Enter the title “General Attorney” in the “Occupation” search block. As you type the job title and location into their respective fields, menus of matching results will appear underneath the field and will be narrowed down further as you type. Simply click on a matching result to populate the field. A word of warning: The matching results will not always provide a result in the salary search. Agencies have changed the titles used during different years so consequently, the titles that appear are not available for every fiscal year.
  2. Click on the “Filter” button to see the results of your search.
  3. Click twice on the “Salary” column to sort the individual salaries of those in the list from the highest salary to the lowest (descending order).

Here is how the results of the search will look after these filters have been applied.

Table showing example federal employee salary search results for specific occupation "general attorney"
This screenshot shows General Attorney employees sorted by their federal pay rates from highest to lowest salaries. Users will see the complete list of results.

How to Find Highest (and Lowest) Federal Pay Amounts and Average Federal Pay

One common question from readers is how to search by salary level. It is possible to search on all employees in the database by salary level. Just click twice in the main heading on the salary box and the search engine will provide a listing of about 1.4 million employees sorted from the highest salary in government to the lowest.

This database shows that an employee for the Department of Veterans Affairs in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania has a salary of $464,227.00—the highest salary of all the employees in the database. The average annual salary at the agency was $87,603 and the median salary was $71,933 at the time the data were reported. The average federal employee pay at the Department of Veterans Affairs is 87 percent higher than the USA average and the median salary is 65 percent higher than the USA median.

For those with an interest, this salary is not typical of federal employees. It is 430 percent higher than average and 545 percent higher than the median salary in the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Dr. Anthony Fauci has been reported as the highest-paid federal employee. That was in 2019. Perhaps this honor has now been turned over to another employee, at least according to the latest data available in this search engine.

Dr. Fauci still does better than most federal employees with a salary of $434,312 (and he was selected as Federal Employee of the Year). His salary is 290 percent higher than average and 287 percent higher than the median salary in the Department of Health & Human Services. The average federal employee pay was $111,388 and the median salary was $112,132 at the time the fiscal year 2020 data were compiled. The Department of Health & Human Services average salary is 138 percent higher than the USA average and the median salary is 158 percent higher than the USA median.

As noted in this recent article, the average federal employee pay was $91,570 at the end of March 2021. The average federal employee pay in Washington, DC at that time was $129,267. 

Miscellaneous Tips for Searching

Here are several other tips for successfully narrowing down your search of the federal employee salary database:

  • Agencies are often not listed as being under the broad umbrella of the main organization such as the “Department of Agriculture” or the “Department of Veterans Affairs” or the “Veterans Administration.” The agencies providing the information have generally opted not to do that. Type in “veterans” under the name of the agency and you will see various agencies with this in their name.
  • With smaller agencies, all employees will usually be found under the main heading. For example, typing in “Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation” into the box for the agency name will yield results of about 5,982 employees for the agency located in cities around the U.S.
  • Also, for the main database of federal employees, results are usually organized by city but not by state. For example, typing in Tampa will result in finding 6,896 federal employees working in Tampa, Florida. Typing in “Florida” to find all employees in the state rather than the name of a city will not provide the desired result.
  • In some limited cases, agencies chose to release salary data under just a state name rather than a city name.

We hope that this explanation will be helpful in finding the specific salary information you are seeking.

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