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What is a series or grade?

Series and grade is the Federal Government’s system for categorizing and defining jobs. The series is a numbered system for grouping similar occupations. For example, a Nurse is part of the 0610 series. A ‘grade’ refers to the General Schedule (GS) pay scale – it’s the pay level for the job. The higher the grade level, the higher the pay. The GS pay schedule is the most common pay schedule, but there are others, including the wage scale and special rates.

If you’ve never worked in the Federal Government, you don’t have to include a series or grade on your resume for previous, non-government jobs. However, when you apply, you might have to say the highest grade you’d like, or are eligible for.

Determining which grade is appropriate

Just starting out

If you’re just starting out in the workforce, and you have a high school diploma or as little as three months of general work experience, you can qualify for jobs at the GS-2. If you have more months of general experience, you can qualify for the GS-3 and GS-4 levels. Starting at GS-5, jobs generally require 1 year of specialized experience to qualify.


When you have a degree but no specialized experience in a career field, you’re eligible for the GS-5 jobs. You can qualify for GS-7 jobs, if you maintained a B average, or met other academic credentials in college.


To qualify for jobs at the GS-7 and higher grades, you must have specific work experience related to the job you want and its responsibilities.

Advanced degree

You can qualify for GS-9 positions if you have a master’s degree, and for GS-11 positions if you have a doctorate.


A “step” is a raise in salary. In the GS pay scale, each grade has 10 steps.

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