What is a series or grade?

Series and grade refers to the Federal government’s system for categorizing and defining jobs. If you have never worked in the Federal government, you do not have to enter a series or grade on your resume for previous, non-government jobs. Upon application, however, you may be prompted to pick the highest grade you desire or are eligible for.

The GS pay schedule provides the base schedule and schedules by state. You may also view the wage scale schedules.

Determining which grade is appropriate

Just starting out

If you are just starting out, you can qualify for jobs at the GS-2 level with a high school diploma or as little as 3 months of general work experience. At GS-3 and GS-4 levels, you can qualify with more months of general experience. 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 are eligible for appointment at the GS-5 pay scale. (If you maintained a B average, or met other academic credentials in college, you can start out at the GS-7 pay scale.)


To qualify for jobs at the GS-7 and higher grades, your background must have included experience closely related to the work to be performed in the job for which you are applying

Advanced degree

You can qualify for GS-9 positions on the basis of a master’s degree, and for GS-11 positions on the basis of a doctorate.


A step is a raise in salary. Most grades in the Federal government have 10 steps.

Additional resources

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