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OPM Guide to Promotion Structure

The General Schedule (GS) classification and pay system covers the majority of civilian white-collar Federal employees (about 1.3 million worldwide) in professional, technical, administrative and clerical positions. GS classification standards, qualifications, pay structure and related human resources policies (e.g., general staffing and pay administration policies) are administered by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) on a Government wide basis. Each agency classifies its GS positions and appoints and pays its GS employees filling those positions following statutory and OPM guidelines.

GS employees may advance to higher grades by promotion at certain intervals (generally after at least a year), as determined by OPM regulations and qualification standards and agency policies, up to the full promotion potential advertised in the job announcement. After that, competition under merit system principles are necessary to advance to a higher GS grade. Generally, a GS promotion increase is equal to at least two steps at the GS grade immediately before promotion to the higher GS grade.