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Salaries and Benefits

Federal employment benefits are among the most comprehensive programs available anywhere. At EPA, our goal is to be considered by all as an "employer of choice." We are committed to paying people well and providing progressive incentives and excellent benefits.

Salaries and Incentives


Like other government agencies, our basic salaries are set by Congress and most are paid under the General Schedule, which spans Grades 1 to 15 (i.e. ‘GS-1’ to ‘GS-15’). The grade level at which an individual enters a job depends on the specific position and the individual's qualifications.  The General Schedule has 15 grades -- GS-1 (lowest) to GS-15 (highest).  Agencies establish (classify) the grade of each job based on the level of difficulty, responsibility, and qualifications required:

  • Individuals with a high school diploma and no additional experience typically qualify for GS-2 positions.
  • Those with a Bachelor’s degree typically qualify for GS-5 positions.
  • Those with a Master’s degree typically qualify for GS-9 positions. 
  • Those with a Ph.D. or equivalent, or with a J.D. degree, typically qualify for GS-11 positions.

However, in special circumstances, agencies may authorize a higher step rate for a newly-appointed federal employee based on a special need of the agency or superior qualifications of the prospective employee.  See more information on OPM's General Schedule Qualification page.  Your basic pay may also include Locality Pay — determined by your geographic location — that reflects the relative cost of labor across the country.

Each grade has 10 step rates (steps 1-10) that are each worth approximately 3 percent of the employee’s salary.  Most employees start at step 1 of their GS grade.   Within-grade step increases are based on an acceptable level of performance.  These increases are available after:

  • one year of service if you are in step 1, 2 or 3,
  • two years of service if you are in step 4, 5 or 6, and
  • three years of service if you are in step 7, 8 or 9.

Each year, the president and Congress consider whether or not to raise government-wide pay across the board to account for rising cost of living expenses.  In the event of a pay freeze, the freeze applies only to these annual cost of living adjustments, so it won’t prevent you from being promoted to a higher grade level or increasing a step within a grade.


EPA celebrates superior performance through various awards. Recognition may be additional pay, special salary increases, medals, etc.

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Retirement Benefits

Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS)

All federal employees first hired after December 31, 1983 on appointments with retirement coverage are automatically enrolled in the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS). FERS is a three-tiered plan made up of:

  • a basic annuity plan,
  • Social Security, and
  • a tax-deferred retirement savings and investment plan called the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP).

This three-tiered plan provides benefits for retirement, disability, and survivors.

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) administers the basic benefits portion of FERS. The Social Security Administration has responsibility for administering the Social Security benefits, and the Federal Thrift Investment Board administers the TSP.  When you retire, you receive benefits from all three of these agencies.  As a federal employee, you automatically contribute .08% of your salary to this program. You are fully vested in FERS after five years of service, and for disability retirement, after 18 months. 

Thrift Savings Plan (TSP)

The TSP is one part of the three parts of your FERS retirement package, along with your FERS basic annuity and Social Security.  The TSP is a retirement savings plan for civilian federal government employees. The TSP offers federal civilian employees the same type of savings and tax benefits that many private corporations offer their employees under 401(k) plans.

As your employer, we make an automatic one percent of salary contribution to your TSP, even if you don't contribute anything.  If you are contributing your own money, we will match your contribution dollar for dollar for the first three percent and fifty cents for each dollar for the next two percent.

You can start, change, stop, and resume TSP contributions at any time. There is no waiting period.  You can contribute up to the maximum amount permitted by the Internal Revenue Service regulations.  Employees over 50 can also make "catch-up contributions".  View the current annual contribution and catch-up contribution limits on TSP's website. Contributing to the TSP also reduces your taxable income, so that the more you contribute, the less tax you pay up front. 

There are a number of investment funds:

  • G Fund (Government Security Investment Fund)
  • F Fund (Fixed Income Investment Fund)
  • C Fund (Common Stock Index Fund)
  • S Fund (Small Capitalization Stock Index Investment Fund)
  • I Fund (International Stock Index Investment Fund)
  • L Funds (Lifecycle Funds) that invest in a mix of the five funds above.  The mix is based on the date you will need your savings.

Health Benefits

Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHB)

EPA participates in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHB). You can choose from a variety of health care plans and options, and your health benefits cover you and your family members at reasonable rates. Your biweekly contribution to health benefits varies with the plan you choose.  This program offers:

  • One of the widest selections of plans in the country
  • Annual open season
  • Coverage that continues into retirement, at the same rate
  • Pre-tax options

Here are even more important program features:

  • No waiting periods. You can use your benefits as soon as your coverage becomes effective. There are no pre-existing condition limitations even if you change plans.
  • A choice of coverage. You can choose self-only coverage for you, or self and family coverage for you, your spouse, and unmarried dependent children under age 22. Under certain circumstances, your FEHB enrollment may cover your disabled child 22 years old or older who is incapable of self-support.
  • A choice of plans and options, inlcuding fee-for-service (FFS) plans, plans offering a point of service (POS) product, and health maintenance organizations (HMOs).
  • A government contribution. The Government pays 72 percent of the average premium toward the total cost of the premium, but not more than 75 percent of the total premium for any plan.
  • Salary deduction. You pay your share of the premium through a payroll deduction and have the choice of doing so using pretax dollars.
  • No medical exam is required to enroll.
  • Your health benefits coverage may be carried over into retirement.
  • Widest selection of health plans in the country.
  • You can use pre-tax dollars to pay health insurance premiums for your selected insurer through the FEHB Program.

If you are in an eligible position, you have 60 days from the day you begin work at EPA to sign-up for a health insurance plan. Otherwise, you may enroll during the Federal Benefits Open Season which is held each year beginning the second Monday in November through the second Monday in December. You can also enroll or make changes outside of Open Season if you have a qualifying life event (QLE) such as the birth of a child, divorce or other qualifying event. 

If you don't make an election within 60 days from becoming eligible, you are considered to have declined coverage, and you must wait until the next open season or QLE to enroll. Except for open season, most enrollments are effective the first day of the first pay period after the agency receives your SF-2809, Health Benefits Election form (PDF).

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Dental and Vision:  FEDVIP

The Federal Employees’ Dental and Vision Insurance Program (FEDVIP) is available to eligible federal employees, retirees, and their eligible family members on an enrollee-pay-all basis. Employee must be eligible for FEHB in order to be eligible to enroll in FEDVIP. This program allows dental and vision insurance to be purchased on a group basis, which means competitive premiums and no pre-existing condition limitations. Premiums for enrolled federal employees are withheld from your salary.

If eligible, you can enroll in a dental plan and/or a vision plan. Thre are multiple plans you can choose from.  You may enroll in a plan that covers:

  • just yourself,
  • yourself and one other family member, or
  • yourself and all your family members.

Eligible family members include an enrollee's spouse and unmarried dependent children under the age of 22, children who are incapable of self-support and who are 22 or older. The rules for family members' eligibility are the same as they are for the FEHB Program.

Enrollment will take place during the annual Federal Benefits Open Season in November and December. New and newly eligible employees can enroll within 60 days after they become eligible.

Dental Plans under FEDVIP:  Dental plans under FEDVIP provide a comprehensive range of services including orthodontia (for children under the age of 19), and

  • Class A (Basic) services, which include oral examinations, prophylaxis, diagnostic evaluations, sealants and x-rays.
  • Class B (Intermediate) services, which include restorative procedures such as fillings, prefabricated stainless steel crowns, periodontal scaling, tooth extractions, and denture adjustments.
  • Class C (Major) services, which include endodontic services such as root canals, periodontal services such as gingivectomy, major restorative services such as crowns, oral surgery, bridges and prosthodontic services such as complete dentures.

Vision Plans under FEDVIP:  FEDVIP provides comprehensive vision insurance at competitive group rates. There are multiple vision plans from which to choose.  The vision plans feature comprehensive eye examinations and coverage for lenses, frames and contact lenses. Other benefits such as discounts on LASIK surgery may also be available. There are no pre-existing condition limitations and no waiting periods for vision services.

Medical Monitoring Programs

These provide periodic on-site screening for medical concerns such as high blood pressure, cancer and sickle cell anemia.

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Life Insurance/Long Term Care Insurance

Federal Employees' Group Life Insurance (FEGLI)

The federal government established the Federal Employees' Group Life Insurance (FEGLI) Program in 1954.

Basic Insurance:  FEGLI offers Basic Life Insurance that is equal to your annual basic pay, rounded to the next higher $1,000, plus $2,000.  So for example, if your annual salary is $48,108, your insurance would first be rounded to $49,000, then have $2,000 added, making your basic life insurance coverage $51,000.  In most cases, if you are a new federal employee, you are automatically covered by basic life insurance and your payroll office deducts premiums from your paycheck unless you waive the coverage. The cost of Basic Insurance is shared between you and the government. Your age does not affect the cost of Basic Insurance.

Optional Insurance: You can also get three types of optional insurance:

  • Option A, Standard — in the amount of an additional $10,000 of coverage.
  • Option B, Additional — in an amount from one to five times your annual basic pay (after rounding up to the next $1,000).
  • Option C, Family — provides coverage for your spouse and eligible dependent children in multiples from one to five. Each multiple is equal to $5,000 for your spouse and $2,500 for each eligible child.

You must have Basic Insurance in order to elect any of the options. Unlike Basic Insurance,

It is up to you to determine if FEGLI works for your needs better than other life insurance programs.

More information:

Long-Term Care Insurance (FLTCIP)

The Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program (FLTCIP) is insurance that helps you pay for long-term care services, such as home care, adult day care, hospice care or care in a nursing home or assisted living facility. It also includes caregiver training.  It is up to you to determine if the FLTCIP works for your needs better than other long-term care insurance programs.

If you are eligible, you have 60 days from your entrance date to apply for long-term care insurance using the abbreviated underwriting application with only a few health-related questions. If you apply AFTER the 60-day period, you will use a longer underwriting application with numerous health-related questions, and you may be required to submit medical records and/or a conduct an interview with a nurse. There are no annual open seasons to join the FLTCIP; eligible employees may apply anytime.

Long-term care insurance is NOT just for older people. Forty percent of the persons receiving long-term care are working adults between the ages of 18 and 64, with many of these people receiving it as they recover from an accident or crippling disease. The cost of the insurance is based on your age when you apply: the older you are when you apply, the higher the premiums. Certain medical conditions, or a combination of conditions, will prevent some people from being approved for coverage. Insurance premiums are paid completely by you and premiums are withheld on a biweekly basis from the salary check.

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Employee Learning and Development / Educational Assistance

Employee Learning and Development

Employee learning and development are both encouraged and available in different forms within the Agency, whether in a classroom setting, mentoring, coaching, or attending conferences, as well as the most valuable ongoing development, the job itself. As you learn more about your work, you are increasing your knowledge, skills, and abilities and adding greater value to the overall goals of the Agency.

Student Loan Reimbursement

In some instances, EPA may offer highly or uniquely qualified candidates assistance in paying off their student loans. In exchange, these employees are required to commit to at least three years of employment. The benefit was designed to cover both existing loans and potential loans for future classes and degrees.

Tuition Assistance

You can get tuition assistance for courses, seminars and conferences that directly relate to your job or to the Agency's mission overall. If your studies last longer than 120 days, you must agree to stay with EPA or the federal government for three times the length of your classes.

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Annual Leave, Sick Leave, Holidays and Alternative Work Schedules (AWS)

On this page:

On OPM's website:

Annual Leave

As a federal employee, you will earn annual leave that may be used for vacations, rest and relaxation, and personal business or emergencies. Hours are earned each biweekly pay period. A maximum amount of 240 hours (6 weeks) of annual leave may be carried over from one leave year to the next.

Following is the rate of accrual for full time employees (leave is prorated for part-time employees or those on uncommon tours of duty). 

Length of Service Full-time Employees Part-time Employees
Less than 3 years 4 hours/pay period 1 hour/20 hours worked
3 up to 15 years 6 hours/pay period 1 hour/13 hours worked
More than 15 years 8 hours/pay period 1 hour/10 hours worked

Sick Leave

As a federal employee, you will earn sick leave that may be used for your own or a family member's medical, dental, or optical examination or treatment. Regardless of length of service, full time employees earn 13 days of sick leave each year (leave is prorated for part-time employees or those on uncommon tours of duty). There are no limits on the amount of sick leave that can be accumulated. Federal employees may use up to 12 administrative work weeks of accumulated sick leave (480 hours) each leave year to care for a family member with a serious health condition.

Leave Sharing (Transfer)/Leave Bank

EPA employees may join and contribute to a voluntary leave bank. Members of the leave bank may receive annual leave if he/she experiences a personal or family emergency and has exhausted all of his/her paid leave. It also allows you to donate your leave to fellow employees with catastrophic leave demands.

Paid Holidays

Federal law (5 U.S.C. 6103) establishes the following public holidays for Federal employees. Please note that most Federal employees work on a Monday through Friday schedule. For these employees, when a holiday falls on a nonworkday -- Saturday or Sunday -- the holiday usually is observed on Monday (if the holiday falls on Sunday) or Friday (if the holiday falls on Saturday).

Holiday Date
New Year’s Day January 1st
Martin Luther King’s Birthday 3rd Monday in January
Washington’s Birthday 3rd Monday in February
Memorial Day Last Monday in May
Independence Day July 4th
Labor Day 1st Monday in September
Columbus Day 2nd Monday in October
Veterans Day November 11th
Thanksgiving Day 4th Thursday in November
Christmas Day December 25th

Flexible Work Schedules and Locations

Many offices within EPA allow you to tailor your work schedule to your personal needs and professional goals. Under a "compressed" schedule, you may be able to take one day or even two days every pay period if you work longer hours on the remaining days of your pay period. 

You may also have flexibility to set your own start and leave times, as long as your work times include "core hours".

Flexiplace (telework) offers many employees the opportunity to work at home either as the need arises, or more regularly as part of their work week.  If you are applying for a position, and you are selected for an interview, you can ask the manager interviewing you if compressed schedules, flexible hours, and/or flexiplace are available for the particular position for which you are applying.

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Additional Benefits


You can apply for a detail -- a temporary reassignment to another division or office for a set period of time.  Details can provide a taste of life in another job or office, without forcing you to commit to a permanent position.  They can last from 90 days to 12 months or longer, and either temporarily backfill a vacancy, or serve as a transition into a permanent job.  Your permanant manager and the manager offering the detail must agree which office will pay your salary while you are on detail.

Transit Subsidy

Transit subsidies are a financial incentive to encourage employees to use public transportation back and forth to work. You are entitled to the subsidy as long as you use public transportation (e.g., vanpools, commuter rail and/or buses) to commute to work.

The amount of the subsidy equals the actual amount paid for public transportation, not to exceed the monthly maximum amount.

Childcare Tuition Assistance

EPA has a Childcare Tuition Assistance Program, administered by the Federal Employee Education & Assistance Fund (FEEA). The program targets employees whose annual family income is $75,000 or lower and who have children in licensed childcare facilities.   and is available to all eligible employees on a first-come, first-served basis.  Learn more about the program at FEEA's website Exit.

Quality of Work-Life Programs

These programs were developed with the knowledge that a well-balanced and stress-free person makes a happy and productive employee. We recognize the importance of providing you with the maximum opportunity to complete your work, in an environment that is sensitive to your personal needs and professional goals.

Employee Counseling and Assistance Program

The Employee Counseling and Assistance Program provides a helping hand for dealing with personal problems and stresses. ECAP offers diverse counseling services such as alcohol and drug abuse, bereavement, crisis intervention, emotional distress, job performance, family issues, separation and divorce, and much more.

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