Header Ads

Join Google Fi, get $20 Fi Credit with referral code PDDCC0

Foreign Service Salary and Benefits

The Foreign Service seeks to recruit highly qualified staff, but (in my opinion) does a poor job of explaining the full salary and compensation package. So this post will attempt to address how different the advertised salary is from what is typically paid (both overseas and in DC).The format is Base Pay and Other Income and Non-monetary benefits.

Base Pay and Other Income
The confusion with Foreign Service pay begins with the USAJOBS position description. This applies for both Foreign Service Specialists and Foreign Service (Generalist) Officers. I have another post talking about the differences between the hiring process of those two hiring methods, but this post is focused on answering the important question of "what am I going to get paid once I'm in?". 

So, using a previous FSCE career field job announcement, this is what it shows: 
 Open & closing dates: 04/20/2022 to 05/10/2022 
Clarification: The application windows are around a month long, and occur 4-6 times per year. 

Salary: $72,686 - $143,172 per year 
Clarification: This is "Base Pay" only. It does not include locality pay, cost of living adjustments, hardship pay, or account for multiple non-monetary benefits. To be very clear: you will make more than this, but how much more will depend on where you are 
assigned. I'll be explaining all of this in a bit, but I pull the info from here: 
link: https://aoprals.state.gov/web920/location.asp?menu_id=95

Pay scale & grade FP 03 - 04 Clarification: The Foreign Service uses the FS/FP pay scale [link] and the terms "FP-03" and "FP-04" are effectively "grades" like the military's ranks of "Major" or "Captain" (respectively). Unlike the military where the more senior people have higher ranks (Colonel O-6 vs a Lieutenant (O-1), the Foreign Service pay gets higher as the number gets lower. Within these two "grades" or "classes" there are 14 incremental "steps"

Here's 2023's table (until I can find 2022's). 

So, you can see that the actual hiring range is looking at FP-04/Step 6 to FP-03/Step 14...but the high end numbers don't match. why? 

Locality pay:
If you are assigned overseas, you have a multiplier of (XX%) on your base pay. If you are assigned domestically, that number changes (link to full list), but in Washington, D.C., the multiplier is (YY%). So do I make more in DC than overseas? It depends. 

At this point in the discussion, it's important to point out that one major non-monetary element of our compensation package is government-funded housing overseas. It's done primarily for security and safety reasons, but it means that our direct compensation package might look 20-25% lower on paper. 

So, to recap: 
base pay is what all of your allowances and benefits percentages are calculated off of.
Your base pay with locality pay will be XX% greater overseas  (and you are provided housing) or YY% in DC (but you have to pay for your own housing).

So, about those allowances:
1) COLA - ranges from 0% to XX%, for the ZZZ posts I have rates for, the average (mean) is yy%; mode is xx%, median is zz% (can i produce a global map with COLA as a heat map?)
2) hardship differential. ranges from 0% to ZZZ. The nicer places generally have 0% because they are not hardships; (can i produce a global map with hardships as a heat map?)
3) danger pay; 0% to ZZZ; includes countries like X, Y, Z. So more than a hardship, there's a potential for physical danger.

Now, as for non-monetary compensation:
1) housing - three levels, with distinctions between with or without family. you won't see this money, but you can think of it as the rent paid on your behalf.
2) education allowance- International schools are quite good, and the tuitions are quite high...fortunately the Department pays the tuition. These are effectively private schools, often attended by the children of senior-level business leaders. Also, boarding school options exist if the kids don't reside with you in-country, which carries a different tuition. 

Before I get into the "career-long" example, it's useful to understand how promotions work. Because who doesn't want more money? 
a) how long before I'm eligible for promotion? The regulations require two years at grade as of 1 July.  this doesn't make much difference after your first promotion which would be effective in November, but it can be really advantageous if you can start your training on or before 1 july. Someone with a date of grade of 29 June 2020 would be eligible to meet the 2022 promotion board, but someone with a date of grade of 2 July 2020 would not be eligible until 2023. 
Note: Generalists and specialists have different promotion selection processes, but the eligibility requirements remain the same.

b) how quickly can I promote? For the entry-level (FS-6 to FS-4), most people promote administratively in 1-X years, depending on where you came in. Starting with competitive promotion from FP-4 to FP-3, you could--in theory--spend a minimum of 2.5 years at each grade and move up from FP-4 to FP-1 in 7.5 years. That almost never happens. ((link to statemag promotion stats))

For the years 2019 to 2022 (6 years), the FSCE promotion profile looked like this:

Note: in  August 2016, there was a massive re-classification of FSCEs, where all 27? FP-4s were administratively regraded to FP-3 to facilitate hiring new people in at the FP-3 level. This resulted in skewed promotion rates to FP-2 that didn't start to reflect the new normal until 2019.

For the purposes of my example I'll start with FP-03/Step 6. If you are on any of the steps between 1 and 10, you automatically receive an annual "Wage Grade Increase" (WGI). From Steps 11-13, you would see a WGI once every 2 years. And no, if you spend 2 years at step 14, you won't automatically move up to the next grade. That's a whole different discussion related to promotions. All you need to know about that is that when you are promoted, (use official quote) your base pay salary will be increased by two steps and aligned with the (next higher?) step on the higher grade. ( 

<still in draft>


Practical Example
Ok, so that was a lot of words. Here's an example of how differently two people could progress through the system. 


You May Also Like:

No comments