The public sector, like the private and nonprofit fields, has salaries ranging from unpaid internships all the way up to well above six figures. As of 2012, the median salary for a federal employee in the United States was $69,550.
The majority of federal employees are on a salary scale called the General Schedule (GS), which includes 15 different grades and many steps inside of each grade. Grade one begins at just over $18,000, and Grade 15 caps out at just over $132,000 for the annual base salary. This does not include locality pay, which is an additional adjustment rate determined by the cost of living in any given area.
Outside of the General Schedule, there is also the Senior Executive Schedule. Members of the Senior Executive Service are placed in key positions just below top Presidential appointees. They often serve as the major link between presidential appointees and the rest of the Federal workforce. As of 2015, these salaries begin at $121,956 and cap out at $183,300.
The pay rates of both the General and Senior Executive Schedule, like those of military and foreign service officers, are set by the United States Congress and are subject to change pending new legislation.