Federal law enforcement officers perform many of the same tasks as local police departments. They conduct crime scene investigations, submit evidence for forensic analysis, take witness statements and interrogate suspects. Depending on the agency, they may work to intercept smuggled goods or illegal immigrants. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, police officers working for the federal executive branch earned an average salary of $52,620 a year as of May 2012. A federal law enforcement officer's specific salary depends on the federal pay grade and the annual GL-schedule issued by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, or OPM.
Federal Pay Basics
The OPM issues two pay tables annually -- one for federal law enforcement officers and the other for employees who are not law enforcement officers. The OPM first establishes a base pay rate. It then increases that amount by a set percentage to defray higher costs in specific locations. The locality percentage ranges from 14.16 percent for areas not covered by a separate locality pay to 35.15 percent in the greater San Francisco area. The schedule has 15 pay grades, each with 10 steps that permit pay increases without increases in grade. Most federal law enforcement officers start at grade 5 or higher, depending on the agency and applicant's qualifications. Not included in the GL-schedule is overtime pay, which can add as much as 25 percent to salaries.
Initial Pay Grade
The initial pay grade for federal law enforcement agents depends on each agency's rules and the qualifications of the applicant. As an example, border patrol agents may begin at pay grades 5, 7 or 9. Special agents for the Naval Criminal Investigative Service begin with a minimum pay grade of 7. The Federal Bureau of Investigation starts agents with at least a pay grade of 10. Each agency has its own requirements for step increases and promotions in pay grade.
Salaries for Grades 5 Through 7
According to salary data from the 2013 OPM pay table for law enforcement officers, officers at grade 5 had annual pay ranges of $38,619 to $48,010 and $45,720 to $56,837. The first range is based on each grade at steps 1 and 10 with minimum locality pay. The second range is based on steps 1 and 10 with maximum locality pay. Grade 6 salaries for both groups ranged from $40,723 to $51,193 and $48,211 to $60,605. Salaries for grade 7 officers were $43,964 at step 1, up to $55,605 at step 10 with the smallest adjustment for minimum locality pay. The range for maximum locality pay was $52,048 to $65,829.
Salaries for Grades 8 Through 10
At grade 8, annual salaries ranged from $45,823 to $58,707 at steps 1 and 10 for each pay grade after including the lowest location pay adjustment. For the highest location pay adjustment, salaries were $54,248 at step 1 and $69,501 at step 10. The grade 9 ranges were $49,029 to $63,259 and $58,044 to $74,891. At grade 10, the salary ranges were $53,994 at step 1 to $69,673 at step 10 with the minimum location adjustments, and $63,922 at step 1 to $82,483 at step 10 with the maximum location adjustment. All salaries reflect the 2013 pay table published by the OPM.
Salaries for Grades 11 Through 13
To simplify, the following yearly salaries reflect the pay at steps 1 and 10 after incorporating the smallest location adjustment percentage and steps 1 and 10 after incorporating the greatest adjustment. All salaries are from the OPM's 2013 law enforcement officer pay table. Grade 11 officers earned $57,408 to $74,628 with the minimum adjustment, and $63,922 to $82,483 with the maximum adjustment. At grade 12, the salary ranges were $68,809 to $89,450 and $81,460 to $105,897. Grade 13 officers earned between $81,823 and $106,369 with the minimum adjustment and $96,867 to $125,926 with the maximum adjustment.
Salaries for Grades 14 and 15
As of 2013, grade 14 officers earned $96,690 a year at step 1 and $125,695 at step 10 with the smallest location adjustment. They earned $114,418 to $129,729 with the largest adjustment, according to the OPM pay table. At grade 15, officers earned $113,735 at step 1 and $147,857 at step 10 after including the lowest location pay, and they earned $134,647 at step 1 and $155,500 at step 10 after including the highest adjustment.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2012 -- Police and Sheriff's Patrol Officers
- U.S. Office of Personnel Management: Salary Table 2013-GL (LEO)
- Federal Bureau of Investigation Careers: Special Agents -- Special Agent Frequently Asked Questions
- CBP.gov: FAQs -- Working for Border Patrol
- NCIS: Special Agent Frequently Asked Questions
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