(This SOP replaces and supersedes SOP 104 dated 9/7/01 and SOP 104A dated 1/29/03)

SUBJECT: Salary Standards for Entry Level Foreign Service Officer Career Candidates effective May 29, 2009

PURPOSE: To determine a Foreign Service Officer Career Candidate’s entry salary in accordance with 22 C.F.R. 11.1 (g) (iii) and 3 FAM 2216.2-7

PROCEDURE: Salaries are set through a three-part process:

Part I – Determine grade and step based on education and qualifying experience (QE). For a definition of "qualifying experience," see "Notes" below.

Click here to see the current FS pay table.

Education Full Years of Qualifying
Experience (QE)
No Bachelor's Degree 0-5 FP-6/Step 5
6-11 FP-6/Step 6-11
12-17 FP-5/Step 5-10
18-27 FP-4/Step 5-14
>27 FP-4/Step 14
Bachelor's Degree 0-5 FP-6/Step 5-10
6-11 FP-5/Step 5-10
12-21 FP-4/Step 5-14
>21 FP-4/Step 14
Master's or Law Degree 0-5 FP-5/Step 5-10
6-15 FP-4/Step 5-14
>15 FP-4/Step 14
Doctorate 0-9 FP-4/Step 5-14
>9 FP-4/Step 14

Where a range of years and steps is shown, one step above the minimum is added for each year of QE above the minimum, up to the maximum within the range. For example, a Bachelor’s Degree plus nine years of qualifying experience receives FP-5, Step 8.

Part II – Attempt to match salary for those who lose money in joining the Foreign Service

Once grade and step are determined, based on education and qualifying experience in Part I, the Registrar will look at the candidate’s current salary to see if he/she will lose money by joining the Foreign Service. If so, the starting salary will be raised to the step in the grade for which the candidate is qualified that is closest to the current salary. If the salary falls between two steps, the higher of the two steps is the starting salary. If the salary is too high to be matched in the class for which the candidate qualified, step 14 of that class is the starting salary. Federal civilian employees receiving DC locality pay will be allowed to include DC locality pay as part of their "current salary." Federal civilian employees who do not receive DC locality pay will not be allowed to include locality pay as part of their "current salary." (See Notes on "current salary".)

Salary review/appeal procedures are covered by SOP 134D.


"Current salary" means salary earned for at least 90 days prior to appointment as a Foreign Service Career Candidate. Candidates must submit proof of the "current salary; for example: a copy of 90 days' worth of earnings statements; SF-50 Notification of Personnel Action (for federal civilian employees only); a statement on letterhead from the Human Resources Office of their most recent employer; and/or other appropriate documentation.

For those in the private sector, "current salary” also means that there must not have been a break in service of more than 45 calendar days between the candidate's most recent employment and appointment as a Foreign Service Career Candidate. For federal civilian employees, there must not have been a break in service of more than three calendar days between their civilian employment and appointment to the Foreign Service (in accordance with government-wide regulations).

As used in this SOP, "qualifying experience" can be in any field, but does not include clerical or wage-grade work, or any other work not usually requiring a bachelor’s or higher degree. The employee’s primary duty must be, or must have been, the performance of work requiring advanced knowledge, defined as work which is predominantly intellectual in character and which includes work requiring the consistent exercise of discretion and judgment.

Advanced knowledge must be in a field of science or learning customarily acquired by a prolonged course of specialized intellectual instruction. Work performed by active duty U.S. military commissioned officers is considered "qualifying experience"; work performed by U.S. military personnel who are not commissioned officers is not considered "qualifying experience" unless it meets the above definition of "qualifying experience."

"Qualifying experience" that is part-time work will be prorated. If a candidate works more than one job, no more than 40 hours will be credited for any week. When all of a candidate's qualifying experience is totaled, no credit will be given for periods of less than a year, e.g., a total of one year and eleven months is credited as one year.

"Qualifying experience" is calculated up to the date the Registrar sends the first appointment offer to the candidate.

Re education: Degrees must be from accredited institutions. A Bachelor's, Master's or Doctorate degree, received from an accredited institution after the Registrar has sent the first appointment offer but before the candidate is appointed as a Foreign Service Officer, will be credited for grade and salary determination upon submission of evidence of the degree to the Registrar.

Re training: Credit towards salary calculation for periods of training can be included if the candidate received full salary during the training. The training cannot be part of any other calculation towards computing salary level, such as educational credit.

Re internships: Credit towards salary calculation for an internship can be applied if the internship is:

  1. Work that would be considered "qualifying experience" as defined above.
  2. Not part of an academic requirement. The internship is neither required nor is it part of an advanced degree program.
  3. Not given credit in any other form. The internship cannot be part of any other calculation towards computing the salary level.

Re Self-Employment: For contractors, self-employed, those receiving sales commissions or other than W-2 receiving workers, in determining Entry Level Salary, the basis for comparison shall be the previous twelve months' earned income, based on income tax statements or equivalent documents and calculated from no more than 45 days prior to the date of appointment to the Foreign Service.