FSS: SOP 134B2
BUREAU OF HUMAN RESOURCES
OFFICE OF RECRUITMENT, EXAMINATION AND EMPLOYMENT
STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE (SOP) NOTICE NO. 134B2
(This SOP replaces and supersedes SOP 115A dated November 3, 2006, SOP 134B dated 5/29/09, and SOP 134B1 dated August 18, 2014)
SUBJECT: Salary Standards for Entry-Level Foreign Service Specialist Career Candidates, with the exception of Diplomatic Security Special Agent Candidates, effective July 16, 2015
(SOP 134C1 provides procedures for Diplomatic Security Special Agent Candidates)
PURPOSE: To provide procedures for determining the entry-level salary for Foreign Service Specialist Career Candidates, in accordance with 3 FAM 3121.1-2.
The Office of the Registrar is responsible for determining the entry-level salary (grade and step) that the candidate is offered, taking into consideration the candidate’s specialized work experience and education, and, as appropriate, current salary. Salary review/appeal procedures are covered by SOP 134D1 dated August 18, 2014.
Establishment of Entry Grade and Step
The vacancy announcement for each specialist position provides the minimum education and specialized work experience requirements, and specifies applicable grade levels, i.e., FP-7 through FP-1. Candidates who meet the minimum education and specialized work experience qualifications will be offered the grade stipulated in the vacancy announcement; if the vacancy announcement includes more than one possible entry grade, the grade offered will be the highest that is justified by the candidate’s education and specialized work experience at the time the offer is made. Candidates will be appointed at the minimum step within the grade for which they are qualified, that is, at Step 1, unless a higher step is specified in the vacancy announcement.
Education: If the minimum qualifications requirements demand bachelor or graduate-level course work/degree to qualify for the occupational specialty and/or to be eligible for the grade level in question, the degree/education must have been acquired from an accredited institution of higher education prior to being sworn in as a Foreign Service Specialist. Education completed in foreign colleges or universities may be used to meet Federal job requirements if the candidate can show that the foreign education is comparable to education received in the United States.
Specialized Experience: Specialized experience is professional work that demonstrates the applicant has acquired, and is able to apply, specific knowledge, skills, and abilities appropriate to Foreign Service specialty for which they are applying. Applicants must meet the minimum requirements for length of time in qualifying specialized experience as specified in the vacancy announcement, and must demonstrate the potential to perform in progressively more responsible positions in the field of specialty. An applicant’s work experience will be evaluated for level of responsibility and length of experience. Specific examples of work experience that qualify as being directly-related to the work of the Foreign Service specialties covered by this SOP are included in the relevant vacancy announcement.
In no case will more than 40 hours of specialized experience be credited for a one-week period, regardless of the type of work performed, the number of jobs held, the hours worked or the employment status (self-employed or other). Specialized experience that is part-time work will be prorated. When all of a candidate’s specialized experience is totaled, no credit will be given for periods of less than a year, e.g., a total of four years and eleven months of specialized experience is credited as four years.
Adjustment of Step within Entry Grade
Candidates may be awarded additional steps within the entry grade up to the 14th step for:
- Education and experience above the minimum, as provided below; and/or
- Shortage/Hard To Fill Categories and other factors deemed appropriate by the Director of HR/REE to meet the needs of the Service.
Education: When a bachelor’s degree is not required to qualify for a Foreign Service specialist category, or when a bachelor’s degree is not used to substitute for general experience, the candidate should be awarded one step for a bachelor’s degree, in any field of study, awarded before being sworn in as a Foreign Service specialist.
When a graduate degree is not required to qualify for a Foreign Service specialist category, or when graduate studies are not substituted for required experience, the candidate should be awarded:
- One step for one (and only one) graduate degree below the doctoral level, in a work-related field, awarded before the date of appointment as a Foreign Service specialist; and/or
- One additional step for a doctoral degree, in a work-related field, awarded
before the date of appointment as a Foreign Service specialist.
Credit for graduate work will only be given for studies directly-related to the specialist category for which the applicant is being hired, as defined in the vacancy announcement or as determined by the Registrar.
Specialized Experience: Candidates should be awarded an additional step for each full year of progressive specialized work experience beyond the experience required to qualify for the occupation and grade level in question, or for each full year of progressive specialized work experience where a degree is used to substitute for experience. Progressive specialized experience is that which clearly shows the candidate has acquired increasing levels of responsibility, knowledge, skills and abilities while performing work where the primary duties are directly-related to the specialist category for which the applicant is being hired.
Shortage/Hard To Fill Categories: The candidate may be awarded up to a maximum of 6 steps above the base salary for occupations the Director of HR/REE designates as within a shortage category or as hard-to-fill positions. The Director of HR/REE will establish a list of the shortage categories or hard-to-fill positions on an as-needed basis for such reasons as availability of qualified/eligible applicants, the conditions of the available labor force, and the prevailing rates in the market place. “Shortage Category/Hard-to-Fill” steps should be given to the minimum extent necessary to attract a reasonable flow of qualified applicants in any given Foreign Service specialist category and grade.
Positions designated by the Director of HR/REE as Shortage/Hard-To-Fill positions are posted on the website www.careers.state.gov. under “Career Options, Foreign Service Specialists.”
Other Factors: The candidate may be awarded additional steps within the entry grade, up to step 14, for work experience of particular relevance and importance to the Foreign Service, as determined by the Director of HR/REE.
Matching Salary Consideration
For Foreign Service specialist candidates appointed without a break in service of more than three days from other federal government civilian direct-hire employment in which they served for more than 90 days, the entry-level salary should be the result of whichever of the following computations is more favorable to the candidate:
- The step within the Foreign Service grade to which the candidate is appointed, adjusted for the factors outlined above; or
- The step within the Foreign Service grade to which the candidate is appointed that is nearest to, but not less than, the candidate’s current federal salary at the effective date of appointment to the Foreign Service, using the Foreign Service “Overseas” Salary Table as the basis for comparison. If the current federal salary is too high to be matched in the Foreign Service grade for which the candidate is qualified, step 14 of that grade is the starting salary. Locality pay for Washington D.C. will be considered part of the current salary for those federal government civilian direct-hire employees currently receiving Washington D.C. locality pay. Federal government civilian direct-hire employees who do not receive Washington D.C. locality pay will not be allowed to include locality pay as part of their current salary.
For specialist candidates who are not appointed directly from other federal civilian employment but who previously held a federal government civilian direct-hire position, their highest federal salary will be considered for purposes of salary matching.
Candidates must submit a copy of an SF-50 Notification of Personnel Action for proof of their current or prior federal civilian, direct-hire employment.
Salary matching will not be considered for those Foreign Service Specialist candidates who do not have current or prior federal civilian direct-hire employment.