Position Classification

What is position classification?

Position Classification, first and foremost, is a way to ensure equal pay for substantially equal work. The classification system and standards are tools for assisting management in accomplishing the agency's mission. It assists in management activities such as designing organizations, recruiting for necessary expertise to perform the work, and establishing performance standards. 


Classification means the analysis and identification of a position and placing it in a class under the position classification plan established by OPM under chapter 51 of Title 5, United States Code. 

Class means all positions, which are sufficiently similar as to: 

  • kind or subject matter of work,
  • level of difficulty and responsibility, and
  • the qualification requirements of the work to warrant similar treatment in personnel and pay administration. 

Grade is all classes of positions which (although different with respect to kind or subject-matter of work) are sufficiently equivalent as to:     

  • level of difficulty and responsibility, and
  • level of qualification requirements of the work to warrant their inclusion within one range of rates of basic pay. 

Position is the work, consisting of the duties and responsibilities, assigned by competent authority for designation of work to complete a function within an organization and to ensure performance by an employee. 

Why do we have a position classification system?

The General Schedule position classification system is a tool in implementing a compensation system that helps ensure equal pay for substantially equal work and IT'S THE LAW. The following are reasons for the position classification system:    

  • codified in the United State Code, Title 5, chapter 51;
  • established by the Classification Act of 1949;
  • establishes principle of equal pay for substantially equal work;
  • provides definition of each grade in the General Schedule (GS-1 to GS-15);
  • directs the Office of Personnel Management to prepare classification standards;
  • it's a tool for organizing the work and identifying the knowledge and skills needed to accomplish the mission of the organization;
  • it provides a basis for recruiting, placing, compensating, training, reassigning, promoting, and separating employees.  

 What are the different Pay Systems?    

  • General Schedule (GS) - White collar positions in GS grades 1-15
  • Federal Wage System (WG, WS, WL) - Trades, Crafts, and Labor positions
  • AD - Administratively Determined Miscellaneous Positions
  • CO- Farm Service Agency County Office Employees
  • SL/ST - Senior Level Scientific/Technical in senior level (SL) and scientific or professional (ST members are highly valued for their management, leadership and technical skills
  • The Senior Executive Service (SES) executives selected for their leadership qualifications
  • Foreign Service pay plans and salary schedules for Officers (pay plan FO) and Personnel (FP) were established under the Foreign Service Act of 1980. Other Foreign Service pay plans which are linked to Federal pay schedules are Senior Foreign Service (FE), linked to the Senior Executive Service. Foreign Compensation (FC).
  • FP- Foreign Personnel
  • FC- Foreign Compensation
  • FO- Foreign Officer
  • FE- Senior Foreign Service  

What is a position description? 

It is your link to the organization's mission. The position description of record states the major duties, responsibilities, supervisory relationships, organizational location, and any other aspects of a position that may be necessary for proper classification.

The position description provides the basis for developing performance standards. In addition, it helps management support staff levels for carrying out their function to complete the overall mission.

Want to learn more? Go to http://www.opm.gov/fedclass/html/gsclass.asp