Comparable Professional Compensation For Federal Engineers

Talking Points

  • Provide government engineers adequate compensation and incentives similar to other professionals.
  • Retain and recruit engineering expertise within the federal government.

NSPE Position

General Principles
Compensation for federal government engineers must be comparable with that of the private sector, if federal agencies are to recruit and retain the best possible cadre of engineers. Without an adequate supply of qualified engineering talent, the nation's public infrastructure, defense, space programs, federal laboratories, and other activities that involve engineering expertise will not be able to meet the needs of our technologically dependent society.

Encourage Professional Licensure
Engineers should be encouraged to become professionals in the career track of agencies. Engineers must also receive appropriate compensation differential for passage of the professional engineer exam and obtaining their licenses comparable to doctors and attorneys in federal service.

Promotion Eligibility
Engineers as technical specialists should also be eligible to be promoted up to the GS-15 level, comparable to doctors and attorneys.

The federal government has had difficulty recruiting and retaining its engineering, scientific, and medical professional employees because its salary classification system is not competitive with the private sector. To rectify this situation, the federal government established a special wage rate system for certain professional or technical occupations, including engineering. "Specialty pay," as the system is known, is intended to close the gap in salary levels between federal government and private sector professionals. Doing so assists the federal government in overcoming barriers to the recruitment or retention of qualified professional personnel.

  • Engineer Classification Within Federal System
    The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) classifies engineers without regard to the fact of whether they are licensed. Engineers, as technical specialists, can only be promoted up to a GS-12 level. In order to advance further, they must be assigned to a management position, while doctors and lawyers may be promoted up to a GS-15 level as specialists.
  • Achievement of P.E. License
    OPM does not recognize the achievement of a professional engineering license as an appropriate event and additional credential of value to the government to merit additional compensation. In fact, many federal agencies do not distinguish between licensed and non-licensed engineers.

    The federal government needs to overhaul its hiring and promotion system, especially to recruit top talent for short periods and specialized projects. It is also critical that attention to beef up federal salaries for critical occupations is addressed.

NSPE References
NSPE Professional Policy No. 2 - Recognition of the Engineering Function Within Government
NSPE Professional Policy No. 7 - Employment Practices, Civil Service
NSPE Professional Policy No. 27 - Employment Practices

Issue Brief and Position: