What is considered entry level for government pay grades varies depending on the type of career area you are entering. For nonspecialized labor jobs that require no high school education, entry level is generally considered GS-1. However, accounting and legal professionals with advanced degrees are considered entry level and much higher placement on the general schedule.
Federal employees are paid based on a high structured government General Schedule Pay Scale. This is a 15 pay grade scale with 10 incremental pay steps at each level. Educational qualifications and previous work experience dictate where a new employee is placed on the schedule. Schedule amounts are adjusted annually at the direction of the president and approval of Congress, based on cost of living changes. Percentage increases are also made to the base schedule in areas with higher costs of living. Employees move up grade levels as they gain experience or promotions.
Nonspecialized Entry Level
The first level on the general schedule is GS-1. This first pay grade is for jobs that require no formal high school education. This would include many types of general labor and basic clerk jobs. According to the Fed Jobs website, Step 1 on the GS-1 pay level as of 2011 pays $17,803. For employees with stronger academic or work qualifications, pay increases up to Step 10 at $22,269.
Federal jobs that generally require some type of specialized skills, vocational training or certain educational background are often considered entry level at GS-5 and GS-7, indicates MakingtheDifference.org. Variance is based on discrepancies in agency policies, but these pay grades are for jobs requiring a four-year bachelor's degree. GS-5 starts at $27,431 and GS-7 starts at $33,979, for Step 1. Step 10 pays $35,657 and $44,176, respectively, as of May 2011.
Entry level for professional jobs requiring advanced degrees typically begins much higher on the general schedule. According to the US Department of Justice website, entry level attorneys typically start at the GS-11 pay grade. This is because of the academic background required and the highly specialized occupation. Attorneys starting at this level would make $50,287 at Step 1 up to $65,371 at Step 10, as of May 2011, indicates the Fed Jobs website.