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Career News | May 30, 2019

Puzzled by Pay?

By DCAA Staff Writer

Thinking about a job with DCAA? You’re probably wondering how much you’ll earn. The answer:  It depends.  Your starting salary is based on which GS grade you qualify as well as your geographic location.

Understanding the General Schedule (GS)

DCAA entry-level auditors typically start their career at either the GS-7 or GS-9 grade, depending upon education and experience.  All DCAA employees are paid according to the government’s General Schedule (GS) pay system. The GS system includes 15 pay grades, with 10 steps or levels within each. Typically, a new employee is hired at step 1 of a grade, although this can vary. To understand promotions in the GS system, visit our blog on Climbing the Career Ladder. You can learn more about the GS system at the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) website.

How your qualifications determine your GS Grade

The specific job requirements, your education level, and any specialized, relevant experience all factor into determining for which grade you will qualify. That is just one reason an accurate and detailed resume is so important. Specialized experience must be clearly listed on your resume and related to the duties on the job announcement to be considered relevant.

The table below shows typical relationships between GS grades, experience, and education for our entry-level auditor positions:

Auditor Position Level

Typical GS Grades



Junior Auditor   


Bachelor's degree

None required, must have GPA of 2.95 or better.

Semi-Senior Auditor



Master's degree


None if you meet the education requirement

Senior Auditor


Combination of  education and  experience

Full performance level

Clearly listing your specialized experience on your resume impacts your GS Grade

Detailing your experience directly impacts your starting grade. If its not clearly listed in your resume and directly related to the qualifications on the job announcement, it cannot be considered specialized experience. For example:

  • You may have five years of auditing experience but if your resume doesn’t mention working papers, risk assessments or other “hands on” audit work, your experience cannot be considered specialized.
  • You have a bachelor’s degree with a 2.95 GPA or higher and you also have two years of specialized experience directly related to the work we do here at DCAA (as listed in the duties of the job announcement).  If you communicate your experience well, you would qualify for a GS-11 auditor position.
  • You have a graduate degree plus one year of specialized experience, you also qualify for a GS-11 auditor position.

Please keep in mind: Your degree(s) must be in accounting or a related field (business, finance). If your degree is in a related field, you must have 24 credit hours in accounting OR a CPA. The job announcement explains these qualification requirements in great detail. 

Finally, be sure to upload your resume to USAJOBs and verify it’s legible!

Where You Work Also Impacts Pay

The GS pay system is locality-based, meaning there’s a pay differential based on where you work. Locality pay adjusts the base rate of pay based on the cost of living in a geographic area. This way, the system accommodates the needs of workers in more expensive areas, such as California or major metropolitan areas. Locality increases are based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ National Compensation Survey.

There are 51 metropolitan locality pay areas; Alaska and Hawaii each comprise a separate locality; and a catchall “rest of the U.S.” locality includes everywhere else in the contiguous 48 states and U.S. territories and possessions. Pay in the highest-paid locality, San Francisco, exceeds the pay in the lowest-paid locality, the “rest of the U.S.,” by about 25 percent. Employees working in foreign countries don’t get locality pay, but can be eligible for several compensation add-ons.

Learn What You Could Make, Based on Grade and Location

OPM offers a salary calculator that lets you see the annual pay for each Grade, step, and specific locality. No matter how much it is or where you earn it, you can count on receiving your pay biweekly through direct deposit.

Want to learn more? Read about Competitive Salaries at DCAA.