Explore our Frequently Asked Questions by topic.
What are the more common pay systems found within FEMA?
Executive Schedule (EX)
EX has five levels of pay to which top executives are assigned, such as members of the President's Cabinet, deputy secretaries, undersecretaries, assistant secretaries, various officials of Commissions, Regulatory Boards and the like.
General Schedule (GS)
GS is based on equal pay for substantially equal work within each local pay area. The majority of FEMA’s Title V employees are paid under the GS. There are fifteen grades and ten steps within each grade that determine pay.
On initial hire into FEMA, pay is usually set at step one of the grade of the position for which the employee is selected, although it may be set higher based on above-average qualifications or a special need of FEMA when certain requirements are met. Also, pay rates for employees paid under the GS may differ because of the geographic location or the level of difficulty of the position. For current GS pay tables, view the Office of Personnel Management’s Salaries and Wages webpage.
Senior Executive Service (SES)
Includes most managerial, supervisory, and policy positions classified above the General Schedule grade 15 or equivalent positions in the Executive Branch of the Federal government. The Executive Resources Board (ERB) pay policy allows pay be set based on qualifications, performance, responsibilities of the position, and private sector pay.
For the current SES pay schedule, view the Office of Personnel Management’s Salaries and Wages webpage.
The Wage Grade (WG)
The WG schedule is referred to as "blue collar" or "prevailing rate" and is based on the current rates in a given local wage area. This system covers trade, craft, labor, and other blue-collar jobs. Each wage area pay scale is divided into three classes: WG (worker), WL (leader), and WS (supervisor).
Adjustments to Pay
Employees working in certain areas, e.g., Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, designated by the President under 5 U.S.C. 5304(d)(1) may receive an adjustment in pay to reduce large pay differences with non-Federal workers within each locality. For information on locality pay areas and rates, see 5 CFR 531.601, Subpart F or visit the Office of Personnel Management’s Salaries and Wages webpage.
Overtime and Compensatory Time
Employees identified as "nonexempt" are eligible for overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Agencies must pay these employees for work done over the regular 40-hour work week. Employees who are identified as "exempt" are not covered by the FLSA but can still receive overtime pay under Title 5 of the U.S.C. In certain instances, employees can request additional time off instead of being paid for overtime or be required to receive additional leave rather than overtime pay.
The supervisor or authorizing official must approve all overtime and additional leave before it is worked.
Employees should contact their Executive Office to find out if he/she is exempt or non-exempt, or to learn more about the policies and procedures for overtime and additional leave.
Each year the President decides whether to allow an adjustment in the basic pay of certain categories of Federal employees. This adjustment is usually made once a year and done at the beginning of the first full pay period of January.
Special Salary Rates
These rates are higher rates of basic pay that are created for a group or category of General Schedule (GS) positions in one or more locations. Special rates address existing or likely significant handicaps in attracting and keeping well-qualified employees. These rates may be developed for nearly any category of employee based on criteria such as occupational series, specialty, grade level, and geographic area.
Within-Grade Increases (WIG)
Employees under the General Schedule (GS) who are paid less than the maximum rate of the grade (i.e. step 10) of their job may earn a promotion to the next higher step or rate within the grade. This increase is called a within-grade (WIG) or step increase.
Waiting periods for a WIG range from 1 to 3 years and are defined in 5 CFR 531.405.
Employees paid under a current rate system (e.g., wage grade) also earn WIGs. However, the WIG is paid in accordance with the rules at 5 CFR, Part 532. Employee performance must be at an acceptable level of competence and the most recent performance evaluation shall be at least fully successful or an equivalent level.
For more information on pay systems, visit the Office of Personnel Management’s Pay Systems webpage.
Are there any time limits to enrolling in health insurance?
New employees have 60 days from the date of hire to enroll in a participating Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) plan. To enroll, employees must complete and submit an Employee Health Benefits Election Form, SF-2809, to the Office of the Chief Component Human Capital Officer within those 60 days.
If an employee doesn’t enroll within the 60-day period, he/she will receive NO COVERAGE. The employee must wait until the next opportunity to enroll, which is generally during the yearly open season held from November through December or when a qualifying life event occurs, e.g., marriage or birth of a child.
How do I waive basic health coverage or elect additional coverage?
To waive basic life coverage or to choose additional coverage, employees must complete a SF-2817, Life Insurance Election Form. Employees should name beneficiaries by completing a SF-2823, Designation of Beneficiary, Federal Employees Group Life Insurance Program Form to receive life insurance proceeds and to make sure that benefits will be paid as he/she wants. If beneficiaries are not chosen, proceeds will be paid according to the order of precedence of the state that the employee lives at the time of death.
Are there any time limits to enrolling in life insurance?
Unlike health insurance, FEGLI does not have an annual open enrollment. Therefore, if an employee does not enroll during the eligibility period, he/she must meet certain requirements and satisfy evidence of insurability in order to enroll.
Are there any time limits to enrolling in a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) Program?
An employee has 60 days after the hire date, but no later than October 1 of any Plan Year, to choose to participate in the FSA Program for the next calendar year. Once chosen, employees cannot make changes to or leave the program throughout the Plan Year unless there is a Qualified Status Change, e.g., marriage, divorce, birth of a child, or death of a dependent.
Employees hired on or after October 1 are ineligible to participate in that Plan Year. These employees must wait until the FEHB open season to enroll, held from mid-November to mid-December each.
FSA Program participation is voluntary. Employees must re-enroll each year to maintain a dependent and/or health care account. FSA claims must be filed timely. In addition, any funds deducted that are not claimed by the established deadline will be lost.
Are contribution structures the same for all retirement systems?
Employees covered by the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) or the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) can add to their retirement income by participating in the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP). However, there are different rules for each group:
- FERS employees can contribute a percentage of their basic pay each pay period and receive matching FEMA contributions.
- CSRS employees can also contribute a specific percentage of their basic pay each pay period but do not receive matching FEMA contributions.
What are the available Thrift Saving Plan (TSP) investment funds?
Employees can choose from six TSP investment funds:
- Government Securities Investment (G) Fund
- Fixed Income Index Investment (F) Fund
- Common Stock Index Investment (C) Fund
- Small Capitalization Stock Index Investment (S) Fund
- International Stock Index Investment (I) Fund
- Lifecycle (L) Funds
Review a comparison of the available TSP funds on this matrix.
Which paid holidays do Federal Employees receive?
- New Year's Day (January 1)
- Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. (Third Monday in January)
- Washington's Birthday (Third Monday in February)
- Memorial Day (Last Monday in May)
- Independence Day (July 4)
- Labor Day (First Monday in September)
- Columbus Day (Second Monday in October)
- Veterans Day (November 11)
- Thanksgiving Day (Fourth Thursday in November)
- Christmas Day (December 25)
Presidential Inauguration Day
Federal employees in the Washington, DC, area get a holiday on the day a President is inaugurated (January 20 following a Presidential election). Employees get this holiday if they work in:
- The District of Columbia
- Montgomery and Prince Georges Counties in Maryland
- Arlington and Fairfax Counties in Virginia
- The cities of Alexandria and Falls Church in Virginia
When Inauguration Day is moved to January 21st because the 20th is a Sunday, Federal employees in the Washington, DC, area who would otherwise work on Monday, January 21st, get a holiday on that day.
What is the role of a Reservist?
As a part of FEMA's disaster workforce, Reservists serve the nation by helping citizens and first responders during disasters or emergencies.
As a Reservist you will have the opportunity to train,become qualified in a specific disaster role, and assist in the coordinated response and recovery efforts of impacted citizens, communities, Local, Tribal, and State governments.
- Staff Joint Field Offices (JFOs) and Disaster Recovery Center (DRCs),
- Interview disaster victims,
- Assess and confirm damage,
- Provide administrative, financial, and logistical support, and
- Provide a wide variety of other tasks based on emergency needs.
What are the requirements to become a Reservist?
You must want to assist others in a disaster or emergency. Also, you must commit to being professional, keeping the public trust, and following all FEMA/DHS rules and regulations and Conditions of Employment.
- Be a U.S. citizen,
- Pass a background investigation,
- Be approved for a government-issued travel card,
- Be able to leave home on short notice,
- Be able to be away from home for 30 days or more, and
- Be able to travel to any state or U.S. territory.
What is it like to be a Reservist?
Reservists play a very important role in meeting the needs of disaster survivors. The work of a Reservist can be exhausting, frustrating, challenging and rewarding. The hours can be long and the conditions are sometimes difficult.
However, it gives you the opportunity to:
- Gain professional knowledge and skills
- Discover the role and responsibilities of Federal response and recovery related to Presidentially-declared disasters
- Get the satisfaction of knowing you have brought help, relief, and comfort to those individuals affected by a disaster or an emergency
How will Reservists be chosen to deploy to disasters?
Based on staffing needs, Reservists will be deployed for all assignments on a rotational basis by job title and qualification level. The length of deployment will depend on operational needs and available funding. When necessary and appropriate for effectively accomplishing the mission, FEMA may choose to change the rotation list by deploying those Reservists closest to a disaster.
What equipment will each Reservist be given?
Based on your role as a Reservist, you may receive a laptop, mobile phone and/or a tablet. The equipment is provided after you are hired and sign the Conditions of Employment form.
Who Should Apply to be a Reservist?
- Highly motivated, self-starters who can work with little supervision
- Computer literate
- Able to prioritize tasks
- Customer service focused
- Good at working under physical and mental stress
- Able to work on an as-needed basis with a flexible work schedule
Are Retired Federal Civil Servants that are Reservists eligible for an annuity waiver?
If you are a retired Federal civil servant, your pay from FEMA is subject to an offset. You may be eligible for an annuity waiver. However, waivers only apply during the first 120 days of a Presidential Disaster Declaration. The annuity waiver does not apply when deployed to conduct Preliminary Damage Assessments or for an Emergency Presidential Declaration.
How are Reservists structured?
A national cadre structure chooses employees by the specific operational program or job they do in support of Agency-wide disaster operations. Within each cadre are specific FEMA Qualification System Incident Management or Incident Support job titles.
How are Reservists managed?
FEMA Headquarters manages the Reservist Program. A Reservist Program Manager manages each cadre and is responsible for:
- Creating policies and procedures specific to their cadre that support the Agency and program plans and goals
- Setting up and using strategies for finding, hiring, training, and developing cadre members
- Making recommendations about potential deployments of cadre members to find the best use of available resources
- Ensuring the maintenance of accurate records for individual cadre members
- Communicating policies and procedures, as well as listening to issues and concerns raised by cadre members and working to address those issues
What are the cadre functionalities?
Cadres focus on the following functionalities:
Reservist Cadre Functionalities
National Disaster Recovery Support
Alternate Dispute Resolution
Federal Coordinating Officer
Disaster Emergency Communications (DEC/MERS)
Disaster Field Training
Public Assistance Federal Coordinating Officer
Disaster Survivor Assistance
Where Can I Find More Information on the Reservist Program?
- More About Reservists on FEMA Careers
- Additional Reservists' Program FAQs
- Reservist Application Process FAQs
- Reservist Program page - tools and resources for Reservists
- Reservists Policy Directive
Temporary Local Hires
What is the role of a temporary local hire?
Temporary local hires:
- Help staff disaster operations
- Allow disaster survivors to get back to work while adding to the long-term recovery of the local community
- Are in direct contact with other affected residents and disaster survivors
- Bring a special understanding of the problems faced by their fellow disaster survivors.
Title 5 Jobs
What is competitive status?
A Permanent Full-Time (PFT) employee gains competitive status after one year of continuous service in eligible jobs. This means that an employee is eligible for placement into certain Federal government positions without having to compete with the public.
What is career tenure?
A Permanent Full-Time (PFT) employee obtains full career tenure after three years of continuous service in eligible jobs. Employees with full career status may leave Federal service and, if desired, reapply for Federal employment as if the Federal government still employed them.
Using USAJOBS.gov to Locate and Apply for Jobs
What if I have questions while applying?
For general questions on applying to open jobs, please go to the USAJOBS.gov Resource Center.
Can I create a resume online?
Yes. Once you have created your USAJOBS.gov account, you can create your resume using the Resume Builder. Once your resume is in the system, you can update it at any time.
I already have a resume established. Can I load this onto the system?
Yes. USAJOBS.gov will allow you to upload a pre-existing resume to be included in your profile. However, you should know that not all open jobs may accept uploaded resumes.
When I apply, will I receive a confirmation?
You will be sent a confirmation notice if you elect to receive this notification in your USAJOBS.gov profile. You may also check on the status of your application by selecting "Application Status" in your USAJOBS.gov account.
FEMA posts job openings on social media sites like LinkedIn. If I comment on job posts that I’m interested in, will FEMA review my social media profile to hire me?
FEMA cannot review individual profiles for recruiting or hiring decisions. All interested applicants must apply through USAJOBS.gov. Click on the social media link to navigate to the job post, read details, and apply. Read the How to Apply to a FEMA Vacancy guide for more information.
How do I claim veterans' preference?
You must identify your status as a veteran on your application and provide proof of your entitlement to a veterans' preference by submitting appropriate documentation, such as a copy of your DD-214, Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty (Member 4 copy).
If you are a disabled veteran, you must submit an SF-15, Application for 10-Point Veteran Preference, and the appropriate documentation from the military service or a current letter of disability from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Can I apply for a job opening when I am on active duty?
FEMA will consider applications from individuals who are about to be released from active duty military. If you are not separated or released from active duty before the effective date for filling the position, your application will not be considered.
A member of the uniformed service may accept a civilian position if he/she has done active duty service and is on terminal leave pending separation or release from active duty under honorable conditions.
In addition, current FEMA employees who are gone because of military duty may apply for any open job announced while they are gone and will be considered as if they were working their civilian jobs.
Does all active duty service qualify for veterans’ preference?
No, not all active duty service may qualify for veterans' preference. In accordance with title 5, United States Code, Section 2108 (5 USC 2108), Veterans' preference eligibility is based on:
- Dates of active duty service
- Receipt of a campaign badge, or Purple Heart
- A service-connected disability
You must have been discharged under an honorable or general discharge from active duty to be eligible for veterans’ preference. If you are a "retired member of the armed forces", you are not included in the definition of preference eligible unless you are a disabled veteran OR you retired below the rank of major or its equivalent. For more detailed information on veterans' preference, read the Vet Guide on the Office of Personnel Management website.
What is the difference between 5 point preference eligible and 10 point preference eligible?
There are basically two types of preference eligibles, disabled (10 point preference eligible) and non-disabled (5 point preference eligibles). Read details about these preference types in the Vet Guide on the Office of Personnel Management website. If you are not sure of your preference eligibility, visit the Department of Labor's Veterans' Preference Advisor.