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Basic Requirements for all grades, GS-5 and above

Degree: professional engineering. To be acceptable, the curriculum must:

  1. be in a school of engineering with at least one curriculum accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) as a professional engineering curriculum; or
  2. include differential and integral calculus and courses (more advanced than first-year physics and chemistry) in five of the following seven areas of engineering science or physics: (a) statics, dynamics; (b) strength of materials (stress-strain relationships); (c) fluid mechanics, hydraulics; (d) thermodynamics; (e) electrical fields and circuits; (f) nature and properties of materials (relating particle and aggregate structure to properties); and (g) any other comparable area of fundamental engineering science or physics, such as optics, heat transfer, soil mechanics, or electronics.

Click here for information on alternate methods of qualifying without a professional degree in engineering.


Additional Experience and Education Requirements For GS-7 and Above

In addition to meeting the basic entry qualification requirements, applicants must have specialized experience and/or directly related education in the amounts shown in the table below:




Specialized Experience



1 year of graduate-level education in an accredited college or university or superior academic achievement

1 year equivalent to at least GS-5


2 years of progressively higher level graduate education leading to a master's degree or master's or equivalent graduate degree

1 year equivalent to at least GS-7


3 years of progressively higher level graduate education leading to a Ph.D. degree or Ph.D. or equivalent doctoral degree

1 year equivalent to at least GS-9

GS-12 and above


1 year equivalent to at least next lower grade level

NOTE: Education and experience may be combined for all grade levels for which both education and experience are acceptable.


Graduate Education: Completion of graduate level education in the amounts shown in the table, in addition to meeting the basic requirements, is qualifying for positions at grades GS-7 through GS-11 if it provided the knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary to do the work. One year of full-time graduate education is considered to be the number of credit hours that the school attended has determined to represent 1 year of full-time study. If that number cannot be obtained from the school, 18 semester hours should be considered an academic year of graduate study. Part-time graduate education is creditable in accordance with its relationship to a year of full-time study at the school attended.

Specialized Experience: Experience that equipped the applicant with the particular knowledge, skills, and abilities to perform successfully the duties of the position, and that is typically in or related to the work of the position to be filled. To be creditable, specialized experience must have been equivalent to at least the next lower grade level in the normal line of progression for the occupation in the organization.

Examples of Specialized Experience may include:

To Qualify for GS-7: Working as a trainee mechanical engineer, performing duties that are designed to orient the employee in the application of academic theories and basic principles to mechanical engineering design work. Receiving formal and on-the-job instruction and training designed to familiarize incumbent with functions and operations of the organization, and to provide experience in the practical application of basic mechanical engineering principles, techniques and concepts; assisting higher grade engineers, or working as a team member in the design of mechanical systems for agency facilities. Applying basic mechanical engineering knowledge to selected uncomplicated portions of such projects, performing tasks such as drafting or minor detail design, applying basic formulas to routine calculations, preparing graphs, curves or tables for use of other engineers, and searching technical reports or manufacturer's catalogs to obtain information for higher grade engineers.

To Qualify for GS-9: Performing specified portions or minor phases of assignments pertaining to the design of mechanical systems for buildings such as hospitals, office buildings, penal institutions, etc. Assignments are typically screened to eliminate difficult or unusual problems. For example, from specific instructions, notes or sketches provided by a higher grade engineer, preparing layout and detail drawings on relatively routine projects or works on a portion of a larger and more complex project which has been assigned to a higher grade engineer; performing necessary calculations such as heat loss, required capacities, size of piping, boiler size, etc.; studying engineering texts, periodicals, manufacturer's publications and other technical material to obtain information on materials, equipment and pertinent data to the used by higher level engineers in the development of specifications for mechanical installations.

To Qualify for GS-11: Performing design and layout of mechanical equipment systems such as plumbing, heating, air conditioning, sprinkler, steam distribution, etc., and preparing working drawings for installation of the systems in government buildings such as hospitals, office buildings, penal institutions and related structures. Projects include additions and renovations to existing structures and, to a lesser extent, new construction. Employee has complete design responsibility for small, routine projects and performs portions of large, complex projects under the direction of a higher grade engineer, such as reviewing architect's working drawings and any design commitments made to using agency; making calculations and sizes the equipment taking into consideration the facility's needs; and preparing preliminary and final designs of mechanical systems with regard to the needs of the user, space, capacities and economy.

To Qualify for GS-12: Performing design and layout of plans for heating, ventilating, air conditioning and refrigeration systems for hospitals, research buildings and similar facilities. Projects include new construction and additions or renovations to existing structures. Performs such tasks as reviewing design architect's working drawings which indicate building size and general arrangement; making field surveys to investigate existing equipment layout and conditions; analyzing mechanical needs, makes calculations and determines types of systems most suitable to meet requirements of building within the prescribed budget; and preparing original designs and preliminary and final layout of heating, ventilating and air conditioning systems with regard to size, space, capacities and economy.

To Qualify for GS-13: Serving as a mechanical engineering specialist with responsibility for developing the designs, plans, and specifications for plumbing, heating, ventilating, air conditioning and other systems of major size and complexity for use in government facilities, including multi-story office buildings, steam plants, hospitals and similar structures. Also prepares drawings and specifications for private architect-engineer contracts and reviews contractor's designs. Typically is assigned projects of considerable difficulty, i.e., containing combinations of unusual features, requiring significant departures from previous approaches to similar projects. In addition, serves as a technical advisor to lower grade engineers on complex design problems.

To Qualify for GS-14: Serving as staff specialist planning, directing and coordinating mechanical engineering activities for an agency, reviewing or directing the review of the mechanical features of plans, specifications, and analyses of design as submitted by other offices for accuracy and technical competency, and approving such plans, specifications and analyses; where deficiencies are noted, directs necessary changes and furnishes assistance required; advising field office personnel on methods and procedures to be used in special studies on highly complex mechanical systems; approving such systems or facilities based upon the results of these studies; and preparing and processing technical reports and papers on important and highly complex mechanical engineering matters which influence the current and future programs of the organization.

To Qualify for GS-15: Serving as a nationally recognized consultant and expert in construction of mechanical facilities with responsibility for observing advising and reporting on mechanical engineering activities for construction projects including installations being built for a number of agencies, worldwide. Projects include facilities of unusual size and complexity, and also require dealing with unusual environmental conditions, including those associated with arctic or tropic climates. Providing leadership and expert advice to other segments to the agency, both central office and regional offices, to other agencies, and to contract architect-engineers on total mechanical engineering systems, particularly those for buildings of major size and complexity.

Definition of Professional Engineering Experience: The professional engineering experience required for grades GS-7 and above is defined as non-routine engineering work that required and was characterized by (1) professional knowledge of engineering; (2) professional ability to apply such knowledge to engineering problems; and (3) positive and continuing development of professional knowledge and ability.

Professional knowledge of engineering is defined as the comprehensive, in-depth knowledge of mathematical, physical, and engineering sciences applicable to a specialty field of engineering that characterizes a full 4-year professional engineering curriculum leading to a bachelor's degree, or the equivalent.

Professional ability to apply engineering knowledge is defined as the ability to (a) apply fundamental and diversified professional engineering concepts, theories, and practices to achieve engineering objectives with versatility, judgment, and perception; (b) adapt and apply methods and techniques of related scientific disciplines; and (c) organize, analyze, interpret, and evaluate scientific data in the solution of engineering problems.

Professional work in engineering, like that in other professions, is marked by continuing personal effort to keep abreast of the advancing and changing discipline. Continuing education in engineering and related fields is an important element of full professional competence as an engineer that should be considered in evaluating the qualifications of applicants for professional engineering positions.

In some situations, experience may be creditable even if it is not clearly professional engineering work. In such cases, the experience must have been preceded by prior responsible professional engineering experience and must contribute directly and significantly to the applicant's engineering competence. For example, an engineer might be assigned to a management-type position in preparation for assumption of higher-level responsibilities in engineering project or program management.

Graduate Education: Regardless of the field of undergraduate study, completion of the requirements for a master's or higher degree in engineering is fully qualifying for the grade indicated, provided the applicant's total background, i.e., education and any experience, demonstrates evidence of knowledge, skills, and abilities that are substantially equivalent to those acquired through the successful completion of the courses specified in paragraph (1).

College Teaching: College-level teaching of engineering may be considered as professional experience in engineering. In accepting and evaluating teaching experience, all specific qualification requirements pertaining to the evaluation of professional experience such as grade level, responsibility, scope, specialization, and knowledge required are also applicable to the evaluation of teaching experience. Teaching experience that is accompanied by a significant amount of research, direction of research, investigative, or similar work may be credited at full value in meeting a specific requirement for research, investigative, or similar experience.

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Page Last Updated: 7/13/2015 9:30 PM