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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: making calculations applying standard formulas; preparing graphs, curves, and tables for other engineers; recording factual data in tests and observation studies; performing drafting and minor detail design; and/or searching technical reports to obtain information.

To qualify for GS-9: adapting practices and techniques to specific situations; adjusting and correlating data; recognizing discrepancies and deviations in results; following operations through a series of related detailed steps or processes; making tentative and preliminary selections; adapting engineering alternatives and/or after approval by the supervisor, carrying out a sequence of details.

To qualify for GS-11: performing assignments in which complex features occur infrequently or in isolated, single units; making minor deviations to previous work, such as sizes, dimensions, and relationships of details, which can be resolved by engineering calculations; investigating a limited number of variables; carrying out experiments in accordance with approaches which have been structured by others; planning project details on the basis of precedents established in related projects; recommending methods of standardized analysis as a basis for solving problems; and/or making only minor adaptations or modifications to well-established methods and techniques. The following assignments are illustrative: 1. designing or performing the production engineering for equipment or devices for which design criteria are standardized or well established by applying standard engineering practices, components and circuit design approaches; 2. performing the engineering tasks necessary for the installation of established or modified equipment aboard a ship, aboard an aircraft, in a building, or other environment; 3. carrying out maintenance engineering assignments for an in-service equipment or a complex of equipment comprising a system; 4. performing engineering evaluation of manufacturers' data packages containing specifications, schematics, test data, construction details, etc., which conform to well-known technology; 5. designing or reviewing designs of electric power distribution and utilization systems or electrical generating equipment of limited scope and complexity such as for small ordinary office buildings, or designated portions of larger, more complex electrical projects; 6. using established criteria to perform engineering analysis and evaluation of applications for a variety of applications for broadcast stations, point-to-point, or land mobile communications facilities to insure interference-free communication, involving complex, but commonly used, antennae setups, transmitting, and receiving equipment which have been previously approved by the agency for use. 7. independently plan and conduct diverse field investigations of complaints of interference in the radio broadcast media; or conduct investigations of electromagnetic interference with communications, guidance, or other equipment aboard ships.

To qualify for GS-12: performing assignments that involve combinations of complex features; planning and conducting work for which precedent data, criteria, methods, or techniques are inadequate in some respects, or contain narrow gaps; and/or completing work where the purpose is to improve, extend, or validate currently known precedents, data, methods, or techniques. The following assignments are illustrative: 1. performing design and production engineering functions for older or well-established equipment when new requirements or changed requirements are imposed, such as greater efficiency or closer tolerances involving substantial modification of existing equipment; 2. conducting a variety of investigations and analyses relating to site selection and systems integration, in connection with installation of systems to be installed at several facilities or in numerous craft. 3. In the maintenance and operation of major equipment or systems, performing such duties as: developing or evaluating adequacy of maintenance programs, training equipment and materials, operating manuals, and repair procedures; inspecting newly installed or modified equipment and systems for conformance to performance requirements; resolving equipment failure or unsatisfactory performance problems where the user has not been able to pinpoint the problem in circuitry or components; 4. evaluating manufacturers' data packages for devices or components for addition to or removal from an approved parts list, performing complete engineering analyses that require adaptation or extension of the agency standards for such devices to determine whether they are acceptable; 5. designing, analyzing, and reviewing designs of high and low voltage electric power distribution and utilization systems for large, diverse installations or buildings, e.g., dam complexes, hydroelectric power plants, hospitals, industrial shops, airfields, or technical laboratories; 6. evaluating applications for a variety of types of broadcast stations or communications facilities which utilize approved and rather well-established equipment, prescribing changes that must be made in order to be acceptable, such as a different antenna height or the use of a different antenna to avoid interference with a distant station; 7. conducting a wide variety of comprehensive investigations of broadcast interference and unauthorized used of the airwaves; 8. making studies, analyses, and calculations for the solution of problems connected with the overall planning, design, or operation of a high-voltage power generation and transmission system.

To qualify for GS-13: performing work characterized by many, varied complex features due to the breadth, diversity, or intensity of assignments; adapting, modifying or making compromises with standard guides, precedents, methods and techniques; planning and conducting work for which precedent data, criteria, methods, or techniques are significantly inadequate, are controversial or contain critical gaps; developing new features, in addition to improving, extending, or validating currently known precedents, data, methods, or techniques; and/or performing staff advisory, consulting, and reviewing services for an engineering organization. The following assignments are illustrative: 1. designing or performing the production engineering for the latest, state-of-the-art equipment which will be integrated into systems with very precise tolerances, utilizing new and even previously untried methods and designs; 2. reviewing or developing the installation instructions for systems that include a number of physically separate and technologically different components, resolving problems by a tailored combination of principles and practices of the functional or subject-matter area; 3. In an equipment or systems maintenance program, performing such duties as: developing the instructions and specifications for the repair, modification, maintenance and testing of new types of systems with many component pieces of equipment; determining where major failure problems or instabilities within assigned systems exist through the agency failure report system, drawing upon experience and originality to locate the problems and to determine how to correct them; 4. evaluating manufacturers' data, specifications, and drawings for novel and somewhat controversial devices or components proposed for addition to or removal from an acceptable or standard parts list, particularly items that are first articles or major innovations that will advance the technology; 5. planning and coordinating feasibility studies for extensive modifications of major segments or component equipment of communications networks on high-voltage transmission networks, in order to find means of improving performance, increasing capacity, correcting unsatisfactory conditions, or reducing number of stations; 6. evaluating applications for broadcast or point-to-point communications services that involve some important advancements such as a new complex antenna array which will be incorporated into the system, or automatic checkout provisions, which will probably have far-reaching impact in the communications field, if successful; 7. developing or reviewing designs, specifications, and cost estimates for electric power distribution and utilization systems of the level of complexity and novelty such as those for a research laboratory using very large blocks of power for wind tunnels; or a unique installation which must satisfy conflicting requirements of such factors as aesthetic values in architecture, minimal space, higher voltages, and more critical load balance.

To qualify for GS-14: serving as technical experts on the limitations of proven concepts and practices of a broad and complex subject-matter field or functional area; taking short-cuts or making compromises that are considered risky or extreme within the context of standard guides, precedents, methods and techniques; completing assignments that require the ability to anticipate and to take positive action on problems which, if not identified in their early stages, would likely lead to serious consequences, e.g., problems involving public safety, key relationships, resource limitations, or performance reliability; performing certain kinds of staff advisory, consulting, and reviewing services. The following assignments are illustrative: 1. serving as the coordinating engineer for the production of a system that consists of many separate functional items of equipment, e.g., a missile guidance system, or a category of equipment or devices, which incorporates the latest, state-of-the-art advances; 2. planning modifications to complex subsystems or major category of equipment, e.g., switching or transmission equipment of an extensive nationwide communications network in order to improve service, expand capacity, or reduce the number of links; 3. conducting system analyses of a primary power system consisting of several subsystems, e.g., generating plants, high voltage transmission lines, requiring thorough knowledge of the current state of technology in the power field as well as the functioning of the existing system.

To qualify for GS-15: conceiving, planning, and conducting work in unexplored areas where there is little or no theory to guide experimentation, progress is devious, new techniques and approaches need to be devised, and future lines of fruitful experimentation are difficult to determine; earning recognition as an authority in their fields, by breaking through the frontier areas and coming up with new knowledge of fundamental significance which will influence the procedures and ideas of others; developing and designing new theoretical treatments, instrumentation, equipment, and procedures for testing and solving the problems; representing the organization on technical committees developing general plans and procedures for carrying out research and experimental projects; developing short- and long-range research and development plans and programs for a large group of research, development, and test activities; developing and correlating research objectives; originating new concepts, methods, and techniques for research planning, program guidance, program evaluation, technological forecasting, and resource allocation; conducting special planning studies to discover, create, and synthesize new approaches to the problems of establishing adequate research and development programs; and/or coordinating technical planning in installation activities by relating future program plans to projected requirements, available resources, installation responsibilities, interrelated effort of various laboratories, and scientific discoveries.

Additional Experience and Training Provisions for Graduates of Professional Engineering Curricula:

  • Superior academic achievement at the baccalaureate level in a professional engineering curriculum is qualifying for GS-7.
  • Individuals can be converted noncompetitively to a GS-7 position if they complete all the requirements of a Federal baccalaureate level student-trainee program, including 1040 hours of work experience, 320 hours of which was at the GS-5 level.
  • A combination of superior academic achievement and 1 year of appropriate professional experience is qualifying at GS-9.
  • Applicants with an engineering degree who have appropriate experience as a technician equivalent to grade GS-5 or higher may have such experience credited for grade GS-7 only on a month-for-month basis up to a maximum of 12 months.
  • Successful completion of a 5-year program of study of at least 160 semester hours leading to a bachelor's degree in engineering is qualifying at GS-7. Completion of such a program and 1 year of appropriate professional experience is qualifying at grade GS-9.

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:

Individuals can be converted noncompetitively to a GS-9 position if they complete all the requirements of a Federal graduate-level student-trainee program, including completion of a master's degree in engineering and completion of 640 hours of work experience, 320 hours of which was at GS-7.

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).

With a bachelor's degree in engineering, graduate education in a related field is acceptable in lieu of graduate study in engineering for appropriate types of positions. For example, a BS in engineering plus a master's degree in business administration would be qualifying for Industrial Engineer, GS-9, but not for GS-9 laboratory positions in research and development. The key consideration in determining if such graduate education should be credited is whether or not the education provided the knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary to perform the work of the position being filled.

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