Crediting Level 2-5 under the General Schedule Supervisory Guide (GSSG)
Sandra Rouse, Senior Classification Consultant

 In a recent classification workshop, the application of Level 2-5 of the GSSG generated a robust discussion!

As most of you already know, evaluating a non-supervisory position at the GS-14 or GS-15 level is virtually impossible without crediting Factor 2, Supervisory Controls, at Level 2-5.  In most situations one of the key differences between a GS-13 and a GS-14 is the total absence of technical supervision/direction from anyone as evidenced by crediting Supervisory Controls at Level 2-5.   Without credit for that level, the position is a GS-13.

Most position classification standards describe Level 2-5 as that level at which the supervisor provides administrative and policy direction in terms of broadly defined missions or functions of the agency.  For example –

  • The Administrative Analysis Grade Evaluation Guide states that at Level 2-5 the employee is a recognized authority in the analysis and evaluation of programs and issues and is subject only to administrative and policy direction concerning overall project priorities and objectives.  At this level the employee is typically delegated complete responsibility and authority to plan, schedule, and carry out major projects; and analyses, evaluations, and recommendations are reviewed by management officials only for potential influence on broad agency policy objectives and program goals.


  • The Job Family Position Classification Standard for Professional Work in the Engineering and Architecture Group, GS-0800, describes Level 2-5 as the level at which the supervisor provides administrative and policy direction in terms of broadly defined missions or functions of the agency.  At that level the employee defines objectives; interprets policies promulgated by authorities which are senior to the immediate supervisor and determines their effect on program needs; independently plans, designs, and carries out work to be done; and serves as a technical authority. The supervisor reviews work for consistency with, and potential impact on, broad agency objectives and program goals, and for contribution to the advancement of the field; normally accepts work as being technically authoritative; and normally accepts work without significant change.

In the Digest of Significant Classification Decisions & Opinions, No. 7, August 1985, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) issued a ruling regarding appropriateness of Level 2-5.  The appeal concerned a “Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization Specialist.” The appellant performed various duties to ensure that small and disadvantaged business firms (as defined by law) were given full opportunity to compete for contracts being let by the agency. The position was classified in the GS-1102 series and evaluated by the GS-1102 standard. However, the concepts outlined below are equally applicable to other Factor Evaluation System standards.

The appellant believed that Supervisory Controls should be evaluated at Level 2-5. To support that level, he claimed that he received “only administrative direction in terms of broadly defined programs or functions.” He further stated that his work products and advisory services were considered “technically authoritative.”  The appellant worked with a great deal of independence in the performance of the small and disadvantaged business utilization functions, and worked with very little intervention by his supervisor in technical decisions. He resolved day-to-day problems in accordance with existing laws, regulations, policies and precedents. The supervisor set objectives, allocated resources, and established the policy framework for carrying out the assigned functions. The employee and supervisor jointly developed time frames and program emphases. Work was reviewed for overall effectiveness and achievement of goals.

The OPM found the appellant’s level of responsibility fell significantly short of Level 2-5:  “That level reflects administrative supervision only, with full technical authority delegated to the employee. Typically, this level of authority is accompanied by responsibility for a significant program or function, etc. While the appellant had significant technical responsibility, his supervisor was ultimately responsible for administration of the small and disadvantaged business utilization program.  Level 2-4 involves a high degree of independence and responsibility, and thus fully recognized the technical responsibility vested in the subject position.  When considering Level 2-5, the availability of a technically qualified supervisor must be considered. The existence of such a position in the management chain, while not in itself conclusive, makes Level 2-5 highly unlikely. When such a position exists, the supervisor generally exercises substantial program control, such as analyzing policies from higher authority and determining their effect on the program; formulating and issuing policy statements governing the program; establishing procedures to provide for management needs and ensure efficient operations; exercising normal supervisory control, including planning and assigning work, setting priorities, and giving program guidance. 

The OPM cautioned that, “Such factors must be carefully analyzed in evaluating supervisory controls. Neither the absence of immediate supervision in day-to-day operations, nor the fact that technical recommendations are normally accepted, serves to support a level above 2-4.”

As a side note, you may want to advise managers insisting on having positions credited with Level 2-5 that those positions cannot be considered under the General Schedule Supervisory Guide in determining the level of work they supervise.  In determining the highest level of work which constitutes at least 25 percent of workload or duty time in their organizations, work that is graded based on an extraordinary degree of independence from supervision (positions credited with Level 2-5) or personal research accomplishments are excluded from consideration.  For purposes of applying that Guide, you may adjust the grades of such work to those appropriate for performance under “normal” supervision.  For example, you may credit any non-supervisory GS-14 or GS-15 work at GS-13 or below.

Questions and comments can be submitted to Susan Custard at