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Will it hurt me down the line to give myself a "demotion"?
May 13, 2014 11:29 AM   Subscribe

I am a U.S. Federal employee. I live in DC. After a decade here, I'm feeling pretty much done. I'd like to move to CA to be closer to loved ones, and a friend in SF just alerted me to a good-fit job opening in my agency's field office there. Problem: it's one grade lower than my current position.

I'm a GS-14/2 now (non-supervisory), and if I were to get that job I think I'd convert to a 13/8. Because of the difference in locality pay (I'd be making ~$11,000 more than I am now), I don't intellectually feel opposed to going down a grade; I also don't see myself as a Fed-for-lifer (I'm still pretty young and this would primarily make for a smooth transition to a new place with benefits already in hand). But is this "demotion" something that's likely to come back to bite me, as a red flag hindering advancement further down the line? Does anyone have experience with making a similar move?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (2 answers total)
Of course, IANYHR, and your situation may be different, but worth a check!

Could you possibly be eligible for Grade Retention for voluntarily moving to a lower grade?

In my last job move, I had to move (non-voluntary, long story) to a lower grade (DoD -> Veteran's Admin) and was eligible to retain my basic pay.
posted by jason6 at 11:40 AM on May 13

I am not 100% sure of this, but I think that as long as you have a year as a 14 you could still potentially qualify for 15s in the future without having to be a 14 again first. (That doesn't necessarily mean you'd get hired for them, but you'd meet the requirements to apply.) The main issue is, what do you want? If you drop down to a 13 from a 14, it might be a while before you could move up again, as the higher you go, the harder it is to find that promotion. I understand that there are also often fewer advancement opportunities in field offices as opposed to at HQ.

Another consideration is that as a 14/2 you have a lot of room to grow your pay through your seniority-based step increases and/or QSAs (and you get them more often near the bottom of the grade). At a 13/8, though, you're very close to topping out, and once that happens, the only way to get more money is the (rarer than hen's teeth lately) COLAs or getting a promotion to a higher grade. This would make me wary in SF specifically because of the notoriously high cost of living there - if your housing cost more than 11K more than what you pay now, you'd end up taking a net loss even before other considerations.

However, like anything else, it's a tradeoff. What is more important to you, the location or the speed of your potential advancement? The advantage here is that as a fed, you can know for certain what your job salary range is, which helps with planning.
posted by oblique red at 2:18 PM on May 13

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