Cryptographic Vuln. Analyst - Entry: $68,586 - $85,464
Cryptographic Vuln. Analyst - Mid-Level: $79,334 - $105,663
Computer Network Analyst - Entry/Mid: Same
Systems Vulnerability Analyst - Entry/Mid: Same
Capabilities Development Specialist - Entry/Mid: Same
There's also signing bonuses available, and language bonuses if you know foreign languages that are in demand. They also adjust the pay for living in Hawaii, since it's more expensive.
The CIA pays a little better, but it's more expensive to live near there.
I've priced stuff out in that area. It's not as bad as you're making it out to be. There's a number of decent areas with reasonable housing, it only gets more expensive if you're concerned about also having a shorter drive into DC.
These numbers seem incredibly low. Like, "why doesn't Google just hire them all away and put them in a box somewhere" numbers. The economic damage done by repeated spying allegations and the vulnerabilities the NSA has stockpiled (and then leaked) seems like it's far outweighed the cost even to individual companies to just filibuster the whole thing. Then again, I'm not going to dig into the pathology of people who'd accept government jobs in the first place.
So for Los Angeles, for example, total annual salary would be $74,584.00 * 1.2965 = $96,698.00 for G13 base. G13 max would be $96,958.00 * 1.2965 = $125,706.00.
. https://www.federal pay.org/GS/2017
After that, there is a ceiling, so most will work for private firms or consult, making 2x, 3x, or much more.
Most senior technical folks (not just out of school/military, and not supervisor/team lead level) are going to be GS12-13.
Still, (almost) no one is making 200K as a federal employee.
If they are government employees they are normally paid on the regular government GS Pay scale (title 5) - https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/pay-leave/salaries... so the really good ones get paid up to $161,900 if they can make it past the GS-14 pay grade.
Though, that is considered generally OK pay for a regular government job that is not extremely high stress, quick turn around and high demand. Though to the private sector's top hackers as many far exceed this as a senior cyber security engineer or CISOs making up to $380,000/year + stock options + other perks. In those cases the government also has Title 10 which limits pay to under the president's salary (section 102 of title 3) $400,000 - https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/3/102. This allows the federal government secretaries or heads of agency to be able to pay individuals of extraordinary talent and ability the same rate as they may pay a physician or other medical professional if that individuals salary requirements fall outside of the regular GS pay scale and they really want that person on board and want to pay them a competitive salary.
There is also the Senior Executive Service and other equivalents for the many agencies that puts the individual into a senior level(SL), scientific or professional (ST) positions. These positions may come with cash rewards up to $25,000 with approval from OPM/White House, eligibility to be nominated for the Presidential Rank Awards (Distinguished Rank (35% of annual basic pay) or Meritorious rank (20% of annual basic pay) - https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/senior-executive-s....
Though these positions for hackers would normally be reserved for those with at least 10 to 20+ years in the game with extreme in depth knowledge of the multiple operating systems, hardware and software, SCADA, Satellite, and other embedded/private/public/military communications systems out there. This normally means they are not just specialized in a few things, but have deep knowledge of many systems through practical experience working with them hands on over the years and hacking them to pieces during security audits, product evaluations, quality assurance, security validation and testing through reverse engineering to insure the products do what they say they do, etc.
There are also some agencies that use a pay band system 1 to 5, etc. and normally cap out at around $157,000/year then bump up to around $120,000 to $167,000 for their senior level positions and $120,000 to around $180,000 for their senior executive service compensation.
So in general the best of the best in terms of government employees could be paid up to $400,000/year under title 10 which is more of a government contractor type position that has to be renewed regularly, highly unlikely unless those in top positions see someone they want working for them and really want them badly to work on the inside of government. Normally the title 10 pay is around $160,000-$300,000, so in general the bulk of hackers would fall under the GS pay scale ranging from GS-9 to GS-14 Step 6. Anything higher would have to be negotiated and justified during the hiring process or worked into a promotion for those already working for the government.
The same goes for GS-14 and higher. Those ranks usually translate to management, or it is expected that they would have some management tasks (like team leader, etc.). Same with bands in that band 5 is usually reserved for managers or exceptional non-managers.
In non-DoD/Intel community, the normal model for IT is having one FTE (GS-13/14) managing a bunch of contractors, or a mix of FTEs doing specialized work (running key systems, networks, "DevOps") and contractors doing customer facing stuff like desktop support, etc. Can't speak for the intel community or DoD, who do their own thing.
bands (short for pay bands) in FEDERAL (not contractor) competitive service vs. excepted service are slightly different.
Competitive service works as Band 1-4, followed by SES (senior executive service). With excepted service (which I expect most hacker type folks to be hired under) you don't have SES. You have Band 1-5, with Band 5 roughly = to an SES pay grade. Excepted services essentially means you are hired in for a special skill set, and you don't compete on the normal gov HR point system (which includes vet preference, disability, etc.). Excepted service tends to be used for hiring a specific person. Downside is that without competitive status, excepted service personnel can not move laterally in government.
in both cases, band 1-4 cover the same ground as GS 1-15, but with less stratification.
GS Grades go from 1-15, but each grade has 10 steps. GS 9 (average masters degree education starting point) will run 42K-56K base + whatever COLA (cost of living adjustment) you get for location. For Wash DC area COLA is +24.78%, bumping GS 9 to 53k (step 1)-69K (step 10). Each department/team is a little different, but most places I'm familiar with have a clear career path from GS7-GS13. GS14 and GS15 are more slot based, and generally are management positions.
Bands are tougher to move around in after your initial hire. It works out better for you if you just scrap into the next highest band, it works out worse if you land in the middle or the top of your band. Instead of step or grade based pay bumps, the band system is an "experiment" to incorporate pay for performance. Everyone gets their base pay (determined by band, and then further separated into high, medium, and low), and then there is an extra pool of money at the office level that is distributed by performance reviews. High performers get 1.5%-3% * (base pay + COLA), with low performers getting nothing. Without getting deeper into the weeds, most people can expect to get a ~1%-1.5% "bonus" annually. Theoretically, the bonus system is supposed to make up for the additional stratification of the Grade/Step system, but because of office politics the curve is pretty flat, and the high performers don't really see that much of a pay bump.
edited to add this is for FEDERAL employees. Contracting has a whole different set of issues and rules. In general, I'd recommend going Federal to get experience and a clearance, then transition to contractor status later in your career. Whereas most Fed salaries will top out at 160K-ish, contractor salaries w/ bonus can be much higher (2x-4x). Downside is stability and employment risk, and working for a client rather then being the client.
A lot of the teams employ contractors alongside the USG employees, with higher pay ranges.
This is normally true but there are organizations that have technical roles up to GS-15.
I think another question to ask is what other reasons would you want to work at these companies? The possibility to learn from other smart people? The opportunity to work on problems you couldn't get elsewhere?
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