If you’re a GS-5 step 1, you’re poor

Argue with me if you want but a MA in History is one of the most useless graduate degrees out there because my first job out of grad school was a GS-5 step 1 Museum Technician job (bathrooms, down the stairs and to the left). Looking at the AMI link from a posting on the ANC2C02 blog clarifying affordable housing and the locality pay schedule for the DC metro region from the largest employer, GS-5/1 are a tad below 50% of the AMI (Area Median Income) for single households. You hit 50% at step 4. I’m not criticizing Uncle Sam’s wages. No, my then $19K (1995-96) salary and living in a shared apartment barely being able to pay back my student loans for 2 years inspired me to go back to grad school and get a practical degree.
Now I know non-profit people, just starting out, with their bright new shiny BAs and BSs or whathave you, get paid jack because just working for the cause is payment enough. Besides, more where they came from when one set gets jaded. Anyway, when I did once non-scientifically compare salaries with newbie non-profit people, they were also below or around 50% of the AMI. In time this changes. You get experience, pick up some valuable skills, get older, get/apply for something else in the org or at another nonprofit or association, go back to school, something, and you start moving into the 60%-80%-100% range. Or you move back to Wisconsin or Minnesota, one of those things.

2 thoughts on “If you’re a GS-5 step 1, you’re poor”

  1. I had a GS-12 step 4 income back inna day during the dot-com years. I left because “I was bored” with the job. Today I stab my eyeballs out thinking what an idiot I was making that decision, today making the top edge of the Shaw median income. From where I am now, I don’t think it would be financially responsible for me to go out and buy in DC.

    I don’t know how the shiny new ones coming in can do it. Do they live with 10 other people in a 4 bedroom house?

  2. Yes, I too would stab my eyeballs out if I left a now $73K per annum job just ’cause I was bored. Now you can bored or harrassed at work for less! I’m sure it made sense at the time.

    I do hear that group houses, parents helping out, and throwing oneself into the black hole of credit card debt helps.

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