What are Senior-Level (SL) Positions all about?

Many federal managers have a good understanding of the Senior Executive Service (SES), but not as many understand what Senior-Level positions are all about. Although SL positions are typically non-executive positions, the high-level duties are broad and complex enough that they need to be classified above GS-15. Prior to 1990, the General Schedule (GS) included GS-16, 17 and 18 levels, but those grades were ultimately replaced by the SL category.

There are more than 640 SL positions allocated to several executive agencies, such as a high-level special assistant, senior attorney or policy advisor who is not a manager or supervisor, in a highly specialized field. Some of the agencies with the largest numbers of SL positions include the Departments of Agriculture, Defense, Justice, Treasury, Homeland Security, Interior and Energy, as well as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

SL positions may include some supervisory and related managerial duties, but those duties cannot occupy more than 25 percent of the incumbent’s time. SL positions do not meet the criteria for the SES and do not involve the fundamental Research and Development (R&D) responsibilities typical in the Scientific and Professional (ST) system.

Additionally, some agencies are statutorily exempt from the SES, including government corporations and several other agencies such as the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC), Export-Import Bank and Federal Election Commission. Because of the exemption, the executive positions in these agencies can be staffed by SL employees.

SL vacancy announcements do not require you to submit Executive Core Qualifications (ECQs), but they often require one or more Technical Qualifications (TQs) and Desirable Qualifications (DQs) that help the hiring agency to make a decision. If you think you might qualify for an SL position, search for vacancies on USAJOBS.gov, and be prepared to answer some very specific TQs in most cases!

Barbara Adams is the President and CEO of CareerPro Global, Inc. (CPG). She has been on the leading edge of SES application development for decades. Committed to providing world-class service, she has also built an SES writing team that has assisted more than 2,500 clients develop their application materials. Ms. Adams has been featured on TV and the radio, and as a presenter at numerous career conferences. CPG recently sent a team to instruct senior officials at Warner Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, in best practices for developing their SES application materials. She is the co-author of the new book, Roadmap to the Senior Executive Service: How to Find SES Jobs, Determine Your Qualifications, and Develop Your SES Application.

Posted in Career Tip of the Month

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