Working in the Australian Public Service (APS) can be an appealing career choice for many individuals due to its stable and rewarding nature. However, like any profession, understanding the salary structure is essential to making informed decisions about one’s career path. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the intricacies of APS salaries, including the different levels, pay scales, and factors that influence salary determination.
APS Salary Structure
The APS salary structure is based on a system of levels and bands that outline the pay rates for different positions within the public service. Each level corresponds to certain responsibilities, qualifications, and experience, with higher levels generally indicating higher levels of responsibility and complexity of work.
APS employees can be classified into various levels, which include APS 1 to APS 6, Executive Level 1 (EL1), Executive Level 2 (EL2), and Senior Executive Service (SES). Each level comes with its own distinct salary range.
Factors Influencing APS Salary Determination
Several factors influence the determination of APS salaries, and they can vary depending on the level and responsibilities of the position. Some of the key factors include:
1. Classification Level:
As mentioned earlier, the classification level of the position plays a significant role in determining the salary. Higher levels often require more experience, qualifications, and responsibilities, which are reflected in the pay.
2. Budget Allocations:
The budget allocated to each agency can influence the salary packages they can offer to their employees. If you are asking for a pay bump above the next increment, it can often require Deputy Secretary approval.
3. Experience and Qualifications:
The candidate’s relevant work experience and educational qualifications are crucial factors in salary determination. Those with more experience and higher qualifications positions you to negotiate for a higher salary.
Did you know? The Australian Government offers a range of graduate programs across its various departments and agencies. These programs provide graduates with the opportunity to work in a challenging and dynamic environment to develop their skills and contribute to the important work of the Australian Government.
4. Specialised Skills:
Positions that require specialised skills or expertise may receive higher salaries to attract qualified professionals.
The cost of living and job market conditions in different regions can impact APS salaries. For example, we’ve generally found that APS employees are paid less in Hobart than they are in Canberra. This is not necessarily a reflection of cost of living but rather lack of employer competitiveness and that central agencies are usually in Canberra, with smaller frontline agencies in other places.
6. Industry Demand:
The demand for specific skills and expertise within certain sectors can impact the salary ranges offered by agencies operating in those industries. For example, graduate lawyers are often offered higher starting salaries than their non-lawyer counterparts.
APS Salary Breakdown by Level
Each Australian Government department has its own enterprise agreement with different working hours, benefits and of course salaries. In this article we have given general ranges within each level but be sure to check the specific EA of the Department or agency you are applying for.
The APS1 level represents the entry point for individuals in the APS. Employees at this level predominantly provide administrative and basic support services within their respective agencies. It is very uncommon to find an APS 1 role these days, unless it’s a cadetship or similar program.
At the APS2 level, employees continue to provide administrative support. As with the APS 1 level, it is very unusual to find an APS 2 position anymore. You might find one if you are doing a uni prac rotation, for example.
APS3s are typically in administrative roles or alternatively, graduate program participants.
APS4 roles cover a range of occupations. An APS4 employee may be in a more senior administrative role or typically first year out of a graduate program (for example, an entry level policy role).
At the APS5 level, employees are engaged in professional work and may manage specific projects. It really depends on what type of occupation and what type of agency you are in. For example, if you are in a frontline Human Services role, you could have a number of staff under you. If you are in a policy role or a central agency, it’s extremely unlikely that you will have any management responsibility but will rather take on increasing policy or program responsibility.
APS6 roles involve a high level of expertise and responsibility, including managing complex projects or teams.
EL1 employees hold middle-management positions, where they are responsible for the strategic direction of their respective teams or areas. Again, it will depend on whether you are in a line agency or a central agency but EL1 are reasonable senior positions with a lot of responsibility. Jumping from the APS 6 level to EL1 is usually the most difficult step for people to make.
EL2 roles are senior management positions, involving shaping policy and leading significant projects or teams. EL2s can manage from a few people all the way up to a few hundred.
Superannuation in the APS
In addition to your base salary, Australian Public Service (APS) employees also receive superannuation contributions from the government. Superannuation serves as a retirement savings plan, where a portion of an employee’s salary is invested to provide financial security during retirement.
The APS superannuation rate is typically determined by the government and may be subject to change over time. As an APS employee you will be earning one of the highest superannuation contributions in the country (15.4% at time of writing) – well above the legislated minimum.
PSSap - the current superannuation system for APS employees
This is not financial advice – always consult a financial advisor.
Designed exclusively for both current and former APS employees, PSSap (Public Sector Superannuation Accumulation Plan) offers a tailored approach to superannuation. This plan allows you to customise various aspects, such as insurance cover levels and investment options, to suit your individual circumstances.
Your employer contributes 15.4% of your super salary directly into your PSSap account. You have the option to enhance your super savings by making before-tax and after-tax contributions or consolidating funds from other super accounts.
Navigating the Australian Public Service salary system can seem complex, but with a solid understanding of the APS levels, pay scales, and factors influencing salary determination, individuals can make informed decisions about their careers. Remember that salary is not the only consideration when choosing a job; other factors such as job satisfaction, work-life balance, and opportunities for growth and development also play crucial roles in career decisions. By staying informed and being proactive in career planning, APS employees can chart a rewarding and fulfilling professional journey in the Australian Public Service.