Job Terminology Glossary

Name (Sorted descending) Term Description

Recruitment, relocation, and retention incentives (3Rs) are compensation flexibilities available to help Federal agencies recruit and retain a world-class workforce. The 3Rs are administered under 5 USC 57535754 and 5 CFR 575, subparts AB, and C. (See separate definitions of these terms). (OPM Pay & Leave)


A competence to perform an observable behavior or a behavior that results in an observable product. (OPM Classification & Qualifications)

Adjunct Investigator

A scientist who works full-time or part-time in an intramural setting, but whose primary career appointment is elsewhere (e.g., medical school, university faculty, or at NIH outside of an IC’s intramural program). An Adjunct Investigator may possibly be assigned independent resources, which are subject to review by the BSC. (NIH OIR)

Administratively Determined (AD) Pay Systems

A pay system that may be used by any agency with an independent authority to administratively determine the rates of pay for any group or category of employees. Each agency must follow its own unique statutory pay authority when setting and adjusting pay under an AD pay system. NIH has the authority established under Title 42 to fix the compensation for particular groups of positions without regard to the General Schedule. (OPM Pay & Leave and 42 USC 209)

Advanced Rate of Pay (ARP)

(See also “Superior Qualifications Appointment or Above Minimum Hiring”). The NIH term for Superior Qualifications Appointment or Above Minimum Hiring. (OPM Pay & Leave)

Alternative Work Schedules (AWS)

Alternative Work Schedules (AWS) are available to NIH employees with supervisory approval. AWS encompasses Flexible Work Schedules (FWS) and Compressed Work Schedules (CWS). Adjustable work hours can assist employees in balancing the demands of the workplace with their personal responsibilities and as well as help alleviate commuting frustrations. (OPM Pay & LeaveNIH Work Schedules and 5 USC 6101)

Annual leave

A form of paid time off generally used for vacation time or other personal needs. Employees earn 13, 20, or 26 days of annual leave a year, depending on years of service. Annual leave accrues incrementally, i.e., 4, 6, or 8 hours every 2 weeks. Most employees may carry over up to 30 days of annual leave to the next leave year. SES members may carry over up to 90 days of annual leave. Employees generally receive a lump-sum payment for any unused annual leave upon separation from Federal service. (NOTE: Presidential appointees do not earn annual leave and cannot be charged leave for absences from work.) (OPM Pay & LeaveNIH Leave, and 5 USC 6303)

Bargaining Unit/Unit

A grouping of employees that a union represents or seeks to represent that is found to be appropriate for collective bargaining purposes. A clear and identifiable community of interest among the employees in the unit and will promote effective dealings with, and efficiency of the operations of the agency involved. The Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) oversees representation elections and determines the appropriateness of units. (5 USC 7112)

Basic Qualifications/Basic Requirement

(See also “Minimum Qualifications”). All established minimum qualification requirements as prescribed in the OPM Operating Manual – Qualification Standards for General Schedule Positions or an OPM-approved agency-specific qualification standard including appropriate selective factor(s) for the position being filled. (OPM Classification & Qualifications)


A comprehensive package of federal benefits such as health insurance, life insurance, retirement benefits, long-term disability insurance and flexible spending accounts. Eligibility for certain benefits depends on appointment type.


(See also “Eligible”). An applicant who meets the minimum qualifications requirements for a position, and is therefore eligible for consideration. (DEO Handbook Glossary).

Career Appointment/Employee

The employment status of a permanent employee who has completed three years of total creditable service and must begin with a non-temporary (Permanent - Career-Conditional Appointment), or other type of employment as provided in 5 CFR 315.201(b)(1). A person employed in the competitive service for other than temporary, term, or indefinite employment is appointed as a career or career-conditional employee subject to the probationary period required. (OPM Hiring Information and 5 CFR 315.201)

Career Conditional Appointment

Appointment to a non-temporary position in the competitive service pursuant to 5 CFR Part 315. Non-temporary (Permanent) employees are generally hired under a career-conditional appointment (Permanent - Career-Conditional Appointment). Normally this is the first career-type of appointment and the appointee must complete a one year probationary period and a total of three years creditable service to attain a career appointment (Permanent - Career Appointment). (OPM Hiring Information and 5 CFR Part 315)

Career Ladder

The range of grades in an occupational series or specialization starting with the lowest level at which an employee can be hired, up to and including the full performance level of the position. There must be enough work classifiable at the highest grade so that there is a reasonable expectation that all employees in the given organization and occupational series or specialization can progress to that grade. Promotion to higher grade levels within the career ladder is not guaranteed once minimum qualifications are attained. Promotions are dependent upon the employee’s performance rating being at least fully successful, his/her ability to perform the duties at a higher level, the continuing need for the employee to be assigned to the higher level, and supervisory approval. (NIH Policy Manual – NIH Merit Promotion Plan)

Career Tenure

After serving three years of total creditable service, a career conditional employee becomes a career employee and gains career tenure. Employees with career tenure have permanent reinstatement eligibility and may be considered for positions without having to take another competitive civil service examination. Total creditable service means service in a non-temporary (Permanent - Career-Conditional Appointment), or other type of employment as provided in 5 CFR 315.201(b)(1).

Career Transitional Assistance Program (CTAP)

A program that requires agencies to give selection priority to their own well-qualified surplus employees who apply for vacancies in agency components in the local commuting area. Agencies must notify their surplus or displaced employees when they plan to fill these jobs. With a few exceptions, the agency must select those who apply and are eligible and well qualified before any other candidate from within or outside the agency. (OPM Employee's Guide to Career Transition p. (3-4) and 5 CFR 330.601)

Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS)

A defined benefit, contributory retirement system. This retirement system was replaced by FERS in 1987. (OPM CSRS Information and 5 USC 8348


A system that classifies positions according to the work, consisting of the duties and responsibilities, assignable to an employee. “Class” or “class of positions” includes all positions which are sufficiently similar, as to the kind or subject-matter of work; level of difficulty and responsibility; and the qualification requirements of the work. And “grade,” includes all classes of positions which, although different with respect to kind or subject-matter of work, are sufficiently equivalent as to warrant their inclusion within one range of rates of basic pay in the General Schedule. Classification can be used in all phases of personnel administration. (5 USC 5101 and 5102)

Classification Standard

Position classification standards provide information used in determining the occupational series and title for positions performing white collar work in the Federal Government. They also provide grading criteria for positions classified under the General Schedule (GS) Classification System. They define the various classes of positions in terms of duties, responsibilities, and qualification requirements; establish the official class titles; and set forth the grades in which the classes have been placed by the Office. (OPM Classification & Qualifications and 5 USC 5105)

Clinical Fellow

A doctoral-level health professional with interest in biomedical research relevant to NIH program needs, who is employed on a time-limited appointment renewable subject to the five-year/eight-year rule. Clinical Fellows participate in protocol-based clinical research as well as laboratory research. (NIH OIR)

Collective Bargaining/Negotiating

The performance of the mutual obligation of the representative of an agency and the exclusive representative of employees in an appropriate unit in the agency to meet at reasonable times and to consult and bargain in a good-faith effort to reach agreement with respect to the conditions of employment affecting such employees and to execute, if requested by either party, a written document incorporating any collective bargaining agreement reached, but the obligation referred to in this paragraph does not compel either party to agree to a proposal or to make a concession. (5 USC 7103)


The regular pay an employee receives on a biweekly basis is typically referred to as basic pay. When other forms of occasional pay are considered such as awards and recruitment, retention or relocation incentives, along with basic pay, this is typically referred to as an employee’s total compensation. (OPM Pay & Leave)

Competitive Appointment

All civil service positions in the executive branch of the Federal Government with some exceptions. The exceptions are defined in section 2102 of title 5, United States Code (5 USC 2102). (OPM Hiring Information)

Competitive Examining

The competitive examination, which is open to all applicants, may consist of a written test, an evaluation of an applicant's education and experience, and/or an evaluation of other attributes necessary for successful performance in the position to be filled. It is the process used to fill civil service positions with candidates who apply from outside the Federal workforce. It is also used to enable current Federal employees without civil service status to compete for a permanent appointment and to enable employees with civil service status to compete for other Federal positions. (OPM Hiring Information and 5 CFR 332.101)

Competitive Status

Basic eligibility for noncompetitive assignment to a competitive position. A person on a career or career-conditional appointment acquires competitive status upon satisfactory completion of a probationary period. It may also be granted by statute, Executive order, or the civil service rules without competitive examination. A person with competitive status may be promoted, transferred, reassigned, reinstated, or demoted without taking an open competitive examination, subject to the conditions prescribed by the Civil Service rules and regulations. (OPM GPPA Ch 35 p (35-3))

Compressed Work Schedule

A fixed work schedule that enables a full-time employee to complete the basic 80-hour biweekly work requirement in less than 10 workdays. (OPM Pay & LeaveNIH Work Schedules, and 5 USC 6127)

Creditable Service for Annual Leave Accrual (CSAL)

Credit provided for service that otherwise would not be creditable under 5 U.S.C. 6303(a) for the purpose of determining the annual leave accrual rate of an individual receiving his or her first appointment (regardless of tenure) as a civilian employee of the Federal Government or an employee who is reappointed following a break in service of at least 90 calendar days after his or her last period of civilian Federal employment. The head of an agency or his or her designee may, at his or her sole discretion, approve CSAL requests. CSAL requests must be documented and approved prior to the employee’s entrance on duty (EOD) date. (5 USC 6303 and 5 CFR 630.205)

Direct Hiring Authority

OPM-approved agency recruiting plans which expedite recruitment of persons for appointment to positions in shortage occupations. (OPM Hiring Information and OPM GPPA Ch 35 p (35-4))

Education Above the High School Level (or Post High-School Education)

Is successfully completed progressive study at an accredited business or technical school, junior college, college, or university where the institution normally requires a high school diploma or equivalent for admission. (OPM Classification & Qualifications)


(See also "Candidate"). An applicant who satisfies the minimum qualifications requirements for the position, which includes being rated 70 or more in an examination for a Federal job, and therefore is eligible for consideration. (DEO Handbook Glossary and 5 CFR 210.102)

Excepted Service

Unclassified service, unclassified Civil Service or positions outside the competitive service and the senior executive service. Excepted service positions have been excepted from the requirements of the competitive service by law, Executive order, or OPM regulation. (OPM GPPA Ch 35 p (35-4))

Extramural or Extramural Research

Organizational component of research in support of biomedical and behavioral research and research training by scientists located at universities, research institutions, and medical centers across the United States and abroad. Extramural research is research supported by NIH through a grant, contract, or cooperative agreement. (NIH OER)

Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS)

It is a retirement plan that provides benefits from three different sources:  A Basic Benefit Plan, Social Security, and the Thrift Savings Plan. This retirement system began in 1987. (NIH Retirement5 USC 84 and 5 CFR 841.103)

Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA)

The independent agency responsible for administering the Federal labor relations program. The FLRA decides, among other things, representation issues (e.g., the bargaining unit status of certain employees), unfair labor practices (ULPs) (violations of Federal labor law), negotiability disputes (i.e., scope of bargaining issues), and exceptions to arbitration awards. The General Counsel of the FLRA processes representation issues (investigates, conducts hearings, holds elections, issues unit certifications, etc.) and investigates, conducts hearings, holds elections, issues unit certifications, etc., and investigates, resolves, settles and prosecutes ULPs. (FLRA)

Flexible Work Schedule

A type of work schedule that allows an employee to determine his or her own schedule within the limits set by the agency. (OPM Pay & LeaveNIH Work Schedules, and 5 USC 6122)

Full Performance Level (FPL)

The highest rank, grade or known promotion potential of a given position. The full performance level is the target grade of a position with an established career ladder or training program, which was otherwise filled at a grade below the full performance level grade of the position. (OPM Introduction to the Position Classification Standards p. (8-9)OPM GPPA Ch 14 p (14-48) and NIH Policy Manual)

Full-Time Employees

Most full-time employees are scheduled to work 40 hours a week, 80 hours a pay period. Some have tours of more than 80 hours per pay period. (OPM GPPA Ch 35 p (35-5))

General Schedule(GS)

The classification and pay system for Title 5 employees. The pay structure for the General Schedule has 15 grade levels, with 10 step rates (steps 1-10) that are each worth approximately three percent of the employee’s salary. Positions are classified using government-wide standards to determine their proper occupational series, title, and grade within the General Schedule. (OPM Pay & Leave and 5 USC 5332)


A level of work or range of difficulty, responsibility and qualification requirements. (5 USC 5102)

Grade Interval

The terms “two-grade interval” and “one-grade interval” refer to the differing patterns of career advancement through a sequence of General Schedule grades. The two basic patterns reflect a basic distinction between the two general kinds of white-collar work covered by the General Schedule. Two-grade interval work is typical in the professional and administrative occupational categories, and promotions are granted in the two-grade increments from grades GS-5 through 11 and in one-grade increments at GS-12 and beyond. One-grade interval work is typical in the clerical and technical occupational categories, and promotions are granted in one-grade increments.

These two labels perform roughly the same function that “exempt” and “non-exempt” tend to have in the private sector as a short-hand way to distinguish higher level “professional” work and lower level clerical and technical work. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) did not apply to the Federal Government when the General Schedule was established. Therefore, the FLSA categories do not serve, in the Federal compensation environment, as a basic distinction upon which the pay structure is built. (OPM Introduction to the Position Classification Standards p. (8-9))


A paid day off for most Federal employees. Federal employees currently receive 11 paid holidays each year: 

  • New Year's Day (January 1).
  • Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. (Third Monday in January).
  • Washington's Birthday (Third Monday in February).
  • Memorial Day (Last Monday in May).
  • Juneteenth National Independence Day (June 19)
  • Independence Day (July 4).
  • Labor Day (First Monday in September).
  • Columbus Day (Second Monday in October).
  • Veterans Day (November 11).
  • Thanksgiving Day (Fourth Thursday in November).
  • Christmas Day (December 25).

Also, Presidential Inauguration Day for Federal employees in the Washington, DC, area (January 20 following a Presidential election).

Reference: OPM Pay & Leave and 5 USC 6103

Interagency Career Transition Assistance Plan (ICTAP)

A process by which employees who have been involuntarily separated may receive selection priority for jobs in agencies other than the one in which they were previously employed. Employees must apply for positions in the local commuting area and include proof that they were displaced. (OPM The Employee's Guide to Career Transition p (15) and 5 CFR 330.701)

Interdisciplinary Position

A position involving duties and responsibilities closely related to more than one professional occupation. As a result, you could classify the position into two or more professional occupational series. The nature of the work is such that persons with education and experience in two or more professions may be considered equally well qualified to do the work. In both categories the position description should show clearly that the position is interdisciplinary and indicate the various series in which the position could be classified. The final position classification is determined by the qualifications of the person selected for the position. (OPM Job Family Position Classification)

Intermittent Employees

Service when an employee works on less than a full-time basis with no prescheduled tour of duty. In the past, “WAE” was used on personnel documents to identify intermittent service. (OPM GPPA Ch 35 p (35-6))

Intramural or Intramural Research Program (IRP)

Organizational component of research which is conducted by federally employed scientists within its laboratories on or near the NIH campus and in the NIH research hospital. The intramural program is the sum of all the research projects carried out by NIH investigators and trainees in NIH facilities to develop scientific and professional skills that will enable them to become leaders in the biomedical research community. (NIH OIR and NIH OITE)


An NIH employee who is a tenure-track scientist on a time-limited appointment. Investigators are selected by a competitive national search. A tenure-track position represents a commitment by the IC of independent resources, including salary, operating budget, personnel, and space. Research resources are adjusted based on scientific merit. (NIH OIR)

Job Analysis

A systematic method for gathering, documenting, and analyzing information about the content, context, and requirements of the job. It demonstrates that there is a clear relationship between the tasks performed on the job and the competencies/KSAs required to perform the tasks. Job analysis information is used to develop employee selection procedures, identify training needs, define performance standards, and other uses. (DEO Handbook Glossary)


A body of information applied directly to the performance of a function. (DEO Handbook Glossary)

Locality Pay

Supplemental locality-based payments in addition to the rate of basic pay that apply in geographic areas where non-Federal pay exceeds Federal pay by more than 5 percent. Most Federal employees—including General Schedule, Senior Executive Services, and senior-level employees, but excluding blue-collar employees and officials paid under the Executive Schedule—are eligible for locality pay. A locality pay area is a geographic area that serves as the basis for setting pay and is established by the President’s Pay Agent for General Schedule employees. The Pay Agent has established 46 GS locality pay areas, including separate locality pay areas for “Alaska” and “Hawaii” as well as a designation of “Rest of U.S.” for other non-foreign locality pay areas. (OPM Pay & Leave5 USC 53045 CFR 531.602 and 605)

Luevano Consent Decree

A court decree entered on November 19, 1981 by the United States District Court for the District of Columbia in the civil action known as Luevano v. OPM and numbered as No. 79-271. The decree became effective on January 18, 1982. The decree has as its purpose the elimination of adverse impact, if any, in the appointment of African Americans and Hispanics to a variety of positions at GS-05 and GS-07 formerly covered by the Professional and Administrative Career Examination (PACE). (DEO Handbook Glossary)

Major Duties

Those that represent the primary reason for the position's existence, and which govern the qualification requirements. Typically, they occupy most of the employee's time. (Introduction to Position Classification Standards, p. (12))

Merit Promotion Plan

A program to insure a systematic means of selection for promotion according to merit and designed to administer the agency authority to promote, demote, or reassign employees in covered positions. The merit promotion plan describes the policies and procedures to be used in selecting best-qualified applicants to fill vacancies on the basis of merit and qualifications to ensure that basically qualified available applicants receive fair consideration for positions filled under competitive procedures. (5 CFR 335.102 and 103) and NIH Policy Manual – NIH Merit Promotion Plan)

Minimum Educational Requirements

(Also described as “Positive Education.”)The establishment of minimum educational requirements when OPM has determined that the work cannot be performed by persons who do not possess the prescribed minimum education. This includes instances where it would not be cost-effective for an individual to acquire, through on-the-job training, the KSA's necessary for successful performance of the critical duties within a reasonable period of time. In addition, education is sometimes required by law for a position because of the impact on public health and safety or national security. The same minimum educational requirements apply to all applicants and employees, including employees detailed to an occupational series with minimum educational requirements. (OPM Classification & Qualifications and 5 USC 3308)

Minimum Qualifications

Qualifications that an applicant must possess, at a minimum, to be eligible for hire or promotion under the competitive system. Minimum qualifications are typically expressed in terms of job-related years of experience or education, i.e., course credit hours or a combination of the two. Applicants who do not meet the minimum qualification requirements for the position receive no further consideration. (OPM Classification & Qualification)

Noncompetitive Action

An appointment to, or placement in (promotion, demotion, reassignment, transfer, reinstatement, or an appointment) a position in the competitive service that is not made by selection from an open, competitive examination and that is usually based on current or prior Federal service. (DEO Handbook Glossary)

Occupational Group

A major subdivision in the Federal GS classification system that consists of related occupations grouped together numerically within the same multiple of 100. Under each group are a number of occupational series. For example, "GS-600" is the Medical, Hospital, Dental, and Public Health Group. Included in this Group is the Nurse Series, GS-610, the Pharmacist Series, GS-660, and the Public Health Program Specialist, GS-685. (Introduction to the Position Classification Standards, p. (3))

Occupational Series or Series

A subdivision of an occupational group consisting of positions similar as to specialized line of work and qualification requirements. Series are designated by a title and number such as the Accounting Series, GS−510; the Secretary Series, GS−318; the Microbiology Series, GS−403. (Introduction to the Position Classification Standards, p. (3))

Office of Extramural Research (OER)

The Office, housed in the NIH Office of the Director, that provides the corporate framework for the NIH research administration and works to ensure the scientific integrity, public accountability, and effective stewardship of the NIH research grant portfolio. (NIH OER)

Office of Intramural Research (OIR)

The office responsible for the development and implementation of NIH-wide projects and policies, as well as the oversight and coordination of intramural research, training, and technology transfer conducted within the laboratories and clinics of the National Institutes of Health. (NIH OIR)

Office of Intramural Training & Education (OITE)

A division of the Office of Intramural Research (OIR), Office of the Director (OD) with a mission to enhance the training experience of students and fellows on all of the NIH campuses. (NIH OITE)

ORISE Senior Fellow Program

A program that provides opportunities for experienced scientists who wish to make major changes in the direction of their research careers or who wish to broaden their scientific background by acquiring new research capabilities. These awards enable individuals with ten or more years of relevant research experience beyond the doctorate, who have progressed to an independent position, to take time from regular professional responsibilities for the purpose of receiving training to increase their scientific capabilities. (NIH OIR)

Part-Time Employees

Or “part-time career employment” means part-time employment of 16 to 32 hours a week (or 32 to 64 hours during a biweekly pay period in the case of a flexible or compressed work schedule), but does not include employment on a temporary or intermittent basis. (5 USC 3401 and 5 CFR 340)

Pathways Programs

On December 27, 2010, President Obama issued an Executive order on recruiting and hiring students and recent graduates into the federal government. The Pathways Programs authorized under Executive Order 13562 consist of the following three Programs: 
(1) The Internship Program; 
(2) The Recent Graduates Program; and 
(3) The Presidential Management Fellows (PMF) Program. 
(5 CFR 362.101)

Pathways Programs at NIH

The NIH is seeking to recruit highly motivated and talented individuals to fill entry level positions. (NIH Pathway Program)

Pay Period

A two week period that begins on a Sunday and ends on a Saturday. There are usually 26 pay periods in the calendar year. (5 USC 5504)

Pay plan

A particular table or array of pay rates prescribed by law or other authoritative source that establishes the basic pay rates for certain employees. The term "pay plan" is intended to include other terms such as pay system, pay schedule, pay scale, pay rates, basic pay schedule, statutory pay system, wage schedule, wage system, wage schedules and rates, regular wage schedule, and special wage schedule and rates. Pay plan codes are used to identify important information about an employee's pay system and the authority governing the pay of an employee's position. "GS" is the pay plan covering most white-collar employees. Other common examples are "EX" (Executive Schedule), "ES" (Senior Executive Service), and "WG" (wage grade employees). (OPM Pay & Leave)

Physician's Comparability Allowance (PCA)

A supplementary pay system established to facilitate the recruitment and retention of civilian physicians. NIH is authorized to use PCA to attract and retain physicians in order to alleviate recruitment and retention problems that result from pay disparities with the private sector. PCA is only offered to employees in eligible positions (Medical Officer, GS-602) filled under one of the appointment/pay authorities specified in HHS Instruction 595-1, Exhibit B and designated under one of the NIH approved categories in medical research and Health and Medical Program Administration. (5 USC 5948 and NIH Policy Manual)

Postdoctoral Fellow

A trainee who participates in laboratory-based or population-based biomedical research for the purpose of obtaining advanced training under the direction of a senior member of the scientific staff. Such trainees are not NIH employees and must have not more than five years of relevant research experience since their actual degree. The duration of a training award is limited to five years. (NIH OITE)

Preference Eligible

A veteran, spouse, widow, mother or father, who meets the definition provided in 5 USC 2108. Preference eligibles shall be listed ahead of individuals who are not preference eligible within each quality category established in a category rating system. Qualified preference eligibles who have a compensable service-connected disability of 10 percent or more shall be listed in the highest quality category for positions other than scientific and professional at GS–9 of the General Schedule (equivalent or higher). Preference does not apply, however, to in-service placement actions, such as promotions. (Vet Guide5 USC 2108 and 3319)

Probationary Period

In general, a period of employment during which an employee’s performance and qualifications are evaluated prior to an appointment becoming permanent. It is the first year of service of an employee who is given a career or career-conditional appointment and was appointed from a competitive list of eligibles. Prior to successful completion of such a period, employees have limited appeal rights. In some contexts, this period is referred to as a trial period. (5 CFR 315.801 and 806)


A change of an employee while serving continuously within the same agency, from one position to another without promotion or demotion. (5 CFR 210.102(b)(12))

Recruitment Incentive

The payment of up to 25 percent of basic pay in a lump-sum to a newly-appointed Federal employee in a position that would otherwise be difficult to fill. In return, the employee must sign an agreement to fulfill a period of service with the agency (not to exceed 4 years). Agencies may pay recruitment and relocation bonuses to employees under the General Schedule, Senior Executive Service, senior-level, Executive Schedule, and certain other pay systems. (OPM Human Resources Flexibilities and Authorities in the Federal Government p (41) and 5 CFR 575.103)


Non-competitive appointment of a person formerly employed in the competitive service (i.e., who either had a competitive status or was serving probation when separated) into the competitive service as a career or career-conditional employee. (DEO Handbook Glossary)

Reinstatement Eligibility

The conditions under which a person may be reinstated into the competitive service. (DEO Handbook Glossary)

Related Education

Is education above the high school level that has equipped the applicant with the knowledge, skills, and abilities to perform successfully the duties of the position being filled. Education may relate to the duties of a specific position or to the occupation, but must be appropriate for the position being filled. (OPM Classification & Qualifications)

Relocation Expense Allowance

The payment of expenses associated with the travel, transportation of immediate family, and transportation of household goods to a new post of duty as described in Chapter 302, Relocation Allowances, of the Federal Travel Regulation. Relocation expense allowances are separate and distinct from relocation incentive payments made in accordance with 5 CFR Part 575, Recruitment, Relocation, and Retention Incentives. (NIH Policy Manual - 1500-09 - Relocation Allowances) and (HHS Policy Instruction 572-1: Payment of Travel and/or Transportation Relocation Expenses)

Relocation Incentive

The payment of up to 25 percent of basic pay in a lump-sum to a current Federal employee who must relocate to fill a position that would otherwise be difficult to fill in the absence of an incentive. In return, the employee must sign an agreement to fulfill a period of service with the agency (not to exceed 4 years). Agencies may pay recruitment and relocation bonuses to employees under the General Schedule, Senior Executive Service, senior-level, Executive Schedule, and certain other pay systems. (OPM Human Resources Flexibilities and Authorities in the Federal Government p (42) and 5 CFR 575.203)

Research Assistant

An NIH employee appointed under the General Schedule. Research Assistants serve in a scientific, technical support capacity at GS-11 and below. (NIH OIR)

Research Fellow

An NIH scientist with a doctoral degree, employed on a time-limited appointment renewable subject to the five-year/eight year rule. Research Fellows provide service relevant to the IC’s program needs. The appointment gives the fellow experience in laboratory-based or population-based biomedical research. Scientists with considerable experience beyond postdoctoral training may be designated Senior Research Fellows. (NIH OIR)

Retention Incentive

The payment of up to 25 percent of basic pay in equal biweekly installments over the retention period to an employee with unusually high or unique qualifications or to an employee who is serving a special agency need that makes it essential to retain the employee if he/she would be likely to leave the Federal Government in the absence of a retention incentive. Agencies may pay retention incentives to employees under the General Schedule, Senior Executive Service, senior-level, Executive Schedule, and certain other pay systems. (OPM Human Resources Flexibilities and Authorities in the Federal Government p (42) and 5 CFR 575.303)

Schedule A Appointment

A category of excepted service appointment that is applicable to positions that are not of a confidential or policy-determining character, and that are not in the Senior Executive Service, but for which it is impracticable to apply competitive examining requirements (e.g., qualification standards). (DEO Handbook Glossary and 5 CFR 213.3102)

Schedule B Appointment

A category of excepted service appointment that is applicable to positions that are not of a confidential or policy-determining character, and that are not in the Senior Executive Service, but for which it is impracticable to hold open competition or to apply the usual competitive examining procedures. Candidates appointed under Schedule B authority must meet the basic qualification requirements established by OPM for the occupation and grade level. (DEO Handbook Glossary and 5 CFR 213.3202)

Schedule C Appointment

A category of excepted service appointment that is applicable to positions that are of a confidential or policy-determining nature. Agencies must obtain authorization from OPM to make a Schedule C appointment. (DEO Handbook Glossary and 5 CFR 3302)

Schedule D Appointment

(See also “Pathways Programs”). A category of excepted service appointment that is applicable to positions that are not of a confidential or policy-determining character, and that are not in the Senior Executive Service, but for which it is impracticable to hold open competition or to apply the usual competitive examining procedures. Candidates appointed under Schedule D authority must meet the basic qualification requirements established by OPM for the occupation and grade level. (DEO Handbook Glossary , 5 CFR 213.3402 and 5 CFR 362.101)

Selective Factor

A knowledge, skill or ability (KSA), competency, or special qualification without which a candidate could not perform the duties of a position in a satisfactory manner. Selective factors are applied in addition to minimum qualifications. Applicants who do not meet a selective factor are ineligible for further consideration. (DEO Handbook Glossary)

Senior Executive Service (SES)

The employment system that applies to any positions that are classified above GS-15 and involve executive management and high policy-making responsibilities. SES positions are excluded from the competitive service, the system of rules and regulations that applies to most civil service positions. (DEO Handbook Glossary)

Senior Investigator

An NIH employee who has been granted tenure by the Deputy Director for Intramural Research (DDIR), after review and recommendation by the NIH Central Tenure Committee or the Senior Biomedical Research Service Policy Board. Tenure represents a long-term commitment of independent resources, including salary, operating budget, personnel, and space, for the conduct of an independent basic, clinical, or epidemiological research program in an IC; research resources are adjusted based on scientific merit. (NIH OIR)

Senior Research Assistant

An NIH employee appointed under the General Schedule. Senior Research Assistants serve in a scientific, technical support capacity at GS-12 or GS-13. They may design experiments with direction and provide expert, highly skilled technical support, but are not expected to initiate original research programs. (NIH OIR)

Senior Scientist/Senior Clinician

An NIH employee on either a permanent (Title 5 or Commissioned Corps) or indefinite appointment (Title 42(f) after Title 5 exhaustion has been certified) who has been selected via a Deputy Director for Intramural Research (DDIR)-approved national search. A Senior Scientist/Senior Clinician is a manager of a large IC program/department with responsibility for substantial resources and may be assigned independent resources, which are subject to review by the IC Board of Scientific Counselors. (NIH OIR)

Sick leave

Paid time off for medical, dental, or optical examination or treatment of an employee or family member, care of a sick family member, or bereavement. Employees earn 13 days of sick leave each year (which accumulates without limit in succeeding years). Sick leave accrues incrementally, i.e., 4 hours every 2 weeks. Employees also may use sick leave for adoption purposes. Unused sick leave is not cashed out upon separation. (NOTE: Presidential appointees do not earn sick leave and cannot be charged leave for absences from work.) (OPM Pay & Leave and NIH Leave)


An observable competence to perform a learned psychomotor act. (OPM Classification & Qualifications)

Staff Clinician

An NIH employee on a time-limited, renewable appointment or, by exception on a permanent appointment for retention and recruitment reasons. The Staff Clinician is a physician or dentist who spends a majority of his/her time providing critical patient care services but who may also be the principal investigator on clinical protocols, under the supervision of a Senior Investigator. (NIH OIR)

Staff Scientist

An NIH employee appointed to a time-limited, renewable appointment or, by exception on a permanent appointment for retention and recruitment reasons. A Staff Scientist usually has a doctoral degree and is selected by the Institute or Center (IC) to support the long-term research of a Senior Investigator with outstanding Board of Scientific Counselors (BSC) reviews. Staff Scientists do not receive independent resources, although they often work independently and have sophisticated skills and knowledge essential to the work of the laboratory. A subset of Staff Scientists includes Facility Heads, who independently manage a substantial core facility, e.g., a sequencing laboratory or an NMR facility that provides central support for more than one Senior Investigator. Staff Scientists should be capa new research programs. (NIH OIR)

Status Applicant

(See also “Competitive Status”). An applicant who has satisfied requirements for competitive status. Competitive status means an individual's basic eligibility for noncompetitive assignment to a competitive position. Competitive status is acquired by completion of a probationary period under a career-conditional or career appointment, or under a career executive assignment in the former executive assignment system, following open competitive examination, or by statute, Executive order, or the Civil Service rules, without open competitive examination. An individual with competitive status may be, without open competitive examination, reinstated, transferred, promoted, reassigned, or demoted, subject to conditions prescribed by the Civil Service rules and regulations. (DEO Handbook Glossary and 5 CFR 212.301)

Student Loan Repayment Program (SLRP)

A program under which the agency may agree to repay (by direct payments on behalf of the employee) any student loan previously taken out by such employee. Payments are made subject to such terms, limitations, or conditions as may be mutually agreed to by the agency and employee concerned, except that the amount paid by an agency under this section may not exceed: $10,000 for any employee in any calendar year; or a total of $60,000 in the case of any employee. An employee selected to receive benefits under this section must agree in writing, before receiving any such benefit, that the employee will remain in the service of the agency for a period specified in the agreement (not less than three years). (5 USC 5379)

Students Research Programs

Registered students (at all levels from high school through graduate, medical or dental school) are offered a range of research training programs at NIH. The purpose of the student research programs is to enhance a student's knowledge and understanding of biomedical research and to contribute to the achievement of a student's educational goals. (NIH OITE)

Superior qualifications appointment or above minimum hiring

Appointment of an individual to a General Schedule position at a step above the first step of the grade based on the employee's superior qualifications or a special need of the agency for the employee's services. Agencies may set pay at the higher step only upon initial appointment or upon reappointment after a 90-day break in service. (OPM Pay & Leave)

Temporary Appointment

A non-status appointment to a competitive service position for a specific time period not to exceed one year. (DEO Handbook Glossary)

Term Appointment

A non-status appointment to a position in the competitive service for a specific period of more than one year and lasting not more than four years. (DEO Handbook Glossary)

Thrift Savings Plan (TSP)

A retirement savings and investment plan for Federal employees and members of the uniformed services, including the Ready Reserve. It was established by Congress in the Federal Employees' Retirement System Act of 1986 and offers the same types of savings and tax benefits that many private corporations offer their employees under 401(k) plans. It is a defined contribution plan administered by the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board. CSRS employees can also contribute but receive no agency contributions. (5 USC 8351 and TSP website)

Time-In-Grade (TIG)

The length of time of required service at a certain grade level in order to be eligible for promotion to positions in the GS pay system. It usually refers to the length of time needed to satisfy the promotion requirements of the next highest level. (5 CFR 300.605)

Time-In-Grade Restrictions

Requirements intended to prevent excessively rapid promotions in competitive service General Schedule positions and to protect competitive principles. They provide a budgetary control on promotion rates and help assure that appointments are made from appropriate registers. Generally, an employee may not be promoted more than two grades within one year to positions up to GS-5. Above GS-5, an employee must serve a minimum of one year in grade, and cannot be promoted more than one grade, or two grades if that is the normal progression. (5 CFR 300.605)

Title 38

The NIH Title 38 pay program uses special pay authorities to provide higher rates of pay to employees in certain health care occupations who provide direct patient-care services or services incident to patient care. Since these unique pay authorities are located in Title 38 of the United States Code, they are commonly referred to as “Title 38” pay. These special authorities are primarily available to the Department of Veterans Affairs and are accessible to the NIH through an innovative agreement between the Office of Personnel Management and the Department of Health and Human Services. Certain employees hired under Title 5 (the General Schedule) are eligible to receive Title 38 pay. The three main parts of the NIH Title 38 pay program include premium pay, special salary rates and physician and dentist pay. (NIH Title 38)

Title 38 Physician and Dentist Pay

NIH physicians and dentists appointed under Title 5 (General Schedule) who are licensed and provide direct patient care services or services incident to patient care are eligible for Title 38 PDP at the discretion of the Institute or Center. The Title 38 PDP system consists of two components: 1) General Schedule base (non-locality) pay and 2) Title 38 Market Pay. NIH has developed provisions to ensure that the compensation and peer review of physicians and dentists who are paid under Title 38 PDP align with that of other NIH physicians and dentists who are performing similar work. (NIH Title 38)

Title 38 Premium Pay

Title 38 premium pay is additional pay that is provided to employees in specific approved health care occupations, in lieu of the premium pay paid to most General Schedule (Title 5) employees. Title 38 premium pay has several different components: overtime, night differential, Saturday/Sunday differential, holiday pay and on-call pay. The advanced rate of Title 38 premium pay helps NIH successfully address the distinct challenges of operating a large, around-the-clock medical facility. (NIH Title 38)

Title 38 Special Salary Rates

Title 38 special salary rates provide pay above the General Schedule (Title 5) equivalent rates in order to foster NIH’s recruitment and retention efforts for certain occupations. (NIH Title 38)

Title 42

(See also “Administratively Determined (AD) Pay Systems”). Title 42 is the law addressing the Public Health and Welfare and is the term commonly used at NIH to reference human resources appointing authorities that appear in 42 USC 209. Title 42 is a flexible hiring mechanism that allows NIH to attract and retain staff with outstanding scientific, technical and clinical skills.

Title 5

The section of the United States Code which provides the law governing the employment of the majority of federal employees including those employees paid under the General Schedule, the Federal Wage System and the Senior Executive Service. (5 USC)


A change of an employee, without a break in service of one full workday, from a position in one agency to a position in another agency that can be filled under the same appointing authority. (OPM GPPA Ch 35 p (35-15))

US Public Health Service (PHS) Commissioned Corps

A career all-officer Uniformed Service for health care professionals. (42 USC 204 and USPHS)

Veterans’ Preference

A special privilege that entitles qualifying veterans to certain advantages in consideration for federal employment. By law, veterans who are disabled or who served on active duty in the Armed Forces during certain specified time periods or in military campaigns are entitled to preference over others in hiring from competitive lists of eligibles and also in retention during reductions in force. (Vet Guide5 USC 2108330938 USC 5303A(d) and DEO Handbook Glossary)