I work with a number of clients who aspire to becoming a member of the Senior Executive Service (SES). If you are among those who think the SES might be for you, consider the following:

  • Becoming a member of the SES represents more than a promotion from the grade 15. Many GS-15’s are supervisory of course, but the SES is about executive leadership—they serve just below Presidential appointees and represent a key link between political appointees and civil service employees. SES leaders can be found in 75 federal agencies and are intended to serve as leaders, not technical experts or independent advisors.
  • There are 2 kinds of SES positions; general and career reserved. Career reserved positions are just that—reserved for career appointees.
  • The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) allocates SES “spaces” on a two-year basis.
  • There are just over 8,000 SES positions in the federal government, the vast majority (approximately 7,300 in fiscal year 2016) are SES Career).

Not surprisingly, the vast majority of SES positions are in Department of Defense (including the Services); the Department with the second highest numbers of SES positions is the Department of Justice.

The stats below are from OPM’s 2016 SES Report and represents positions in the executive pay plan:

Department of Education – 86
Department of Housing & Urban Development – 115
Department of the Air Force – 182
Department of Labor – 200
Department of State – 204
Department of Transportation – 231
Department of Interior – 258
Department of the Army – 261
Department of the Navy – 326
Department of Veterans Affairs – 357
Department of Agriculture – 361
Department of Commerce – 425
Department of the Treasury – 458
Department of Health & Human Services – 468
Department of Defense – 478
Department of Energy – 490
Department of Homeland Security – 639
Department of Justice – 821
All Other Agencies (all non-Cabinet level agencies) – 1,796

Other fun facts about the SES (from the same report):
-Gender distribution: 35.45% female; 64.54% male
-25% of SES members are younger than 49.4
-78.64% self-identified as not Hispanic/Latino and White; 8.04% as African American; 4.62% as Asian; and 2.95% as Hispanic/Latino
-69.37% have an advanced degree (although a degree is not required for most SES positions)

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