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SACD Civil Servant Application Guide and FAQs

SACD Civil Servant Application Guide and FAQs

How To Apply

SACD civil servant vacancy announcements are usually only open on for a short time period (days to weeks). We strongly suggest that you build a resume in USAJOBS and gather reference contact information and useful documents in advance. Once the USAJOBS vacancy announcement is posted, you may apply no later than the closing date.

The general NASA application process: How to Apply

Current NASA employees: SACD occasionally posts internal vacancy announcements on NASA’s Talent Marketplace.

A group of aerospace engineers are sitting at long, rectangular tables with their laptops open while one engineer stands at the front of the room in front of two screens that show the directorates logo and artistic renderings of air and space vehicles.

How To Create a Saved Search

Saved Searches in USAJOBS will automatically search for jobs based on your criteria and email you when there are new jobs available. You may set up one or multiple Saved Searches that are targeted to our job vacancies. When selecting how often you want to receive email notifications of vacancies that match your search criteria, we recommend ‘Daily’ since SACD jobs often open and close within a week.

Here are the general step-by-step instructions: USAJOBS | How to save a search

Note: For step 3, you may use the following filters to search for SACD vacancies by using the acronyms for our three branches: Aeronautics Systems Analysis Branch (ASAB), Space Missions Analysis Branch (SMAB), or Vehicle Analysis Branch (VAB).

For vacancies in the Aeronautics Systems Analysis Branch (ASAB)
For vacancies in the Space Mission Analysis Branch (SMAB)
For vacancies in the Vehicle Analysis Branch (VAB)
For vacancies in all three branches of SACD

You may add additional filters. For example, you may only want to be notified about jobs at the GS level(s) you are currently qualified for and/or will soon be qualified for.

A screen shot of a USAJobs page showing how the grade filter looks.

After you are notified of the open vacancy, apply by the vacancy announcement close date.

In the meantime, while you wait for a vacancy announcement to open, we recommend that you build a resume in USAJOBS and gather reference contact information and useful documents, e.g., education transcripts, veteran disability rating (as applicable), and DD-214 forms (as applicable for military veterans).  

Note: A Saved Search expires after one year.


  • NASA-specific resume tips 
  • General USAJOBS tips: USAJOBS Help Center and USAJOBS FAQs
  • To help decode what GS level you may be qualified for, here is the OPM guide with tables that show the general relationship between GS Level and completed education level and/or specialized experience. On the page, search for 861 and then scroll up to the table above. However, the Qualification requirements in specific vacancy announcements may vary from this table.
    • The vacancy announcement will specify whether the Education Level is what you have completed as of the vacancy closing date or as of a later date.
    • If you are still not sure what GS level you are qualified for, you may apply for more than one. 
    • Note: GS-5 and above require a completed bachelor’s degree.
  • You cannot be hired for a GS level you did not apply to. For example, if you apply for GS-11 only but you are best qualified for a higher level like GS-12, you may be hired for GS-11 and will not be hired for the GS-12. Or if you apply for GS-9 only but you are best qualified for a lower level like GS-7, you are unlikely to be hired for GS-9 and will not be hired for the GS-7.
  • Use the resume builder in USAJOBS. While it takes some time to create the USAJOBS resume, you may use it for multiple applications. Your USAJOBS resume can also be more detailed than a resume for the private sector. Details help demonstrate how you meet the qualifications and requirements listed in the vacancy announcement. Highlight your accomplishments by using the CCAR method: Context, Challenge, Action, Result.
  • Bookmark or save the job announcement webpage as a .pdf so that, if you get an interview offer, you can refer back to it as you prepare for the interview.
  • You are allowed to negotiate salary. 
  • SACD announcements tend to use Direct-Hire Authority in order to consider any qualified applicant and to expedite hiring. Under the provisions of Direct-Hire Authority, veterans’ preference does not apply. However, veteran applicants are still encouraged to apply to any positions to which they are eligible. Learn more about Direct-Hire Authority as well as how to understand USAJOBS search results and PERM versus TERM appointments here.

Pay and Promotions

Note: The pay and promotion descriptions that follow are not complete summaries and do not create any legal rights.

Q. What can I expect to be paid as a NASA civil servant?

A. Pay is set by OPM rules. A full-time civil servant position is 80 work hours per two-week pay period (i.e., average 40 hours per week).  Learn more about the General Schedule (GS) classification and pay system here. The total salary incorporates the GS base pay plus the locality pay for the Hampton Roads geographic area. To see the total annual salary table for a GS position with SACD, go to the OPM page Salaries & Wages then click ‘[YYYY] GS Pay Tables’ then click the Annual Rate column’s globe icon next to ‘VIRGINIA BEACH-NORFOLK, VA-NC’. Below is a screenshot of the 2023 GS Pay Table with that icon circled. A new GS employee is usually hired at step one of the applicable GS grade level.

a screen shot of the 2023 GS Pay Table with a red circle around a globe icon

Some GS-7 and GS-9 positions operate off a special rate table, with even higher total salary. To see the special rate annual salary tables for a GS position with SACD, go to the OPM page Special Rates then select the year and the following search criteria: ‘VIRGINIA BEACH-NORFOLK, VA-NC LOCALITY PAY AREA’, ‘NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMIN’, and ‘0861 AEROSPACE ENGINEER’. You may ask if the special rate table would apply for you.

Q. Why the wide salary range in the vacancy announcement?

A. The salary range is from the lowest grade step 1 to the highest-grade step 10 listed in the vacancy announcement. For example, a SACD vacancy announcement for GS-7 to GS-11 would have a salary range from $47,273 – $90,946 (in 2023). An applicant who just completed their bachelor’s degree with strong academic performance and has no specialized work experience may apply for the GS-7, GS-9, and GS-11 levels within the same announcement but, given their background, would most likely come in as a GS-7 step 1 earning $47,273 (in 2023). 

Q. How do promotions work in SACD? 

A. NASA promotes from within. The vacancy announcement will state the position’s promotion potential, which is how high an employee can go without competing for a new position. Positions below GS-13 generally have promotion potential of GS-13. That is, after at least one year in grade, the employee is eligible to be promoted to the next higher grade level without having to reapply to a vacancy announcement and compete again – through GS-13. The supervisor must certify that the employee’s performance is sufficient to perform the duties of the next higher grade at a successful level before the promotion action can occur. For SACD positions, the grade level sequence is GS-7, GS-9, GS-11, GS-12, GS-13, GS-14, GS-15. For individuals hired at the GS-7 or GS-9 levels, there is also an opportunity to participate in a development program that can allow for your first promotion to be obtained in as few as six months.

“SACD’s promotion timeline is often accelerated compared to the typical promotion schedule. In SACD, early career folks may promote from GS-7 to GS-13 in as little as four years. For example, I joined SACD in April 2020 as a GS-7 because I was a Master’s student at the time. When I completed my Master’s degree in May 2021, I moved up to GS-9. I promoted again 12 months later to GS-11. I am on track to promote at the next 12-month mark to GS-12. And I am not an edge case.”  -Michelle N. (SMAB employee)

A smiling aerospace engineer

To move from GS-13 to GS-14 requires applying to a GS-14 vacancy announcement. To move from GS-14 to GS-15 either requires applying to a GS-15 vacancy announcement or promoting after a minimum one year, depending on the GS-14 position’s promotion potential. It is also possible to promote within the grade level as a GS-13, GS-14, or GS-15. After one year at a given step of their grade level, the employee is eligible to be promoted to the next higher step level. A high-performing employee may be eligible for a faster than normal promotion to the next higher step.

Q. Are there bonuses in SACD?

A. Yes! SACD employees who exceed performance standards are eligible for a cash award and/or time-off award, based on their annual performance rating. It is branch budget dependent whether employees who meet performance standards are also eligible. 

Q. Is the pay regularly adjusted for inflation?

A. By law, the GS base pay schedule is adjusted annually each January, with an across-the-board pay increase based on nationwide changes in the cost of wages and salaries of private industry workers. That said, the pay increases involve and are dependent on the Federal Employees Pay Comparability Act, the President, and Congress. There have been periods where these regular pay adjustments did not occur.

Other FAQs

Q. What if I am not a STEM major … but I do have relevant work experience? 

A. Your relevant work experience may meet the requirement! Read the vacancy announcement closely. If you are still not sure, you may contact the agency contact center on the vacancy announcement. 

Q. Who reads the USAJOBS resumes?

A. Your resume is reviewed by real people! Our team of staffing specialists evaluates your application against the qualification requirements and hiring managers identify candidates for interview. 

Q. There are no vacancy announcements posted right now … What can I do in the meantime? 

A. You may create your resume in USAJOBS, gather useful documents in advance, and create a “Saved Search” to automatically notify you when a vacancy announcement of interest is posted. Useful documents commonly include education transcripts. You may also gather contact information for your references. Once you see the USAJOBS vacancy announcement is posted, you may apply by the closing date.