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Scientific and Professional Positions (ST)

Positions that are classifiable above the GS-15 level, but do not meet the SES functional criteria, are appropriately placed in the ST system if they involve performance of high-level research and development in the physical, biological, medical, or engineering sciences, or a closely-related field. ST positions are established under 5 U.S.C. 3104. All ST positions are in the competitive service.

Research and development positions are characterized by the following features:

  • Systematic investigation of theory, experimentation, or simulation of experiments;
  • Application of the scientific method, including problem exploration and definition, planning of the approach and sequence of steps, execution of experiments or studies, interpretations of findings, and documentation or reporting of findings; and;
  • Exercise of creativity and critical judgment, variation in which may materially affect the nature of the end product.

Additional discussion of research and development functions is contained in Appendix 2 of the Introduction to the Position Classification Standards.

The qualifications, stature, and contributions of an individual involved in research and development, have a direct and major impact on the level of difficulty and responsibility for the work performed. ST incumbents would be expected to possess a graduate degree, significant research experience, and a national or international reputation in their field. Typically, the incumbent of an ST position:

  • Authored fundamental papers in the field of expertise that are widely used and cited;
  • Received significant honors from major organizations for his/her accomplishments and contributions; and
  • Is sought as an advisor and consultant on scientific and technological problems that extend beyond his/her specialty.


ST positions may include supervisory and related managerial duties, provided these duties occupy less than 25 percent of the position’s time. Positions in which supervisory and managerial work as defined in OPM’s General Schedule Supervisory Guide constitutes a major duty that occupies 25 percent or more of the position’s time, and most always meet the criteria for SES positions.