Civil Service Salary Scale

Civil Service Pay Level

The Civil Service salary scale can be quite difficult to understand and navigate.  There are a whole range of gradings which are difficult to decipher and the salary bandings can be quite broad depending on the type of civil service role or programme you’re in. So what I’ve done is put together a comprehensive overview of the Civil Service salary structure. Please note that there will be slight variations for England, Wales and Northern Ireland compared to Scotland. 


Civil Service Pay structure

Grade Job Title Minimum Salary Maximum Salary Typical Job Roles
AO Administrative Officer £20,851 £24,012 Administrative Support, Data Entry Clerk, Customer Service Advisor
EO Executive Officer £25,052 £27,312 Case Officer, HR Officer, Communications Officer
HEO Higher Executive Officer £32,851 £38,690 Policy Officer, Project Manager, Team Leader
SEO Senior Executive Officer £42,317 £55,580 Policy Advisor, Senior Project Manager, Operational Manager
Grade 7 Deputy Director, Senior Policy Advisor £53,856 £72,892 Senior Policy Advisor, Deputy Director, Project Director
Grade 6 Director, Head of Policy Profession £63,936 £87,118 Head of Profession, Director, Chief Operating Officer
SCS Pay Band 1 Director General, Chief Executive £71,000 £117,800 Chief Executive, Director General, Senior Director
SCS Pay Band 2 Permanent Secretary £91,000 £160,000 Permanent Secretary, Chief Operating Officer, Chief Executive


Service Salary Pay Grade

The Civil Service has eight gradings.  From AO to Grade 6, then you have two Senior Civil Service (SCS) pay grades: SCS Band 1 and SCS Band 2. The reality is, that the majority of the job roles within the Civil Service range from EO to SEO. A HEO Civil Service Salary is  between £32,000 to £38,000, which is where the most Civil Servants operate. From there grade 7 onwards the interviews and the recruitment process become more challenging.  

There is also the Civil Service Fast Stream Salary which is a programme created to attract more UK graduates into the Civil Service. The starting salary for this program is £28,000. If you’re in London you would be starting at £30,000. They’re also, depending on the role, various allowances that can be given such as travel allowance and flexible working.

Once you’ve completed The Graduate program the Civil Service Fast Stream salary progression we’ll then fall in line with the rest of the Civil Service so likely that you’ll be graded as a HEO (Higher Executive Officer). 


How has civil service pay changed?

The Civil Service and Public sector pay change has been incremental over the years.  Usually an increment of 1% to 2%. However there isn’t any hard anchoring of the salary to inflation.  However you will find that if you stay in the job long enough and you meet your professional development targets and SMART goals.  Within your salary banding range, for example if you’re an SEO (Senior Executive Officer) you have £42,000 to £55,000 range to incrementally work your way up.  The speed at which you do this really depends on the department as well as your competence.  For example the shortage of professionals able to do that job. IT being a prime example. If you’re a software developer  it’s very likely that you will move up within the grading a lot quicker since it’s harder to attract IT talent into the Civil Service.

This also therefore applies to the Civil Service Fast Stream salary, Where you are coming in at a higher salary despite the relative lack of experience in your field.


How do pay ranges vary between departments?

You have to remember that the Civil Service is made up of many departments. Each department has its own culture and what they might look to pay staff members. Generally the more in-demand technical skills you possess you are more likely to be paid on the high end of the salary scale. IT, Data Analysts being a prime example. Also certain departments which have a low turnover of staff generally pay a lower salary compared to departments that are growing or recruiting at a faster pace.  Since the Civil Service would need to compete with the private sector  to attract the best talent. 

Also some departments such as DWP, HMRC, UK Visa & Immigration are based around the country. Therefore depending on the location the salary might vary greatly  from one office to another. 

Below are a list of the typical salary ranges for the job role types within the Civil Service:

Salary ranges for the job role types

Skill Type Job Title Salary Range
Legal Lawyer £25,000 – £100,000
Data Analysis Data Scientist £35,000 – £80,000
Administration Executive Officer £20,000 – £30,000
Finance Accountant £25,000 – £70,000
Project Management Project Manager £30,000 – £60,000
Communications Communications Manager £40,000 – £70,000
Human Resources Human Resources Manager £40,000 – £70,000
Parliamentary Procedure Clerk Assistant £40,000 – £50,000



How to negotiate a civil service salary

Negotiating a salary is a very important part of getting the best possible job offer for you.  As the saying goes, ‘if you don’t try you never know’ and more often than not, you can walk away with an increase in salary. Sometimes there is anxiety around negotiating because you feel that they might withdraw the offer.  However, in all my years of experience within the job and career sector this has never happened once. So it’s an anxiety that’s unfounded. When negotiating a civil service salary it’s important to remember three important steps.

  1.  Your reasoning for why you deserve a higher salary this means comparing it to market rate, it means comparing it with regards to your current salary.  Also taking into account your years of experience and why it equates to a higher salary.
  2. Negotiate on the package. If you feel that you’re not getting enough benefits seek to have that re-compensated through an increase in salary. For example in your previous job might have had a car allowance and although your new job in the MoD is giving you a travel allowance so that you can go on the train for cheaper, it still doesn’t equate to the amount that you were getting with the company car.
  3.  Is to stay strong. Put your proposition forward and hold your nerve and wait for them to get back to you. Give it two to three days  and then email them as a follow-up if they haven’t got back to you just to give them a nudge.

If you want to learn in more depth on how to negotiate a salary offer I would really suggest  that you read more of our articles.


What is the average civil service salary?

The average UK civil service salary ranges between £28,000 – £30,000 depending on the region.  Regions such as London will  have a higher salary due to London weighing.  As of 2020 the exact UK average civil service salary was listed by the office of national statistics as £29,900. 


Who sets civil service pay and how?

Public sector and civil service pay is set by the  government  such as the cabinet office in partnership with the treasury.  This process is regularly reviewed after two to three years, however there is no guarantee that after the review there will be an increase in the  civil service salary or pay.  However, usually various matrices and indicators are used to decide  what they feel is the optimal pay, this includes cost of living, rate of inflation and market rate. 

The truth is if you’re going to work in the civil service the main objective should be a sense of service to the country and stability in the job.  However, in the overall job market the Civil Service wouldn’t necessarily be up there as  offering the highest most competitive salaries within the job market.  The quickest and most effective way to earn more within the Civil Service is to move jobs across the departments and offices every two years.  Of course to be able to do this you would need to really refine your interviewing skills and really prepare for civil service interview questions and answers so that you are primed and ready to win the interview.

Farhan Raja

I'm Farhan, the Founder and Coach at, one of the world’s leading Career and interview Coaching specialists. Bringing over a decade of industry experience and a passion for guiding individuals in their career journeys. As an Interview and Career Coach, I've authored the eBook '10 Simple Steps to CV & Resume Success,' directed a leading UK CV writing specialist, and pioneered the iPREP interview coaching methodology.

My career and interview coaching has spanned over 10 years across diverse industries, from IT giants like Google and Microsoft to vital sectors like Civil Service & NHS, Pharma, Finance, Engineering, Automotive, Construction, Logistics, Banking, and Management Consulting. I've had the privilege of assisting professionals in presenting their best selves, and targeting roles at renowned companies like Amazon, GSK, EY, Shell, Rolls Royce and more.

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