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Position Classification

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The Overall Classification Process:
Position classification is a process through which Federal positions are assigned to a pay system, series, title, and grade or band, based on consistent application of position classification standards. Classification determinations are based on the work assigned to positions by the responsible management official; the complexity of the work; the level of assigned responsibility; the outcome of products and/or services; the knowledge and skills necessary to successfully perform the assigned work; and the proper application of applicable position classification guidelines such as standards and functional guides.

The grade determining factors in position classification do NOT include any of the following: the education and/or certification level of the employee in the position; difficulty in recruiting for the position; how well the employee performs the work; the accuracy and honesty required of the employee by the position; the volume of the work produced by the employee in the position; duties performed in the absence of another employee; the employee's length of service; or the employee's security clearance.

The major duties and responsibilities of a position are analyzed and evaluated using position classification standards and guides issued by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). These standards and guides are available to all Federal employees at http://www.opm.gov/fedclass/index.htm. Applying OPM principles and rules, the Human Resources (HR) Specialist determines the proper title, series, and grade. When a position includes major duties evaluated at different grade levels, the final title, series, and grade are normally assigned based upon the highest level work assigned to and performed by the employee for the majority of time. In some instances, a major duty that is performed at least 25 percent or more of an employee's work time may be title, series, and grade determining.

Position classification standards, guides, and job family standards are the evaluation tools issued by the Office of Personnel Management to be used by the HR Specialist when evaluating the work of positions. Standards and guides document the grade level criteria for work and provide the basis for the assignment of a title, series and grade. A position classification standard typically applies to a single occupation such as Secretary or Contract Specialist. A guide addresses work that is not occupation-specific and applies to work performed by a number of occupations.

A mixed position has major duties that are covered by more than one position classification standard or guide. Each type of work must be evaluated using the most applicable position classification standard, guide, or job family standard.

Positions are classified based upon the work assigned. It is important to note that it is the position that is classified, not the person in the job. There are several possible reasons why apparently similar positions are classified differently. The positions are actually different. While the tasks might seem to be similar, the complexity of the work, as well as the level of responsibility, authority, level of contacts, purpose of contacts, and so on, are different and justify different classifications. The description of one of the positions may be inaccurate, outdated or classified incorrectly. As a result, the classification of every position should be based on and comparison with relevant OPM classification standards, not with other positions in the organization. OPM specifically prohibits position-to-position comparisons in making classification determinations.

Job Grading Standards:
Job Grading Standards are position classification standards for the Federal Wage System (FWS). The FWS applies to trades, crafts, and manual labor positions in the Federal Government. Job Grading standards and functional guides are official OPM publications for use in classifying FWS positions. FWS Job Grading Standards cover single occupations and FWS Functional Guides consist of classification guidance that cover multiple occupations

Difference between Classification and Qualifications:
"Classification" and "qualifications” are terms people often confuse. Here is a key way to clarify the difference between the terms "classification" and "qualifications". Classification pertains to a position or job and the evaluation process that determines the appropriate pay system, occupational series, title, and grade/pay band. Qualifications pertain to a person and describe the knowledge, skills, and/or abilities a person needs to be eligible for and successful in a job/position or a particular occupation. OPM publishes minimum qualifications for white collar jobs in the Federal service in the OPM Operating Manual of Qualifications Standards for General Schedule Positions. For positions in the Federal Wage System (FWS), OPM provides guidance on qualification requirements in The Job Qualifications System for Trades and Crafts Occupations. HR specialists use these manuals to determine whether applicants meet the minimum requirements for positions being filled in the Federal service. These manuals are not intended to provide detailed information about the specific qualification requirements for individual positions. Such information, e.g., a description of the specialized experience requirements for a particular position, is normally included in the vacancy announcement that Federal agencies issue when they have a position to fill.