klaviernista, there appear to be a range of numbers floating around this thread over the past year. The most common I see lists the GS-9 positions starting at step 8 and the GS-11 positions starting at between 4 and 6. Many say that an accelerated promotion at 6 months is possible, bringing the examiner up to GS-11.
Additionally, the general consensus seems to be that it is advantageous to accept the GS-9 position even with the advanced scientific degree, absent significant patent work, due to the differences in production quotas between the two grades.
Thoughts? Any worrisome drawbacks to accepting the GS-9 over the GS-11, aside from being behind by 6 months.
In my opinion, it is far better to come in at GS 7 or 9 than at an 11 if you have never been an examiner. The difference is a bit like stepping on a treadmill at speed 4 vs. speed 7 or 8. At 4, you will have to jump on and start running fairly quickly, but chances are you will be able ot keep up. At 7 or 8, you might try to jump on and fall off before you even hit your stride. Learning the PTO systems and how to be an efficient examiner take time. More importantly, establishing the amended docket that will sustain you at higher production levels takes (a lot) of time.
The negatives associated with coming in at GS 7 or 9 (as opposed to 11) generally relate to salary and when you will become eligble to do certain things, like take the certification of legal competency exam, participate in the work at home program, etc. But the delay is only 6-18 months, depending on what level you come in at.
To close, I am certainly not an old foagie, but I have been around the block a few times. I have also had the good fortune to work as a patent examiner, a patent attorney in a large firm, as in house counsel, and as a patent attorney in a small firm. Don't be so eager to rush into things and "advance." Better to develop a good set of skills slowly, than to rush into things and find yourself in over your head. Not to mention that taking things slow will allow you to stop and smell the roses every now and then. It is pretty easy to lose yourself in this business.