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Research - Salary


Enda Goodwin
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In a job search, it's important to research the marketplace to determine the salary range for someone with your background and experience. Establishing this "going rate" can be worth a lot of money when it comes time to negotiating salary. It is also important in making career decisions.

Finding good information on compensation is difficult!

Salary information is widely available on the internet and elsewhere. But, it varies dramatically in quality and accuracy.

Unfortunately, the phrase, "you get what you pay for" was never truer than it is when it comes to salary data. The business world is full of excellent -- and very high-priced -- salary surveys. These studies are conducted by consulting organizations on behalf of large corporations. They usually contain the best, most current, most granular data. Unfortunately, they are usually only accessible to the organizations who participated in the study or to others willing to pay thousands of dollars for access.

But, don't be discouraged. There are all kinds of salary surveys and online salary calculators that are produced with "consumers" in mind. The best of those no-cost or low-cost tools are listed below.

When evaluating salary data, be sure that the data is current. Determine whether it has been gathered by a reputable source as well. Ask yourself whether the salary data you' are looking at comes from organizations that are comparable in size to the organizations you are targeting. Find out whether they represent the sector--public, private, or not-for-profit--in which you are interested. Find out how many organizations have provided data for the survey - the more, the better.

Consider whether the geography of the firms represented in the data matches your target market area. Also look closely at the job titles represented. In an age where titles are becoming more creative and less clear, it is important to compare required skills and scope of responsibility whenever possible.

Contact the professional or industry association whose members have the kind of job you are targeting. Ask them if they publish a salary survey. If they don't, ask them who does. In addition, make discussion of salary ranges a routine part of your networking.

On the Resources/Tools Library section of the CRN, you can find salary guides provided by Adecco, Ajilon and Special Counsel.

Here are some suggested resources to help you research salaries:

  • Salary.com: Geography, function and level of experience can be used to generate a graphic chart of salary ranges. Notably, results are presented as a table, and can be manipulated to distinguish between base pay and total compensation. Descriptions of titles, a glossary of terms and an FAQ help place results in context. Additional resources are listed along with results. Navigation is easy and the overall design is sharp.
  • The Wall Street Journal Careers: This section of the Wall Street Journal online site contains a variety of articles about compensation and negotiation strategy.
  • SalaryExpert.com: This site offers good salary info and an analysis of how salary data is collected and presented. A free downloadable database allows viewing of salary data for over 30,000 job titles in 45,000 US/Canadian locations and over 200 countries.
  • Robert Half provides Salary Guides: Features in-depth information about hiring and workplace trends. Hiring managers and job seekers can also visit a specialized Salary Center for every industry served to access additional tools.
  • Homefair (part of www.realtor.com): Here you'll find a salary calculator that allows cost-of-living comparisons between domestic U.S and international locations. Use the left column navigation to find the salary calculator and other resources.
  • JobStar: This site contains a frequently updated, very large, collection of industry-specific salary reports began as JobSmart, a federally funded project to serve Northern California. It has now grown to include links to over 300 general and function-specific salary surveys.
  • PayScale Human Capital's Salary Survey Tool : Conduct a Salary Survey and access resources that will help you understand your report results and tools that will take you to the next level.
  • Occupational Outlook Handbook: Published by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, this is a nationally recognized source of career information, designed to provide valuable assistance to individuals making decisions about their future work lives. Revised every two years, the Handbook describes what workers do on the job, working conditions, the training and education needed, earnings, and expected job prospects in a wide range of occupations.
  • Special Issues of Trade And Professional Journals: Many of them do annual salary surveys. For example, the Chronicle of Higher Education does an annual almanac edition that would be invaluable for job seekers targeting academia. CFO Magazine teams up with Mercer to do an annual survey of CFO compensation, Contract Professional magazine does a survey for IT professionals, and AdAge for advertising executives, etc.
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