It's a new year, and maybe time for new jobs! Or at least performance reviews. Knowing your “fair salary,” or the “going market rate” that is paid for your position, can be very helpful. It's also great to know when you're a student graduating into your first real job.
It’s a tricky subject, dependant on factors like your profession, location, your specific experiences, how much the interviewer likes your jacket, broad economic and demographic trends, the rigours and demands of the position you are applying to, and frankly--luck.
But having a ballpark can help you when you have a talk with your boss, or consider whether to leave a job. It also gives you a range in mind for a job interview1.
With that said, I'll list some salary-seeking advice applicable for any job. And where I can, I'll provide an extra example from my field of chemical engineering to show you what I mean. See if these ideas help you:
- Websites exist that will try to take information from you and estimate the salary fair for your position, experience, and location: Payscale.com and Salary.com. You can look up your Salary in the "Monster" website applicable to your country, like Monster.com salary and Monster.ca salary. Also, Wolfram Alpha will look up the median salaries for America in any year.
- I found a spot in the U.S. Bureau of Labour Statistics providing older mean (average) wages. But as a nice benefit, the data broken down by professionals and states. Check it out: Occupational Employment Statistics. Example: 2009 Chemical Engineers.
- Look for annual salary reports from magazines relevant to your trade. (e.g. Chemical Engineering Magazine usually gives me good U.S. numbers. But you need to be a subscriber to read it online)
- You may be able to find data in publications of your profession, trade organization, or union. (Example: Manitoba Engineers & Geoscientists has their salary report online. Most jurisdictions lock it to their members only).
- Try looking on message forums that deal with your profession. See if you can find a report by someone nearby with a similar profession. Example: eng-tips.com "get ahead in work" sub-forum)
- You may stumble across salary ranges or actual salaries if management sloppily leaves budget forecasting documents around
- In consulting organizations, the client is usually charged 2x-3x the salary of the actual employee. (Ex: a lawyer is paid $100/hr but the client pays $200/hr. The extra $100/hr is for the costs and profits of the company employing the lawyer).
- You might find out through the rumour mill at work2.
- If you have a mentor, someone in another company or many years of experience ahead of you, they may be willing to give you some idea. Or perhaps a family member, or family friend?
- In a job search, if you can get several offers at once you’ll get several numbers to compare
Special advice for students/new grads/very young workers:
- Most people do not like to talk salary, it's rude and it can lead to hurt feelings and messes if people are paid differently. But it's different when you are a student job hunting in your last year of school. You and your peers are all hunting for low-level entry positions with the same level of experience, and you probably won't end up working together. Usually a few companies have a big hiring presence on campus, so a lot of people get through an interview with them but don't take a job. In this environment, where the companies see all students as interchangeable raw materials and the students are spreading out to the four corners of the globe, some people don’t mind sharing the range that is initially offered by companies.
- If you are still in school, your school's career office may have some numbers or at least advice
- Some companies have pay scales for summer interns. The pay scales may be publically available, or maybe or a friend of yours found out by working at the company. In some companies, they vary the pay by how much school you've done, and a 4th year intern, or a co-op intern who takes a year off school to work, may be paid something close to a full grad. (50-80%??) In other companies, a new hire is worth considerably more, and they pay students less than half the salary of a full graduate. But at least the intern salaries give you a minimum value.
- Consider the impact of higher education, or professional engineering status, when making comparisons. The value afforded to these accomplishments depends on the organization. (For example, in the U.S. and Canada, I've been lead to believe that a Masters of Engineering relevant to your new job may provide a salary boost equivalent to 1-3 years of job experience)
If you have any other tips, resources, or websites, leave a comment.
2011-04-09 - Added U.S. Bureau of Labour Statistics
- In a job interview you usually try to keep the salary range you expect to yourself. You don't want to give up the information first: you want to see what the employer is thinking, and then better it. If you're asked, you can always say that the salary you expect “depends on duties, job requirements, and other benefits” and then try to argue upwards whatever they first offer. If you're totally pressed and decide you must say something, then this post will help you have a realistic range to ask for. [↩]
- Although you may happen to hear about salary at work, don't talk about it yourself. It's considered impolite. It can cause friction and headaches when people find out others are being paid more than they are. It...it can get ugly. Just make sure you're being treated fairly, don't get caught up in a race with your coworkers and don't start drama. [↩]