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The Secrets of Your Boss’ Salary

By Bridget Quigg

Whether they manage every minute of your day or disappear most afternoons to “lunch meetings,” you know one thing for sure about your boss. He or she probably makes more money than you do. How much more? It depends on your gig.

Online salary database PayScale.com put together a list of common boss-subordinate relationships and calculated the earnings differences. Chances are your boss is doing well financially.

Do Bosses Really Earn Much More?

A boss usually has more experience, expertise and, sometimes, more education than the people they manage. How well are they rewarded for the extras they bring to the table? Typically very well.

In PayScale’s list of the most common boss and subordinate relationships reported by users, the smallest difference in pay was 45 percent, between a mechanical engineer and a senior mechanical engineer. Who wouldn’t love a 45 percent raise? That senior mechanical engineer, though, reports nine more years of experience, on average, than the engineers they manage. It seems they have earned the raise.

The highest difference in pay was 284 percent, between a dental assistant and a dentist. Clearly, the dental assistant has a lot of work to do, and school to pay for, before earning a DDS. But, if they are interested in that line of work, they can look forward to bigger homes, nicer cars and fatter paychecks for the rest of their lives as the doctor in charge.

Jobs where you earn less than your boss fall into two categories, according to Al Lee, director of quantitative analysis at PayScale. “For some jobs, you may be junior now but you can learn from your boss and work your way up. With other gigs, you won’t get the big bucks unless you get a degree and come back as the boss,” says Lee. 

Lee recommends that if you don’t want to spend a bunch of money on tuition, try to get into a job position where you can work your way up the management chain while working. He gave junior copywriters who become senior copywriters as an example.

What Bosses Earn

The following are some manager-direct report relationships and comparisons of their education level, years of experience and annual pay.

 

Level

Boss

Subordinate

Title

Partner, Architecture Firm

Project Manager, Architecture

Degree

Bachelor’s Degree

Bachelor’s Degree

Years of Experience

20

10

Median Annual Salary

$127,000

$65,000

% Difference in Pay

95%

 

Level

Boss

Subordinate

Title

Human Resources (HR) Manager

Human Resources (HR) Assistant

Degree

Bachelor’s Degree

Bachelor’s Degree

Years of Experience

9

3

Median Annual Salary

$59,400

$33,100

 

% Difference in Pay

79%

 

Level

Boss

Subordinate

Title

Principal Investigator, Laboratory Research

Research Technician

Degree

Ph.D.

Bachelor’s Degree

Years of Experience

10

2

Median Annual Salary

$108,000

$33,000

% Difference in Pay

226%

 

Level

Boss

Subordinate

Title

Elementary School Principal

Elementary School Teacher

Degree

Master’s Degree

Bachelor’s Degree

Years of Experience

9

5

Median Annual Salary

$75,400

$40,100

% Difference in Pay

88%

 

Level

Boss

Subordinate

Title

Partner - Accounting Firm, Tax

Tax Manager

Degree

Bachelor’s Degree

Bachelor’s Degree

Years of Experience

16

8

Median Annual Salary

$183,000

$88,700

% Difference in Pay

106%

 

Source: Salary data provided by online salary database PayScale.com. All annual incomes listed are for full-time workers with varied years of experience and include any bonuses, commissions or profit sharing.

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