• Jobs in Demand Nationwide, Only Certificates Required

    In earlier columns, I examined top paying jobs for people with no college degrees; and here we go again =o). I'm not trying to put universities out of business, but this seems to be a hot topic these days. So hot that Yahoo! Hot Jobs recently compiled an interesting list of jobs in demand nationwide that only require online certificate programs.

    Surprisingly a college degree is not required to be a paralegal, but you do need stamina. You're doing a lot of researching for attorneys. A friend of mine completed the UCLA paralegal certificate program and, today, is working for the U.S. Department of Justice and dating her teacher. According to the PayScale research center, the median salary for a paralegal ranges from $49,731 to $29,839 (boy/girlfriend not included).

    How does your salary compare to jobs in demand nationwide? Find out with our salary survey.

  • My Job Duties Exceed my Pay; What Should I Do?

    A couple of readers asked the following questions:

    "[1] How do I get an accurate report on comparable salaries when my job duties far exceed my job title? I took a "part time" while finishing school which has transformed into much more than administrative assistant. [2] How do I know the true worth of the duties I perform?"

    The first question, since it is about market pricing an employee, is something we obsess about here at The second goes beyond market data, and gets into the question of worth and what people should be paid.

    In this post, I will look at these questions. For those in a hurry, here is a hint at the answer to the first: complete the PayScale salary survey. :-)

  • GigZig: Career Paths of Real People

    PayScale released a cool new tool today, GigZig. It lets you see the career paths of real people. GigZig is based on a simple question we ask during our salary survey: "what was your job 5 years ago?"

    As a data guy, I just love the wealth of information. Together with our data on what a job pays, a person evaluating their current career choice, or investigating a new one, can get a pretty complete picture of both what other people have done in their careers, and what they are paid.

    In this post, I will look at a web developer career path, explain a little bit about how GigZig, works, and ponder the Waitress/Waiter in everyone's past.

    No matter where you are going in your career, are you being paid what you are worth for where you are now? Find out with the PayScale Salary Survey.

  • Are PayScale Surgeon Salaries Off?

    Chris, a reader, commented on the surgeon vs. football player salaries post, "Many of the average/base salaries for physicians/surgeons posted in this article are off by hundreds of thousands of dollars."

    I am confident that the data points that make up our averages correspond to the actual salaries received by individual surgeons. In fact, even our broad average salaries compare well with other broad averages, like the Bureau of Labor Statistics survey of all surgeon salaries by metropolitan area, when we select and group surgeons and geography in the same way.

    Assuming Chris means his experience with surgeons' pay is very different from what we report, why are PayScale average surgeon salaries so "off"?

    It comes down to which surgeons go into our averages, vs. the people Chris knows. In this post, I will look at what goes into "average" (median) surgeon salaries, why surgeon salaries vary so much, and why even a median may not really "typical."

    Is your pay off by $100,000's? Use the PayScale salary survey to find out.

  • Top Paying Jobs for People with No College Degrees

    By: Dr. Al Lee -

    In a previous column, I mentioned some top paying jobs for people with no college degrees.  The response was so strong that we are back for round two of the "best career choices with no college degree." Lest any parents out there accuse me of being an incompetent career counselor, keep in mind that neither Microsoft Founder Bill Gates nor Oracle CEO Larry Ellison has a college degree.

    Of course, Bill dropped out of Harvard, and Larry out of the University of Illinois and the University of Chicago. If your kid gets into a top university (or two), and then wants to drop out, these two billionaires are evidence your child can still be a financial success.

    As reported on, one of the top paying jobs for people with no college degrees is working as an air traffic controller. You are directing which planes can land and take off, so hundreds of lives are in your hands. A college degree is not necessary, but you do need three years of on-the-job work experience and/or four years of college. You also need to pass pre-employment testing, make it through the FAA Academy, and more training. It does pay well; the median salary for an air traffic controller with 13-20 years of experience is $98,300 per year.

    How does your salary compare to a "no college degree salary?" Do the math with our salary calculator.

  • Are PayScale Salary Reports Unbiased?

    Sometimes we are asked, are the PayScale salary reports unbiased? Since PayScale does not explicitly select the people who complete our salary survey, how do we know the ~2% of employees in the US who have completed our survey are representative of the US working population as a whole?

    The extent to which any aggregate statistic, like typical salary, is biased (inaccurate) depends on how it is constructed, and what question it is trying to answer. In this post, I'll look at three aspects of bias in reporting:

    • All aggregate statistics lie: There is no such thing as a "true" typical answer
    • The case of the civil engineer: Even well-measured typical values are wrong, simply because they are aggregates
    • Sampling bias: A sample may not be suitable for the question being asked

    In future posts, I will look at bias in government wage calculations, and then come back to whether PayScale data are biased for the questions we try to answer.

    Is your salary biased high or low? The PayScale Salary Calculator is a quick and easy way to compare positions. But when you want powerful salary data and comparisons customized for your exact position, be sure to build a complete profile by taking PayScale's full salary survey.

  • CEO Salaries: PayScale in the New York Times

    I was excited to wake up today and see an article about PayScale in the New York Times. Together with a recent article in Business 2.0 magazine, PayScale has been getting very good press lately.

    As a person born just across the river in New Jersey, The New York Times has always represented the height of newspaper publishing to me. While it is great to be quoted in The Province (Vancouver, BC), seeing such a prominent article in the NYT says PayScale is real to my friends and family back east.

    While the New York Times article was fair in describing the strengths and weaknesses of PayScale and our competitors, one small item annoyed me. As regular readers will suspect, the issue of CEO salaries in New York City touched on my obsession with mean vs. median.

    Before reading another pedantic post on statistics, why not take a couple minutes to compare your salary using PayScale's salary calculator, as seen in the New York Times!

  • How Large a Salary Survey Sample is Enough? (II)

    In a previous post, I claimed that as few as 5 employee profiles are enough to report accurately on the typical pay for a job. How can that be?

    In this post, we'll look at how statistics work, and why a small, targeted, data set is often preferable to a much larger, but poorly characterized one. You don't even need fancy math to calculate this.

    If you are curious what kind of sample we have for your job, try the PayScale salary calculator.

  • Software Developer Salary: How does PayScale understand what I do?

    software developer, salary survey, job titles, dental hygienist, salary range, List Project Management Software Developer, Administrator Rights Software Developer, Microsoft Access Software Developers in Portland, Oregon, Software Developer Computer Programmer Job, Software developer salary, Software Developers and Security Training It was great to see a blog post on TechCrunch about PayScale. Even better were the comments: they reminded me of questions we regularly get about the effectiveness of our salary survey.

    One common question about our salary survey is some variation of, "My job title is software developer. How does PayScale take into account what I actually do?" Software developer can mean everything from writing Excel macros to automating a spreadsheet (I've been doing too much of that lately), to re-writing the Windows NT kernel for 64 bit computing.

    How does PayScale handle this variation of duties and job titles?

  • Why is PayScale’s salary for my job low?

    People often complain that our salary survey results are too low. Strangely, very few people complain our salary survey results are too high :-)

    People object to our salary survey results even when the difference between our salary survey result and their expectations is less than 10%. It seems that Zillow has the same problem with house appraisals as we have for salaries. This got me wondering to what extent our problems are similar.

  • Searching for a Salary Report for an unusual job? The PayScale challenge

    One of our most common customer questions is, "Why does PayScale not have a salary report for my job?" Please do not feel we are biased against you; we do not have a salary report for me either, a Quantitative Analysis Director from Seattle. :-)

    We have over a million salary data profiles from roughly 1% of all people who work in the United States, and a signficant number from other countries as well. We don't have enough salary data to report on every possible job title, in every location, with every experience level and the dozen other critical factors that determine an employee's salary, because of the way our system works.

    Our salary calculator is based on a few simple principles:

  • Why is there no salary standard deviation on PayScale?

    I am sometimes asked, "why doesn't the PayScale Salary Report and Salary Research Center show the standard deviation of the data? (See Wikipedia for the (useless) mathematical definition of standard deviation.)

    People are are interested in the standard deviation, because it attempts to give the typical variation in salaries. The first thing they calculate with it is a typical range of salaries, by simply adding and subtracting it from the mean.

  • Which Companies Are in PayScale's Salary Database?
  • Salary Data: Where does PayScale get data? How do I know it’s accurate?

    At PayScale, our salary data resides in the largest real-time online employee salary database in the world. The salary database was built from the millions of curious individuals who want to compare their salary data and understand the market for their skills.

    We create each individualized salary report by analyzing anonymous salary data collected over the last year from people with similar job titles, years experience, education, etc. This automated process includes extensive checks and statistical tests for consistency and accuracy on all salary data.