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  • Is College a Good Investment?

    Together with Bloomberg BusinessWeek, PayScale on Monday released a report on the return on investment (ROI) in education at 554 bachelor's degree granting colleges and universities

    All together, the PayScale College ROI Report ranked 852 possibilities, evaluating public universities for both in-state and out of state tuition costs.

    Why evaluate college tuition as an investment? There is a clear analogy from the housing market.

    Conventional wisdom used to say that buying a house was always a great investment, offering returns of 10% or more a year. As many have painfully learned over the last few years, buying a house at the wrong price can be a bad investment, particularly if you borrowed too much to pay for it.

    Conventional wisdom also says that paying for tuition, room and board for a 4-year bachelor's degree, no matter what the cost, is a great investment, offering long term returns of $1,000,000 or more over going to work straight out of high school.

    The PayScale College ROI report shows that the return varies tremendously across schools. Netting a million dollar payday is far from a sure thing.

    In the next few blog posts, I'll cover the basics of our methodology, why we made the choices we did in calculating ROI, some guidance on how to use this to evaluate college choices and costs, and respond to some of the criticisms.

    Whether you went to college or not, are you earning what you are worth? Spend 5 minutes completing the PayScale online salary evaluation survey and know.

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  • Tools for Judging College as an Investment

    Nancy Folbre, an economics professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst had a thought provoking post on the Economix blog on the economics of universities, and the value of a college education.

    She brought up three interesting problems:

    1. Difficulty the "buyers" of a college education have in judging value
    2. Rising costs and questionable approaches for new revenue (e.g., marketing for out of state students)
    3. Poor outcomes such as low graduation rates particularly at for-profit and large state universities

    I have blogged comparing private and public universities before. In this post, I just want to point out the resources that are most useful in judging the economic value of a 4-year bachelor's degree education from a particular institution.

    Bachelor's degree or not, are you earning what you are worth? Spend 5 minutes completing the PayScale online salary evaluation survey and know.

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  • Worst Paying College Majors

    Recently a piece on the "Worst Paying College Majors" in the Huffington Post and later on Yahoo! received a lot of attention. The list of "Worst Paying College Majors" came from our annual PayScale College Salary Report.

    People both hotly debated and amicably agreed upon the list of majors via 1000+ comments at the end of the Huffington Post piece. In this article I will discuss two of these comments and address misconceptions some Huffington Post readers have.

    Are you curious whether you are paid what you're worth, given the major and career you chose? Find out with a free PayScale Salary Report.

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  • Does a 2nd Choice School mean 2nd Rate Pay?

    As high school seniors spent April sorting through their college acceptance letters and deciding where to attend school, they may now be lamenting the fact they were rejected by their top choice college or university. However, a recent article in The Daily Beast finds people who don't attend their top choice school are regularly happier than those who do.

    Top choice schools are often schools with name recognition and severe admission standards (e.g. Harvard or Berkeley), not necessarily schools that are a good fit for the applicant. The Daily Beast article finds students typically rank prestigious schools as top choice schools, even if the student knows very little about the school. This blogger is guilty of this: my top choice school was Princeton University for no real reason other than the fact it was Princeton.

    Upon closer inspection, 2nd choice schools may offer a better fit in terms of the academic rigor, social life, campus setting and location. Therefore, students who attend their 2nd choice school are often happier with this choice.

    However, what does attending a 2nd choice school mean for your pay down the road? In other words, is there a trade-off between happiness and future salaries when attending a lower choice school?

    Are you curious whether you are paid what you're worth given the school you chose? Find out with PayScale's detailed salary calculator.

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  • Salary Raises: Understanding Cost of Living vs. Merit Pay Increases

    I have been looking at pay raises lately, and one thing I have been struggling with is how HR managers talk about raises.

    For example, a recent question on an HR discussion board was whether companies should give cost of living adjustments (COLAs) or "merit" increases.

    In this post, I'll cover what HR means by COLAs and merit raises, and then discuss why this is not really the right way to talk about pay and raises.

    Are you due for a raise? Use PayScale's detailed salary calculator to figure out based on your unique skills and abilities what you are worth.

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  • Best Companies for Gen Y: Millennials at Work

    PayScale and Brazen Careerist released today the "Top 50 Gen Y Companies". It was a lot of fun working with Penelope Trunk developing this list.

    Gen Y, also known as Millennials, is the generation born after 1977. Since over half of Gen Y go to 4-year colleges, we decided to focus on the large companies where Gen Y college grads would most likely be happy working.

    In this post, after a quick review of the methodology, I will count the winner and losers, and look at why some famous companies didn't make the list.

    Even if you are not working at a top Gen Y company, are you at least being paid fairly? Find out with a free PayScale Salary Report.

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  • Majors by Gender: Is It Bias or the Major that Determines Future Pay?

    The discussion of pay differences across gender is a hot topic. We addressed this topic recently in a project with the New York Times Economix Blog, as well as in our own blog post. In these studies, we controlled for compensable factors (experience, education, specialty, company size, etc.) across men and women and find the gender wage gap to be 94%, which is much narrower than the oft quoted 77 cents to the dollar.

    One reason the National Committee on Pay Equity finds a pay gap of 77% is they don't control for major or job choice and instead compare differences in the national median salaries of men and women.

    However, as we have discussed in previous blog posts (here and here), choice of degree type and college major play a large role in determining national pay differences across men and women. Simply put, women tend to choose majors that pay a lower national median pay.

    Are you curious whether you are paid what you're worth given the major you chose? Find out with a free PayScale Salary Report.

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  • Jobs that Make Our World a Better Place

    Posted by Katie Bardaro

    The Thanksgiving Holiday is a time to give thanks and recognize the people who contribute to our wellbeing. These people include the teachers who impart wisdom on our children, the doctors who ensure our health, and volunteers who are vital to the success of our social programs.

    In fact, there are many jobs that help to make our world a better place; some of which might not come to mind immediately.

    In the spirit of Thanksgiving, we at PayScale decided to create a list of "Jobs that Make the World a Better Place." In this post, I will look at those jobs whose workers deserve our thanks, and how they are monetarily rewarded for their efforts.

    Are you curious if you're paid what you're worth? Find out with a free PayScale Salary Report.

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  • Women Earn Less Than Men, But Why?

    In a recent project with Catherine Rampell at the New York Times Economix Blog, we examine the pay differential between men and women across a set of 90 jobs.

    Numerous studies have looked at the gender wage gap, including the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the New York Times, and the Census. However, the question remains, why does the gap exist?

    Examining national pay differences across men and women, even by job title, can be misleading. Men and women in a sample may be different in ways that employers could legitimately pay differently.

    Using our unique dataset here at PayScale, we are able to control for many outside compensable factors (experience, education, specialty, company size, etc.) in order to provide a more apples-to-apples comparison.

    This allows us to give one of the strongest answers to date to the question, "If a man and woman are doing the exact same job with the exact same qualifications, responsibilities, and employer type, is the man still paid more than the woman?"

    In this post, I will look at what our data says, and address some of the questions and misconceptions Economix readers have.

    Are you curious if you're paid what you're worth, no matter your gender? Find out with a free PayScale Salary Report.

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  • 4-Year vs. 2-Year College Degrees: How Does the Pay Compare?

    With the rising cost of four-year colleges, people may ask themselves whether the salary promised by a bachelor's degree is really worth the time and money required to complete the program. Why not complete an associate's degree program, and enter the workforce sooner and (mostly) free of debt?

    Using the extensive PayScale salary database, in this post we will examine the pay differences across degrees and other characteristics. While our database has its limitations - for example, we don't track unemployment rates, which are much higher for less advanced degrees - it gives us insight into the value in salary of finishing four years at a college or university.

    Will a bachelor's degree lead to higher pay in your career? Use the PayScale salary survey to find out.

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  • Is Your Job One of the Best in America?

    In a recent project with CNN/Money Magazine, we looked at all the factors, not just pay, that go into making the 100 Best Jobs in America. Is there a lot of growth in the field? Is the job low stress? Does it offer scheduling flexibility? And how many positions are even available?

    The set of jobs is a mix: some require extensive medical training (e.g. Anesthesiologist); others offer a lot of schedule flexibility (e.g. Software Product Manager), and still others are sworn to secrecy about their day-to-day activities (e.g. Intelligence Analyst).

    In this post, I will discuss the methodology used to determine the Best Jobs in America, and pull out some of the most interesting points from the data.

    Is your job a "Best Job" and you are wondering if you are earning top dollar? Find out with a free PayScale salary report.

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  • Private vs. Public Universities: Is CalPoly Better than USC?

    Looking at the PayScale data on the pay of college graduates, I was struck again by how very different schools can produce graduates who earn similar salaries.

    My favorite example is comparing the University of Southern California (USC) to the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) and the California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo (CalPoly). All three are southern California universities. In our report, at mid-career, median total cash compensation of graduates is:

    1. USC was at $103K
    2. CalPoly at $102K
    3. UCLA at $97K

    While UCLA pay is 6% less, the differences are not particularly statistically significant between these three.

    These are three very different schools: a selective private research university, a leading public university, and a state school whose "career orientation is evident in its programs in Agriculture, Architecture, Business, Design, Education, Engineering, Graphic Communication and Journalism." How can all produce graduates who earn nearly the same amount?

    In this post, I will look at how this is possible, and see what it means for the cost/benefit analysis in choosing colleges.

    Should you be earning like a USC grad? Spend 5 minutes completing the PayScale online salary evaluation survey and know.

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  • Top Paying Undergraduate Degree Majors: Which List is Right?

    The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) released their annual list of top 15 paying undergraduate majors yesterday.

    They are a little late: We released the PayScale list of salary by major last week :-)

    While the top level take away - starting pay is highest for engineering and other technical fields - the differences are an interesting look into how a survey is defined affects the results.

    Are you being paid all you are worth? Spend 5 minutes completing the PayScale online salary evaluation survey and know.

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  • PayScale's 2009 College Graduate Salary Report

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  • Predicting Future Wages is Hard, Even When Budgeted

    World at Work released the preliminary results for the 2010 salary budget survey.

    While its predictions for next year are interesting, what is really fascinating is the difference between predictions and reality for this year.

    Back in May 2008, employers looked at their budgets, and predicted raises for the coming year. This survey contains the actual raises given as of May 2009.

    In this post, I'll take a quick look the World at Work preliminary data, what our PayScale data show, and take my guess at what the future holds.

    A raise is made up of two parts: changes in your abilities and responsibilities, and general market forces. While the big picture market is bleak, is your employer recognizing all you are worth? Use the free PayScale Salary Survey to find out.

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  • Comp. Time and Overtime: Only After 45 Hours of Work a Week?

    Things have been busy at PayScale - we have been adding new features to our flagship professional product, PayScale Insight, and our Research Center - so I haven’t had as much time to post on salary issues.

    I did respond to a reader’s question about overtime; others might be interested in the question and answer:

    I get paid a annual salary of $40,000. I am a maintenance person. I work on AC units and furnaces; I paint; I am a jack of all trades and a master of none. I work around 5 to 6 hrs overtime a week.

    My employer says I can't get comp time until 45 hrs a week have been met; is this legal? I only get 1 hr comp time over 45 hrs. Should I get 1 1/2, if it is legal to allow the comp time over 45 hours? This must mean I’m non-exempt right? If I confront them with this issue, can they say you are exempt and work me to no end? Help!

    These questions are about the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA): what is a legal use of over-time, comp. time, etc.?

    In this post, I will answer these, and also take a quick look at what FLSA says about breaks and meal time.

    Wondering if you should be earning $40,000/year, like our "Jack" of all trades? Use the PayScale Salary Calculator to find out.

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  • The Sky Is Falling, But Are Wages?

    Paul Krugman wrote recently an Op-Ed piece in the New York Times on the "Falling Wage Syndrome."

    He pointed to two troubled industries, print journalism and American automobile manufacturers, both of which have workers taking pay cuts.

    He also noted that the Bureau of Labor Statistics "Employment Cost Index for Wages and Salaries" rose only 0.2% in the first quarter this year (annual rate ~0.8%), the lowest in the history of the index.

    The sky is falling in many areas of the economy: unemployment is up, profits are down, and investment banks, newpapers, housing construction, and car manufacturing are faltering.

    Are real wages really going down too? This is the opposite of the opinion David Leonhardt gave a month or so ago. Perhaps Krugman is right; after all he has a Nobel prize :-)

    At PayScale, we have a lot of data, collected as recently as yesterday, to look at this question; read on to see what we have found.

    Should you be taking a wage cut, or are you do for a raise? Use the PayScale salary calculator to figure out the answer for your job.

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  • "Salaried, Non-Exempt:" When Hourly Rate is "Flexible"

    First the important news: I am "micro-blogging" on Twitter. Follow my feed and see me struggle to limit my comments to 140 characters :-)

    The question of "salaried, non-exempt" jobs came up again in my inbox (I have changed a few details to make the email not personally identifiable):

    My classification was Salary Non-Exempt, and I am being told that I will not receive time and one half pay for these hours, such as a Non-Exempt employee would have, but only "Half Time" due to the Salary Non-Exempt classification.

    Half Time is calculated by taking the weekly salary amount ($800.00) and dividing it by 40 hours in the work week; which equals $20.00 per hour. For any time worked over the 40 (example: 10 hours worked over 40 in a week for a total of 50 hours) and dividing it into the normal salary amount of $800.00, giving $16.00 per hour, then dividing the $16.00 by half resulting in $8.00 per hour for any hour worked over 40, or "Half Time" versus the traditional time and one half, in this example $30.00/hour for time and one half.

    Is this accurate? Legal? Do I have any recourse? I answered the phone and supervised no one, swept the floors and cleaned the toilets. Is Salary Non-Exempt even accurate and should I consider a separate complaint to correct it to Non-Exempt?

    When I first read this, I thought paying only $8/hour for overtime had to be illegal under federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) regulations.

    However, I was wrong: the above pay is legal under federal law. In this post, as previously promised, I will address how salary, non-exempt, pay works.

    Wondering if you should be earning $20/hour for answering phones and cleaning toilets? Use the PayScale Salary Calculator to find out.

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  • Key Determinant of Pay: Location, Location, Location

    Companies frequently employ workers all across the nation, but how do they decide what to pay their workers located in different regions? Should they focus on a set of fixed geographical pay offsets? In other words, if pay for a Software Developer is 30% higher in New York than Chicago, should the same pay difference exist for Financial Analysts? The answer is a resounding "no!"

    By using fixed geographical pay offsets, a company will fail to reflect the true variations in labor markets for employees by region. For example, the typical Higher Education Administrator in Chicago earns a pay ~24% less than one in New York, while a typical Urban Planner in Chicago earns ~30% more.

    In this blog, I will show this extreme variation in pay exists across numerous jobs and locations. The results highlight the key reasons why fixed geographical pay offsets across all jobs simply do not make sense.

    Does the location of your job lead to higher pay? Use the free PayScale Salary Survey to find out.

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  • Cutting Hours and Pay: Hourly vs. Salaried II

    Two month ago, I started to answer a few readers questions about cutting hours and pay for exempt and non-exempt workers. I promised a second post of the subject: this is it.

    Here are the questions I still need to answer:

    "[...] can a person be determined exempt for the reason of “Professional” when he/she only works 10 months out of the year, furloughed for 8 weeks to go on unemployment benefits, then return to work?"

    "[...Given the downturn in our business] our exempt and non-exempt employees would be willing to trim their hours from 40 hours to 32 hours per week (get paid for 32). Having said that, I wanted to verify if this would violate any FLSA benefits and/or rights for either classification (exempt or non-exempt)."

    "I am an exempt employee; can my company strongly request that I volunteer to take 2 days off without pay in order to help meet the annual budget?"

    These questions are basically the same; can salaried employees "ready, willing, and able to work" be paid less than their full salary? The simple answer would be no, but nothing is ever simple.

    Are you paid your full salary, or is your pay already on a furlough? Find out with a PayScale free salary report.

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