• 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Pay Packages: Smaller Now than 8 Months Ago?

    This question came via the Seattle Tech Startups mailing list:

    How do you adjust for the recent changes in comp packages brought about by recession, layoffs, unemployment rates, etc? Or don't you?

    It would seem to me that data from 8+ months ago is probably quite different than data from the recent 2-4 months...

    The simple answer is that about half the data PayScale now uses were collected since October 1. We also look at any trends in the data over the last year, and target our reports to reflect our best estimate of what a job paid 90 days ago.

    If there were a big shift in pay for a job in the last six months, our current reports would show the typical pay as of January first. No other salary survey has or uses data this fresh.

    However, this answer is missing the point.

    Implicit in the question is that employers reduce costs in a recession by reducing the pay to workers. The real answer is more complex, and is the subject of this post.

    Are you being paid what you are worth today? Even in a recession, some jobs are in high demand. Find out with a free PayScale salary report.

  • Dream Jobs: Fun Opportunities After a Layoff

    Post by Katie Bardaro, Research Analyst, PayScale, Inc.

    With thousands of lay-offs, and a hiring freeze at many employers over the last few years, now is a good time to consider concentrating your job search efforts on a "dream job."

    Dream jobs require little or no formal training to get started, and are a way to pursue a hobby, enjoy more leisure time, and/or socialize with all types of people. The pay for these jobs is often lower, but you can be vastly rewarded with more fun, less stress, and shorter work weeks.

    In this blog, I will look at a variety of dream jobs and what they pay.

    Are you curious about the salary of your dream job? Find out using PayScale's Salary Calculator.

  • Unemployment Up - and Pay Raises too?

    The February unemployment report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released Friday is bleak: a 8.1% unemployment rate.

    David Leonhardt, writing in the New York Times Economix blog, tried to put a positive spin on the news by pointing out that the data imply average wages are rising, and are up about 3.6% over one year earlier.

    How can this be? I suspect two things:

    • The BLS statistical measurement of average wages is likely accurate
    • The obvious conclusion, each worker got a raise averaging 3.6% in February, is very likely wrong

    The phenomena is an old one known to compensation professionals: in times of layoffs, the average pay at companies losing workers often goes up, as reported in traditional compensation surveys.

    In this post, I will look at why average wages go up with layoffs, and what this really means. Want to know if wages for your job and skills are up or down? Find out with a free PayScale salary report.

  • Generation Y: What Is a Lot of Money?

    By: Katie Bardaro, [Note: This blog post was updated in February of 2011 to reflect more current salary numbers]

    People in my generation (Generation Y) expect to earn high pay after college graduation, but is this realistic? According to an article by, those in Generation Y want "better pay, a flexible work schedule and company-provided [technology]." In fact, an overwhelming majority of hiring managers and HR professionals describe these people as exhibiting "a sense of entitlement that older generations don't."

    What type of salary can those of us in Generation Y expect and what is considered a lot of money? Here at PayScale, we are obsessed with accurate salary data and can use our database of over 21 million profiles to answer this question.

    In this blog I will look at some interesting salary facts according to several different characteristics: school, major, gender, job titles, and location.

    Are you a recent college graduate and wondering whether you are earning top dollar? Use the PayScale Salary Survey to find out.

  • MBA Schools: Whose Graduates Earn High Salaries?

    Masters of Business Administration (MBA) programs promise expanded career opportunities and the potential to bring home the big bucks.

    Lindsey Gerdes at BusinessWeek recently worked with us on an intriguing story about pay for MBA graduates. Using BusinessWeek's Ranking of the top 45 business schools, we looked in our data to see how each school's graduates are paid over the course of their careers.

    Not surprisingly, graduates of the top ranked programs often earn the highest pay, but several lower ranked programs have graduates who can more than double their starting pay in their later careers.

    In this post, we will look at a few of the interesting tidbits we discovered while researching MBA pay.

    Will an MBA lead to higher pay in your career? Use the PayScale Salary Survey to find out.

  • Cutting Hours and Pay: Hourly vs. Salaried

    The economic downturn is showing up in the Dr. Salary email inbox: I am getting a lot of emails about employers reducing pay, or cutting hours, and asking about the legal implications. Here are a few:

    "[...] you said employers can get into trouble when exempt employees perform tasks normally done by non-exempt employees. We are experiencing this problem at work now. Non-exempt employees are losing money and jobs, because the company is requiring salaried managers to work the jobs of the hourly employees."

    "[...] 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?"

    As I have described in the past, the one big benefit for employees to being exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) (salaried) is that they must be paid for every week when they are ready, able and willing to work, whether there is work for them to do or not. Hourly workers (non-exempt) only need be paid when there is work for them to do.

    What happens when a company is in trouble, and a lot of the staff are exempt? Are layoffs the only option? In this post, I will look at the ways an employer can reduce pay, and the federal legal implications of the choices.

  • Six Figure Jobs with No 4-year Degree

    Logging years in school, not to mention shelling out thousands of dollars, can be a long and expensive way to increase your potential salary. However, there are several jobs where you can make a six figure salary without obtaining a college education.

    We recently worked with Klaus Kneale at Forbes Magazine on an article looking at the high paying job possibilities for people with no 4-year college degree. The set of jobs is a mix: some require shining in an average paying field, others deep technical knowledge, and other longer work weeks or high stress.

    In this post, I will look at these jobs, and see what it takes to make $100,000 per year without a 4-year university degree.

    Is it possible to make six figures in your current job? Find out using PayScale's salary calculator.

  • If Newspapers Fail, Where Will the Employees Go?

    By Katie Bardaro

    In recent years, the print media world has been suffering. The Tribune Co., one of the largest traditional media (read newspaper) companies, filed for bankruptcy. Other traditional media companies have followed suit, since the economy and interest in print journalism are both in a downward spiral.

    According to 2008 article by Reuters, almost 50% of those surveyed get their news from the Internet while only 10% depend upon newspapers as a news source. Time is not on the side of newspapers the majority of those aged 18-29 get their news from online, while only 35% of those 65 and older use the Internet.

    What will happen to the thousands of employees involved with print media?

    Are you a buggy whip maker in a horseless carriage age? PayScale's salary calculator and GigZig career path explorer can help you understand options for a new career direction.

  • $51,000 per Year: Be an Accountant or Get a Masters?

    I got an interesting question in my email inbox:

    "My daughter may be graduating from [a college in Florida] with bachelor’s in accounting this spring. She qualifies for a program which allows her to earn the master's degree in accounting for an additional year.

    Currently, she has been offered a job with accounting consulting firm in northern VA with pay of $51,000 beginning next September. Her draft budget shows that, with all taxes taken out, she would actually be making about $35,000. Her dad says “not good enough for that area.” If she chooses the 5th year program to earn her Masters degree in accounting...wonder how much more she would make at entry level with that. Can you give me some insight?"

    This has all the elements of a career choice: cost of living in a new location, earning a higher degree vs. working, and what salary is reasonable for a location, job, experience level, and employer.

    Is $51,000/year a fair wage for your job? Find out with the PayScale Salary Calculator.

  • Are Ford Workers Really Paid $73 per Hour?

    The David Leonhardt article in today's New York Times on the pay of automotive workers for the Big 3 got me thinking about what hourly wages really mean. Are Ford workers really paid $73 per hour?

    I did a quick look in the PayScale compensation database. While I will get into details below, the quick answer is the assembly line workers in the US at Ford, Chrysler and GM earn about $27/hour in base pay, while US workers for Toyota earn about $25.

    This jibes with the graphic in the NYT article. Why do the companies quote $73/hour, when they are only paying about $27/hour?

    Understanding this huge difference explains why the Big 3 are going bankrupt, and Toyota is not. The $2/hour difference in base wage is not the Big 3's problem.

    The gap between $28 and $73 per hour comes from different definitions of both wage and hour, and the difference between what current workers earn vs. the promises made to former employees.

    Is your market value $73/hour, but your employer is only paying $28? Use the PayScale salary survey to find out.

  • College Salary Report: Why No Advanced Degrees?

    In my last post, University Graduate Salaries: Which Schools Payoff?, I discussed the methodology behind PayScale's College Salary Report: Best Colleges & Degrees.

    Advanced degrees in medicine and, to a lesser extent, in law, business, and other fields, can increase a bachelor's degree graduate's future earnings by opening up high paying jobs that are not otherwise accessible.

    We left out graduates who earn advanced degrees when calculating the average salaries used to compare schools and degrees. Why? I'll look at the answer in this post.

    Are you being paid like an employee with a doctorate in Medicine, or in English? Use the PayScale Salary Calculator to discover whether that advanced degree means more pay in your current career, or whether you should look for a new one.

  • University Graduate Salaries: Which Schools Payoff?

    PayScale just released a College Salary Report: Best Colleges & Degrees. With my able associate Erica Sanders, I had a great time digging through our extensive data to understand whether graduates of different schools have different long-term salaries.

    What makes our data so unique is that we have the jobs people are doing now - 5, 10, 20 or more years after they attended their undergraduate institution - and what these graduates are being paid now.

    There are other surveys that track recent graduate salaries, and we can do that too. (See my post on Starting Salaries for College Grads.) We also have previously mined our college data for March Madness (Alumni Salaries vs. NCAA Championships), to mixed success in predicting the outcome of the Men's basketball tournament. :-)

    In this post, I'll look at our College Salary Report - Best Colleges and Degrees methodology, what the different salaries mean, and apologize to Temple University, Weber State University, and Claremont McKenna College for not including them in our report :-)

    College degree or not, are you earning as much as you could? Use the PayScale Salary Calculator to discover what employees like you are earning.

  • Legitimate Work at Home Jobs: Work at Home Internet Jobs

    We've all heard of outsourcing, but lately that trend is reversing somewhat, creating new legitimate work at home jobs in the U.S., according to an article on These work at home internet jobs are called "home-based customer service agents." When they clock in for work, their phones ring at home; they make reservations, take customer orders, check on deliveries and answer questions.

    There are reportedly 110,000 work at home customer service jobs in the U.S., and 80% of these work at home internet jobs are staffed by women. IDC, a market research company in Framingham, Mass, told that these legitimate work at home jobs are "expected to triple to 328,000 by 2010."  So how do you find these legitimate work at home jobs?  Keep reading!

    How does your salary compare to legitimate work at home jobs?  Find out by taking PayScale's full salary survey.

  • Advice on Jobs That Don't Require a College Degree

    In previous posts, I have written about jobs that don't require a 4-year college degree. Some posts generated more comments than others - UPS, love it or hate it :-)

    One reader wrote a thoughtful commentary on a post he saw on our partner, AOL.

    Breaking with my usual pontificating, I am turning this post over this reader. "Jim" followed a path to success that did not include college. He makes a strong case for considering trades instead of college for long-term financial success.

    I have changed a few unimportant details (like his name) to make Jim's comments anonymous, but otherwise the point of view is his.

    Wondering if, college or not, you are being paid what your worth in the market? Find out with our salary survey.

  • Employee Job Satisfaction Statistics

    Are you satisfied with your job?  Do you ever wonder who is?  According to employee job satisfaction statistics reported on, those in the clergy, firefighters and other folks in helping professions are the most satisfied. These were the results of national job satisfaction studies conducted by the General Social Survey (GSS) at the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago.

    This report of employee job satisfaction statistics was based on interviews with 27,000 Americans. In the study, researchers asked about job satisfaction and general happiness. According to Tom Smith, director of the GSS, “Work occupies a large part of each worker’s day, is one’s main source of social standing, helps to define who a person is and affects one’s health both physically and mentally.”

    Does your salary reflect your happiness?  Find out with our full salary survey.

  • Airline Pilots & Wages: Salary or Safety?

    The friendly skies are not so friendly these days when it comes to airline pilots & wages, reports Fortune magazine. This story actually began back on 9/11.  After the 2001 terrorist attack, the airline industry began to nose dive; people were scared to fly, tourism dropped, the airlines were in trouble.  As the slump continued, some airlines were on the verge of bankruptcy.

    In 2003, airline pilots and other employees agreed to give up 23% of their pay (plus other concessions) to help keep the airlines afloat. Today, the airline industry is making money, especially American Airlines whose top executives (including parent AMR Corp.) have received nearly a quarter-billion dollars in stock.  Now, the pilots want their pay back. Will this fight over airline pilots & wages result in a strike?  Keep reading!

    How does your salary compare to an airline pilot's wages? Find out by taking PayScale's full salary survey.