• 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.

    Note: All numbers circa 2009.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • PayScale's 2009 College Graduate Salary Report
  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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?

    [Note: This blog post was updated in February of 2011 to reflect more current salary numbers. For updated information, see PayScale's Career Research Center.]

    People in my generation (Generation Y) expect to earn high pay after college graduation, but is this realistic? According to an article by CNN.com, 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.

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