ADVERTISEMENT
  • Employee Wages: What is the Typical Wage in the USA?

    A couple of comments by readers got me thinking about typical wages again. In the process, I realized that even the federal government does not know what a "typical" worker in the United States earns.

    This came as a shock to me. With the frequent publication of average household income statistics, wage and salary reports, etc., by the Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Internal Revenue Service, Social Security Administration, and other federal agencies, I had assumed there was a well-defined typical annual wage.

    Here is a pop quiz: how much do you think the typical worker in the United States earns in a year? See if you are earning what is typical for your job by using the PayScale salary calculator.

  • List of Salaries for Careers (that stand the test of time)

    While I often focus on "hot" jobs, like software developer, MSN Careers recently produced a list of stable careers that they claim will always be there. These jobs are not always glamorous, or even a dream job description, but they are consistent over the decades, and in some cases, centuries. For those looking to play it safe from trends, here is a list of salaries for careers that stand the test of time.

    As long as there are germs, diseases and fatty foods, doctors will always be in demand. According to the PayScale Research Center, the median medical doctor salary varies according to specialty and locale. For instance, pediatricians' salaries in Georgia average out to a median salary of $117, 250. Not bad pay for a job that has been around since the ancient Greeks and before.

    How does your salary compare with Hippocrates's profession? Find out with our salary survey.

  • Talk Show Host Salary: The Top Talkers

    Getting paid millions to talk is about the easiest job out there, but getting there is another matter. Forbes.com recently covered the topic of talk show host salary. You may be surprised to learn that the largest talk show host salary belongs to Howard Stern. The outrageous radio show host receives $500 million salary per his 5-year contract with Sirius Satellite Radio. In addition to his talk show host salary, Howard received a bonus of 22.1 million company shares, reportedly valued at $82.9 million, bringing his total income (last year) to $302 million!

    In second place is the more palatable Oprah Winfrey, who earned $225 million, but that wasn't all based on her talk show host salary. The popular daytime gabber has several sources of income: Her talk show, weekly XM Satellite Radio show, part-ownership of Rachel Ray's syndicated daily talk show and a voice-over role in the latest film adaptation of Charlotte’s Web; that doesn't count her magazine, books and other Oprah-related merchandise.

    How does your salary compare to the salary of a talk show host?  Find out with our salary calculator.

  • Temp Jobs That Pay Well: Computer Tech Jobs and More

    "Temp jobs" may conjure up visions of low-paying administrative jobs filled by hapless out-of-work actors answering phones for minimum wage, but, if you have hi-tech skills, there are temp jobs that pay well, according to a recent report by SFGate.com. High-tech temp workers with skills in hardware engineering, clinical trial administration, database development and computer tech jobs are in big demand, so says a technology employment survey by Yoh.com, a Philadelphia-based outsourcing firm.

    The company reportedly analyzed the hourly pay of 5,000 high-tech temps, tabulated the highest wages and created a list of ten temp jobs that pay well. The temping techs who are earning the most cash are technical consultants who design enterprise resource planning databases; they rake in $83 per hour! At the bottom of the list were temporary aerospace engineers, earning $48.41 per hour. Rocket scientists temping?

    How does your salary measure up to the temp pay of a rocket scientist?  Find out with our 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.

  • Annual Salary for California Governor: Governor Salaries in 2007

    Being governor may sound like a high annual salary position, but governor salaries don't always pay as much as one might think. In a recent report of governor salaries, stateline.org cited the average governor salary to be $124,398. The annual salary for California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is the highest in the governor salary ranking, $206,500, but he does not accept his salary (he did pretty well in Hollywood, if I recall).  As I mentioned in a previous column, Salary Increases in the News, Schwarzenegger has been generous to his top state officials, upping their salaries, often in the face of criticism.

    On the other end of the governor salary ranking, we have the governor of Maine, who earns only $70,000 per year. That political office hasn't seen a raise in 20 years! Maine Governor John Baldacci actually saw a decrease in pay of $80,000/year in 2003 when he decided to give up his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives and become governor. Balducci's own assistant reportedly earned more than he did in 2005, with an annual salary of $102,000.  Governor Baldacci actually opposed a pay raise for himself in 2006, but supported a raise for the state's teachers. Why isn't he running for President?

    Could you afford to oppose a salary raise? Find out with our salary calculator.

  • Salary for Teachers vs. Average Pay for High School Coaches

    In the post on differences in pay for men and women, the relatively low pay of teachers came up. It may surprise readers to learn that the average salary for teachers in Texas public schools is significantly less than the average pay for high school coaches, according to an article in the Austin-Statesman.

    The paper reported that Texas high school football coaches in Class 5A and 4A schools (that's 950 students or more) earn an average salary of $73,804, while the average salary for teachers in those same schools is about $42,400 (as mentioned on ESPN.com).

    In its report, the Austin American-Statesman "asked every 5A and 4A school district in the state for the total compensation paid to Texas football coaches and for salaries of their highest-paid teachers, high school principals and superintendents for the 2005-06 school year."  The results?  Texas high school football coaches in 27 schools earn a higher salary than even their principals.  The report also says five Texas high school football coaches earn more than $100K. Ennis High School's Sam Harrell tops the list with an annual salary of $106,004; the lowest-paid is Houston Furr's Cornell Gray, who scores $42,300.

    While the reasons given for this pay difference are varied, there is one fundamental. The school boards and, indirectly, the taxpayers in Texas value the high school football coaches more highly than even their best paid teachers. Sounds like another case like surgeon vs. pro football player pay, and, like that, it is about revenue...

    How does your salary line up against the average pay for high school coaches?  Find out with our salary survey.

  • Career Salaries and Salary Ranges of Overpaid Jobs

    Most people will probably not admit that their vocation falls into the "overpaid jobs" category, nor will they tell you that they actually perform little work for their high pay, except for the readers at Stanleybing.com. According to the web site, workers in overpaid jobs (or "bullsh*t jobs" as they are called on the site) sent in descriptions of their duties and career salaries. From a huge list of careers and high salary ranges, the web site picked 20 overpaid jobs that “are the most satisfying, lucrative and least useful.”

    The first one listed is Communications Manager, which sounds pretty respectable to me.  According to our PayScale Research Center, a Communications Manager earns a median salary of $70,819 in San Francisco. According to a Communications Manager on Stanleybing.com, his/her job is to "write e-mails, memos and articles for senior management that their employees have no interest in reading. Oh, and through these written communications, we're supposed to inform and engage employees so that they're proud of the company they work for."

    How does your salary compare to this first of many overpaid jobs?  Check it out with our salary calculator.

  • Misleading Average Salary Predictions: Your Pay Will Increase 3.6 Percent in 2007

    World at Work (the compensation professional organization) released recently a compensation budget survey by Compdata Surveys. The big news: the average preliminary pay increase budget is 3.65% for 2007!

    Broad averages like this drive me berserk. It is incredibly precise, but downplays the huge variations that affect individual companies and employees.

    There is nothing wrong with this average per se. The problem is how it is used. Companies often use average increases like this as a starting point for deciding what pay raises they will give individual employees.

    However, like pay, pay increases are determined by the interaction between the local labor market for specific jobs, individual employees' motivations, and a company's business plan. These microeconomic forces dramatically alter the pay increases a company will need to spend, in order to succeed, from what broad macroeconomic averages say.

    Companies are free to set pay increases by these broad averages. That is a business management decision. Of course, companies are also free to fail. :-)

    Local variations are what make capitalism fun. In this post, I will look at what data is available, and what forces drive salary increases.

    Are you making the most of microeconomic forces to earn what you are worth? Find out in a less than 5 minutes with the PayScale salary survey.

  • Majors and Careers: Women vs. Men, Engineering vs. Teaching, High Pay vs. Total Compensation

    By Dr. Al Lee

    In a previous post, I asked the question, do only women choose quality of life over high salary? In other words, do women evaluate quality of life, or true "total compensation," when deciding on a job, while guys are stuck on a treadmill with only one measure of success, total wages earned?

    I found three obvious differences between American men and women in the AAUW study, "Behind the Pay Gap," all of which hint at women preferring quality of life over money:

    1. Men do not go to college
    2. Women do not choose majors or careers to maximize income
    3. Women are more likely to leave the workforce to care for children

    I covered the first point in the previous post. In this post, let's look at what the AAUW study has to say about differences in choice of majors and careers between men and women.

    Are you earning all you can in your chosen career? Compare your pay with the PayScale salary survey.

  • Salary Comparison: Married vs. Unmarried

    Within the U.S. armed forces, married soldiers are paid a higher annual salary than military singles. This salary comparison hasn’t gone unnoticed by military singles who are marrying strangers in order to get a higher salary, according to a recent report by LAWeekly.com. It’s called a “marriage contract” and it works like this: military singles seek strangers to marry, soldier marries stranger (i.e. contract wife), receives extra pay for being married and pays off contract wife with a portion of extra pay.

    According to LAWeekly.com, an unmarried private in the Army earns a monthly salary of about $1,350. However, if he gets married, his monthly salary increases to about $1,800. If he is deployed, our married soldier will also receive a “Family Separation Allowance” of $250, or as it’s called in the service, “missing me” pay.

    Thanks to these contract arrangements and the military pay chart, married enlisted definitely earn more than military singles. What about a salary comparison in civilian life? Are you likely to earn a higher salary if you’re married?

    How does your and your spouse's salary compare? Do a salary comparison with our salary calculator.

  • Salary Requirements for H-1B Visa: Pros and Cons of H-1B

    Marketwatch.com recently reported that Bill Gates, chairman of Microsoft, appeared in front of Congress, which was weighing the pros and cons of H-1B workers. Gates advocated more H-1B visas to lure foreign workers to the U.S. because these "workers are uniquely talented" and are “taking jobs that pay over $100,000 a year.” According to the New York Times, the Microsoft median annual salary is $82,500 for new H-1B work visa applicants. A Microsoft H-1B work visa holder, after a few years, could earn $100,000/year. This far exceeds the typical salary requirements for H-1B visa holders.

    By law, the salary requirements for H-1B visa holders call for their pay to be "equal to 100% of the prevailing wage as established by the Department of Labor, or the actual wage paid by the employer to similar employees." However, $82K-100K is not usually the H-1B salary in IT jobs, according to a study by Ronil Hira, an assistant professor of public policy at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Hira says the median salary is about $50K for new H-1B work visa holders in IT. As mentioned on workinglife.typepad.com, Hira also believes that the real problems go far beyond salary minimums for H-1B visa holders.

    How does your salary compare to the salary requirements for H-1B visa holders? Find out with our salary calculator.

  • Reader Questions: Salary, Non-Exempt and Paying for Training

    I had a couple of questions from readers on my post about exempt vs. non-exempt workers:

    Anthony asked:

    "What do you know about the labor laws for hours spent training employees? When are we required to pay or not pay for hours spent at training?"

    Matt asked:

    "Can you explain the "salary non-exempt" designation? How does it differ from straight salary and from hourly non-exempt status? Your knowledge would be very useful."

    In this post, I'll try to answer these questions.

    Does you employer pay you like a trainee or a fully qualified employee? Use our salary survey to find out.

  • Living Wage Movement: LAX hotels living wage ordinance

    In a previous column, I talked about the living wage movement; well, living wage is in the news again. As reported by LATimes.com, a judge recently rescinded a LAX hotels living wage ordinance passed by the L.A. City Council that would have guaranteed hotel workers (near LAX) wages of $9.39 per hour (with health benefits) or $10.64 without wages and benefits. Lawmakers passed a similar living wage ordinance last fall, but rescinded it after business leaders and hotel owners gathered over 50,000 signatures for a referendum, which would have allowed voters to decide the living wage issue.

    In his decision, Superior Court Judge David P. Yaffe stated that, when city lawmakers rescinded the original ordinance and replaced it with a new one (very close to the original), they ignored the Los Angeles business community and "violated the constitutional rights of the public." According to LATimes.com, around 50 percent of the 3,500 workers at airport-area hotels earn salaries higher than the living wage. Most of the workers earn $7.25 an hour, the minimum wage of California. Workers say wage and salary adjustments and cost of living increases are not providing a living wage.

    How does your salary compare to hotel workers’ wages? Find out with our salary survey.

  • CEO compensation: The $400 Million Dollar Man

    UPDATE: See PayScale's infographic on CEO-to-work pay.

    CEO compensation articles seem to abound these days. Stockmarketblog.com recently reported that Ray Irani, chairman and chief executive of Occidental Petroleum, received a $400 million dollar CEO compensation package. So how does Irani's $400 million break down? According to a company filing, his annual salary in 2006 was $1.3 million and he got a cash bonus of $1.4 million. Stock, option awards and benefits raised his compensation to $55.6 million. Stock and dividends from a deferred stock program added $93.3 million.

    Irani also received $270.2 million from the exercise of options awarded from 1997 to 2006; clearly, this CEO compensation built up over many years. However, this salary and stock compensation report does not top past executive compensation packages. If we survey executive compensation over recent history, we find that in 1998 then-Walt Disney head Michael Eisner received $570 million in CEO compensation. Topping that, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison took home $706 million from stock options in 2001. 

    How does your salary compare to CEO compensation? Crunch the numbers with our free salary survey.

  • Pros and Cons of Relationships in the Workplace

    Romantic relationships in the office: does following your heart risk a career nosedive? The pros and cons of relationships in the workplace have been in the news lately, most recently in the New York Times. Retail giant Wal-Mart says (in a court filing) that there were signs of an affair between two of its former top marketing officials (Julie Roehm and Sean Womack) who were selecting new ad agencies for the chain. Wal-Mart says they accepted outside gifts, used trips for personal time together, and sought jobs with one of the ad agencies, Draft FBC, which they ultimately recommended.

    Wal-Mart subsequently fired both of them, and was sued by Julie Roehm for unlawful termination. Wal-Mart countersued and claims that it has e-mail messages - signs of an affair - sent by Roehm and Womack (who are both married to other people). Roehm has denied Wal-Mart’s accusations of an office romance, and says she did not have job discussions with Draft FCB. While this appears to be a case of he said, she said, and Wal-Mart said, it also raises questions about the pros and cons of relationships in the workplace.

    Who is the sweetheart in your life, your significant other, or your salary?  Find out with our salary calculator.

  • Do only women choose quality of life over high salary?

    Some information came my way recently that got me thinking again about why women are paid less than men, on average, in the United States. See the PayScale aggregate hourly wage and average salary data for an example of the difference.

    I read the full American Association of University Women's (AAUW) study of the gender pay gap, "Behind the Pay Gap." While one can argue about whether the study actually finds evidence of apples to apples discrimination - that women are paid less when they do exactly the same job, with exactly the same qualifications as men - it is clear as day that men and women in the US choose very different education and career paths, and these lead to very different salaries.

    More info came in the form of comments from readers. One comment from a reader explained why going to Iraq makes sense for a guy trying to make a living as a truck driver. Other comments were by women on why they switched jobs in our article on changing careers. The stark difference in the relationship between work, money, and satisfaction expressed was telling.

    This got me wondering, do only women evaluate quality of life, or true "total compensation", when deciding on a job? Are guys stuck on a treadmill with only one measure of success, total wages earned?

    Are you maximizing your annual salary or living a balanced life? Find out with the PayScale salary calculator.

  • Careers in Business Finance

    In a previous column (starting salaries: college grads), I mentioned that one of the higher starting salaries for grads was in accounting. According to a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), the starting salary for an accountant is $44,928. Since then, money.cnn.com reported that this entry-level position (one of the many careers in business finance) has an average salary of $46,508. For those seeking long-term careers in business finance, the PayScale average accountant salary is between $45K and $75K.

    Careers in finance are definitely hot; these are good days for bean counters. CareerJournal.com reports that careers in business finance are strong within gas, oil, technology and manufacturing industries. According to Mike Eastman, president and chief executive officer of Eastman Consulting Group, there is a large demand for CPAs, senior finance and accounting personnel. Likewise, at Ernst & Young LLP, the firm plans to add about 10,000 new faces this year.

    What do all these careers in business finance pay? Let's look at the PayScale salary data.

    How is your salary’s financial outlook? Find out with our salary calculator.

  • Are Circuit City Layoffs Really Market Pay Adjustments?

    Circuit City recently laid off about 3,400 workers, causing quite a stir in the blogosphere. Layoffs are not usually done with such candor: as mentioned on pinkslipblog.blogspot.com, Circuit City fired employees because sales were slipping and workers' annual salaries were too high.

    Circuit City plans to replace the workers with lower-paid workers. Laid-off employees can re-apply for their old jobs at a lower annual salary, a move that the New York Times termed “domestic outsourcing." Circuit City argues the employees were making “well above the market-based salary range for their role.”  When pressed for the wage range, Circuit City refused to say how much the laid-off employees were paid. As reported by the Associated Press, Circuit City says a "wage management initiative" was one of the reasons why people were fired from their jobs.

    That a company needs lay-offs to adjust its pay to "market" wages is amazing. How did the wages get out of whack in the first place? Or is this just a case of a company deciding to change its business model from having high quality and low turnover employees to having any warm body?

    Are you being paid above or below your market-based salary range?  Check the numbers with our salary survey.

  • Career Salaries: Meritocracy vs. Family Money

    You can’t pick your parents. Some of us are born into average families, while others' last names are Trump, or were lucky enough to be adopted by Angelina Jolie. Does coming from a wealthy family guarantee high career salaries? Chelsea Clinton landed a six-figure job before finishing college, and Paris Hilton landed on the Internet. Can family wealth actually sap ambition?

    Recently, the New York Times featured an article about one of the more interesting career salaries and famous families. Nathaniel Rothschild is a direct descendant of the legendary Mayer Amschel Rothschild, who arranged funding for Britain’s war against Napoleon, amassed enormous wealth and advised everyone from royalty to industry.

    Born into old money, did Nathaniel Rothschild manage to amass nearly a billion dollars through hard work? Was it easier for Rothschild to become rich, with his ultimate old world connections, or for self-made American Ross Perot to get his first billion?

    How does your salary compare to the salaries of your parents? Find out with our salary survey.