• 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 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, 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 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, 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, 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, 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. 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, 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. 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, 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.

  • Salary Increases in the News

    There were salary increases in the news recently when (and other media) reported that California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger decided to raise salaries for top state administrators. Why were these salary increases in the news so often?  Because California is expected to experience a shortfall of more than $726 million in its 2007-08 budget, some claim there is no justification for the special salary increases. The Governor insists the pay raises are necessary to stay competitive with the private sector, as well as state and local agencies’ salaries.

    According to the, the Governor's justification for the special salary increases was based upon a salary survey conducted by a state government agency. Subsequently, cabinet secretaries will receive up to a 22.7% pay raise and department directors will see their salaries increase up to 12.2%. The largest pay raise will go to the director of the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, Ruben Grijalva. His salary will jump from $133,732 to $169,500, about a 27% pay increase. Is this an average salary increase or outrageous pork spending?

    How would your salary look with a 27% increase? Crunch the numbers with our salary survey.

  • Do Women and Men Earn Equal Pay in 2007?

    Do women and men earn equal pay? I blogged some about this last year, but the gender gap in wage earnings was in the spotlight again when (and other media) reported that five restaurant owners in Oregon plan to drop their prices for female customers by 23 cents. The restaurants want to raise awareness about women earning 23 percent less than men in the workplace.

    The American Association of American Women, which is sponsoring the event, says that when the new prices go into effect, 23 percent of the 2007 will have passed, thus, that's the number of extra days women will have to work in 2007 to catch up with men.

    Likewise, as reported on, Senator Hillary Clinton is pushing the "Paycheck Fairness Act," a bill that would intensify anti-discrimination laws, create a negotiation skills training program for women and stop retaliation against employees who disclose their salaries. Sen. Clinton also says that women make 77 percent of what men earn (or 23 percent less). Is that number accurate? Do women and men earn equal pay? Is this a case of comparable pay versus equal pay?

    How would earning 77 cents on the dollar affect your salary?  Find out with our salary calculator.

  • NFL Sporting News: NFL Injuries

    Most reports of NFL injuries (as mentioned on rarely make it beyond NFL Sporting News, but recently reader Vanessa C. Deggins found a New York Times article about NFL injuries that was shocking. The article focused on two wives who are caring for their husbands, John Mackey and Ralph Wenzel, both of whom suffer from dementia because of NFL injuries. I covered today's large pro football salaries in an earlier post, but what of players who didn't earn millions and find themselves in need to cover medical bills?

    A gridiron great from the '60's and '70's, John Mackey was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame, a member of the Super Bowl V Champion Colts and played for the San Diego Charges. However, today, Mackey doesn’t recall much of his career, or even his fellow Charger teammate Ralph Wenzel - who doesn’t recall Mackey. What help do these former stars of yester-year have?

    Would your annual salary support you in a time of need? Find out with our salary survey.

  • NASCAR Drivers Salaries

    Most people know that the National Football League (NFL) is the most popular sport on TV, but it may raise a few eyebrows to hear that the second highest-rated sport is NASCAR --the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing. No longer just a heartland sport, NASCAR is broadcast in over 150 countries. With all this television coverage come the big money and high annual salaries. Unlike NFL salaries, however, NASCAR drivers salaries are closely-guarded secrets.

    That said, we do have some info on NASCAR drivers salaries, thanks to SI says the highest-paid driver in 2005 was Dale Earnhardt Jr., whose annual salary and earnings totaled $5,761,830, but that's not all. His endorsements earned $20,000,000, bringing his sub-total compensation to $25,761,830. That number doesn't include sales of Dale Earnhardt Jr. merchandise and earnings from the racing company that he owns. SI says his total take in '05 would approach $50 million!

    The second $25 million is really for his role as a business owner, not directly for Dale Jr.'s work as a race car driver. While there are substantial risks to racing (Dale Sr. died on the race track), the pay is still impressive.

    Can your salary compete with NASCAR's drivers salaries? Give it a spin with our salary calculator.

  • Tips for getting a Pay Raise: PayScale Salary Survey

    For readers interested in tips for getting a pay raise, recently mentioned how some employees are using web sites such as (and its salary survey) to overcome pay raise objections; as mentioned in the following New York Times article at

    Jessica Morrison, who wrote advertising copy for in Seattle, was one of those.  After five years at the company and several promotions, her title was associate editor even though she had the same duties as a copywriter, a loftier title. She also suspected that at $42,000 a year, she was paid a lot less than someone else with her duties. She checked PayScale, and its free report that compares her pay with others holding a similar job title said that someone with her experience should be making $50,000 to $60,000.

    Then she went to see her manager. “I was a little nervous going in, but I had done my research,” Ms. Morrison, 27, said. She got the title she wanted and a raise to within the pay range she suggested. “If I had gone in without the information, the conversation would have been, ‘I feel like I am not making enough money,’ ” Ms. Morrison said.

    Online salary surveys enable employees and employers to switch pay discussions from arguments over positions to negotiations with objective criteria, in the spirit of the negotiation bible, "Getting to Yes". Let's look at some interesting anecdotal evidence that this is really starting to happen.

    Do you need some tips for getting a pay raise? Here’s a free one, try our salary survey.

  • Cons of a Working Mom: Sick Children and Work

    Working Mother Magazine recently conducted a survey and found that one of the cons of a working mom is being faced with the choice of missing work and staying home with a sick child, or sending the ill child to school or daycare. The survey reports that one in three mothers have sent their sick child to childcare or school. In an earlier column, I touched on the proposed paid sick leave law sponsored by Sen. Christopher Dodd which would provide 6 paid weeks, out of the 12 unpaid weeks that FMLA currently mandates for certain employers.

    Until that paid sick leave law (or one like it) passes, choosing between caring for a sick child or going to work will continue to be a one of the cons of a working mom (as echoed by our very own Job Mom). Of the working moms surveyed by Working Mother Magazine, 70% felt guilty for sending their child to school or daycare while ill, 48.5% felt stressed and 31.2% felt frustrated. Almost 65% of the moms said that when one family member gets sick, other family members are likely to follow. There was one bright spot, 54% say they have some flexibility to work from home.

    How much work could you miss if your child got sick?  Estimate the cost with our salary survey.

  • No College Required: UPS Drivers' Salaries and More

    The route to financial success - I won't even attempt to say what it takes to have a successful life in general - does not have to pass through college. Billionaire media mogul David Geffen went from high school graduate to talent agent assistant, talent agent, owner of two record companies (Asylum and Geffen Records), and later, to co-founding Dreamworks movie studio with fellow non-college attendee Jeffrey Katzenberg, and Steven Spielberg, who dropped out of college.

    While Geffen, Katzenberg, and Spielberg are exceptions, there are options for young people who choose to skip college. One career choice would be working for UPS. If you enjoy driving, sitting and light lifting, UPS drivers’ salaries are typically are $24.69 an hour, per the UPS web site at; which also states, "UPS drivers (and part-time employees) receive full health benefits including medical, dental and eye care."

    Does your salary deliver as well as UPS drivers’ salaries? Check your financial engine with our salary calculator.

  • Veterinarian Salary, Marine Biologist Salary: Careers in Animal Care

    If you're the type who cringes at corporate meetings, loathes dealing with clients and would prefer to avoid humans in general, fear not, there is an option besides hermit-hood. The article "Ten Jobs That Let You work With Animals" from lists various animal careers and what they pay, from a marine biologist salary to a veterinarian salary.

    If you're considering a veterinarian career (and veterinarian salary), there is extra schooling required, and once you graduate, the job duties for a veterinarian include diagnosing and treating animals for injuries and disease... so what is the salary of a veterinarian for all this work?  Veterinarians in Houston, Texas, with 5-8 years of experience, earn an average veterinarian salary of $79,100, with a high-end of $113,200. Not quite MD level ($152,000 - $186,500 per year), but nothing to bark at. (Want up-to-date salary information? Check out PayScale's Career Research Center.)

    How does your salary compare to the Dr. Dolittle’s? Find out with our salary survey.