How to Read Your Salary Report
Congratulations – you took the PayScale Salary Survey! The ten minutes you invested in our survey is the first step to making the salary negotiation process less scary. Now it's time to walk you through your report and help you figure out what to do next to increase your chances of bringing home a paycheck that you deserve.
(Note: You took the PayScale Salary Survey, right? If you have never taken our survey, you should go do that right now.)
Your Pay Snapshot
The first thing you see in your Salary Report is your Pay Snapshot. This tells you how your total pay (salary plus monetary benefits, like bonuses, overtime pay, etc.), compares to people who do the same job at a similar company, have similar education and experience, and live where the cost of living is comparable. In the example above, the user ranks in the 40th percentile, meaning that she makes more than 40 percent of people like her.
In general, if your earnings fall below the 50th percentile, you probably want to start thinking about asking for a raise. If you are already earning well above that mark, start thinking about working toward a promotion or job change instead.
We don't stop there – we love diving into data here at PayScale, so if you click "Learn more about your pay and benefits" we provide a more detailed breakdown of each aspect of your total compensation, including base salary, bonuses, medical benefits, vacation time and more.
For example, this chart breaks out how this worker's bonus compares to her peers. Even though her salary is only in the 40th percentile, her bonus is more than the vast majority of other software testers working for a large company in a city like Seattle.
Find Out Who's Hiring For Your Job
PayScale also includes job listings for titles similar to yours in your Salary Report. If you're thinking about switching companies, your Salary Report shows you local companies that you could work for and how much they pay people with your skills, experience and education to do your job.
Note: we can only show job listings if you’ve included the name of your employer in your PayScale Salary Report. This way we can make sure to focus on jobs that don't require a cross-country move. (But check out our Cost of Living Calculator if you're considering that!)
Median Salary by Degree/Major Subject
Another cool tool that might interest you is our Median Salary by Degree/Major Subject chart. If you've ever wondered if a different degree might have a big impact on your learning, this is a great place to do some research.
So before our hypothetical software tester signs up for her Master of Science in Computer Engineering, she should consult this chart to find out that it probably won't make much of a difference on her salary. However, a Master's Degree in Software Engineering may be worth it though, as somebody with that degree would report a median salary of $90,000 per year in her current role.
These are just a few of the ways your PayScale Salary Report can really get you started in your salary negotiation strategy. Having real data to work with should take away a lot of the fear and anxiety associated with salary negotiation. Remember that it never hurts to ask, but being prepared and having real facts and figures to cite is the key to a calm, rational discussion about pay.
About the Author
Aubrey Bach is the Marketing Manager at PayScale.com and writes for PayScale about salary, higher education and career strategy. She is a recovering Diet Coke addict who grew up on the mean streets of Orange County, CA, but since coming to Seattle in 2007 has embraced everything the city has to offer (except, of course, the weather).