Job Relocation? Salary Calculator and More to Support You

As the ice begins to thaw – just slightly – on our frozen, recession-era job market, opportunities are popping up in some cities at a faster rate than others. A recent article written for Yahoo! Hotjobs by PayScale titled, “10 Great Cities for Salary Growth” offers a list of cities that, against all odds, saw a growth in job opportunities in 2009, some at a rate of nearly 10 percent.

Are you open to living in Orlando, FL, McAllen, TX or Salt Lake City, UT? If you’re having trouble finding work in your town, you might want to consider places like these, where jobs in hi-tech, health care and telecom are available.  The next questions to ask are: what kind of money could you make in your line of work in that town and how does the cost of living compare to where you live now?

PayScale has a number of tools that can help you answer those questions before you start packing away your silverware. These tools include our salary calculator, cost of living calculator, GigZig (a career path tool), lists of job opportunities, company reviews, and more. Plus, none of it costs you anything so you can research different scenarios to your heart’s content. Let’s use an example person considering a relocation because her company is talking about layoffs. What sort of information we can find out?

Let’s say that our example person is named Julie. Julie is a receptionist for a manufacturing and distribution company in Atlanta, Georgia. She earned a bachelor’s degree in communications in 2003, she’s 27 years old, has five years of experience in an office setting, three years with this company. She started out as an administrative assistant. She currently earns $11.50 per hour, with an annual bonus of $800. She gets two weeks of paid vacation per year, medical, dental and vision insurance, paid sick leave and a 401(k). In PayScale’s survey, she lists her work efforts as a three out of five (a proactive problem solver).

The first thing Julie finds out from PayScale’s salary calculator is that she is in the 38th percentile of earners for her job position, experience level and education. If anything, Julie is likely due for a raise. The average pay for her position in her town, with her education and experience level, is $12.17 per hour.

As part of her research, Julie keeps all of her job information the same in her salary report but enters McAllen, TX as her possible hometown. It’s one of the cities listed in the 10 hottest cities for salary growth 2010. Guess what happens? Her salary goes down. How much? Possibly two dollars an hour. The average pay for a person in her job position in McAllen is $10.12 per hour, not $12.17.

But wait, you’d have to imagine that the cost of living is less in McAllen than Atlanta. Julie clicks on the cost of living calculator to find out. After entering Atlanta and McAllen, she discovers that the overall cost of living in McAllen is 10 percent lower than Atlanta. She learns some interesting details, like utilities cost 25 percent more in McAllen but groceries are 19 percent less, on average. So, if Julie could do without lots of air conditioning, maybe she could make it work.

Since her salary is currently $11.50 an hour, with an $800 per year bonus, she’s earning approximately $24,720 per year (calculated using an estimate of 2080 hours of work per year). If she could get the average salary for a receptionist in McAllen, she would earn approximately $21,100. That’s about a 15 percent drop in salary, greater than the improved cost of living Julie would enjoy.

Another route Julie could take is to start a new career in McAllen. If she wanted to see what sorts of new jobs receptionists typically pursue, she could use GigZig, PayScale’s tool that shows where people in a job worked five years before and after that job. GigZig shows Julie that an office manager is the most likely next step for her and that she could increase her pay to $40,377, on average. So, maybe Julie should apply for office manager jobs in McAllen and see if she can get a raise. Since McAllen is hiring, Julie has a fairly good chance of finding a new gig.

From there, Julie could research employers and job openings in McAllen, as well as read anonymous profiles from people who already work for those employers in jobs similar to what Julie would have.

As shown by following Julie’s process, when it comes to relocation, salary calculators, cost of living calculators and other resources found on can really let you dream and learn some facts. Give it a try and leave a comment about what you found out. We’d love to hear your relocaction story.

Below, I leave you with a list of the 10 cities mentioned in our “10 Great Cities  for Salary Growth” article. Best wishes with the job hunt.

1. Austin-Round Rock, TX
2. Bakersfield, CA
3. Charleston-North Charleston-Summerville, SC
4. Huntsville, AL
5. McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, TX
6. Orlando-Kissimmee, FL
7. Provo-Orem, UT
8. Raleigh-Cary, NC
9. Salt Lake City, UT
10. Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA