You work hard for your money. So you should be paid what you are worth! Also, you’re fabulous.
While obviously you should be paid what you are worth, you may or may not be currently paid what you should be (let’s also take a moment to remember that equal pay isn’t a “thing” yet). The first step toward making sure you are paid fair compensation is to actually be knowledgable about what average salaries are like for people in your profession with your level of education and experience. To find this out, you need to start looking up salary information.
Looking up salary information and comparing it to what you will make or what you are currently making can be a tricky game. Employers often don’t advertise what the job they are looking to fill will pay and since people are often hush-hush about what they make, you may not find out how your salary compares to your coworkers’. If you’re not privy to these bits of information, you’ll have to go out on your own and conduct some research.
To help you along in your salary information search, I’ve identified 5 general places you should go to search for this information. Since there is such a broad range of professions, education levels and experience levels, you’ll really have to do some digging and analyzing to come up with that magic number.
5 Sources for Looking Up Salary Information
Glassdoor.com is a website that allows you to search for jobs, read company reviews and look up self-reported salary and bonus information. If you’re interested in working at a particular company, you can see what various people have supplied as their salaries. Glassdoor’s information can be extremely useful in helping you come up with a range of what you should expect to receive at a particular employer (that’s assuming previous employees have reported their salaries). If you can’t find salary information for the employer at hand, Glassdoor is still useful for comparing salaries at competitors or in the general field that you’re looking to work. You can even narrow by city to what regional salary averages look like.
Federal & State Government Websites
The federal government and state governments often collect and publish salary data and statistics. The Federal government publishes several resources that you may want to consult when trying to identify a high-level average for your particular industry, such as the Occupational Employment Statistics and the Occupational Outlook Handbook (which also includes high-level overviews of what different professions are like). The Occupational Employment Statistics project even breaks out statistics by state and metropolitan area. In addition to these federal resources, states also release salary information, so be sure to check what types of data and statistics your state publishes.
Many professional associations will survey their members and release an annual or bi-annual salary survey. You may need to be a paying member of the association in order to access the salary survey, but if that information is what allows you to negotiate for a raise or your salary at a new job, the cost may be worth it. Plus, there are other benefits of joining professional associations, such as networking opportunities, educational opportunities, mentoring and access to job postings.
Similar to professional associations, staffing agencies will also sometimes conduct their own salary surveys. These are generally across a variety of industries or may be across an industry but cut across different job titles and functions. For example, Aquent (a staffing agency) has published along with AIGA professional design salaries for 2012.
This may be a scary proposition, but ask around! Obviously use your best judgment, but asking people their experiences may help you in your path to securing a fair wage. If you have a mentor or some other trusted professional contact, they may be willing to share general advice to help you make sure you are being compensated fairly. If you’re too weary of asking someone in person, asking a general question to social media or Q&A sites like Quora may get you the answers you are seeking.
Looking Up Salary Information is the First Step
Once you have done as much research as you can positively muster, it’s time to compare and strategize around your current or next salary. The key to coming up with a good, research-driven number is to rely on not just one of these sources, but on as many sources of information as you can. You’ll likely run into discrepancies across the different sources, so it will be your job to figure out the magic number of what you should be earning at this point in time and in the future.
Hopefully, your research will pleasantly surprise you and you’ll be receiving a fair market wage. If not, well, get ready to negotiate!