Evaluating wage data
Accumulating compensation data is relatively easy.
Then you have to analyze it. Career specialists offer these tips
on how to glean useful information from the various figures.
- Verify the source. Some salary surveys are
conducted by companies or agencies with vested interests in the
findings. This could produce misleading results. Would the source
of the information tend to inflate salaries or trim them?
- Check out the sample size. If you have a
choice between surveys that interviewed 10 or 100, the larger
sample is more statistically accurate.
- Make sure the information is timely. The
Department of Labor tends to track wage data over 10-year increments.
Even then, statisticians just add on the new data, so while the
salary information may have meaning for employers, it may not
be accurate for one person currently checking out one type of
job in a single region.
- Remember that salary surveys often track a few
broadly defined job categories. You may not find an apple-to-apple
comparison. That means you'll have to do some estimating to arrive
at a good figure for your particular profession.
- Consider the larger job marketplace. Supply
and demand definitely play a role in setting salaries. Take the
case of Internet companies. When dot.coms were hot a few years
ago, Web designers could name their own salaries. When the boom
went bust, so did these wages.
In fact, notes Barry Miller, a career counselor and
alumni relations liaison at New York City's Pace University, if
you switch jobs today, you may find yourself taking a wage cut of
between 10 and 20 percent, depending on the field.
Or you may find that what you're making today is actually
higher than average because of the length of time you've been in
Jenny C. McCune is a contributing
editor based in Montana.