In your career, you are always your own best advocate when it comes to promotions, professional development, and salary. It’s so important to be aware of the value you bring to your role, as well as the market value for your position and your experience. When you go into a negotiation for a raise or a promotion, it’s essential to know whether your job is paying you in line with the current market or if there’s room to grow. The more data you have right in front of you, the stronger your negotiation will be.
So how do you know if you’re making money in line with the current market? Now more than ever, online tools let you scope out detailed information to bring with you into your next request for a raise.
What constitutes a “fair” market wage?
A “fair” wage is one that has two prongs:
- What your industry is paying people in your approximate role.
- What your company is paying people in comparable roles.
This is typically a range—not everyone will be making the same, nor will exact dollar amounts usually be available in a public search. But having a range of low-end salaries and high-end salaries for people that do work similar to yours is a good way to see where you fit in, and how much wiggle room there is.
Plus, salaries can vary from company to company depending on an employee’s education level and experience. The upper end of the range is especially important, because it helps you figure out what’s realistic for you to be making. (After all, you don’t want to go in to a raise negotiation and be laughed out of the room because your $10,000 increase request is way out of whack with the rest of your field.)
Start with a comprehensive job description.
Job titles can vary pretty widely even for similar work in the same industry, so before you start your research, have a bulleted list of job responsibilities. Start with your own, and then do a little digging on job sites for similar titles or key words.
Don’t forget to factor in benefits.
Base salary is useful information, but it’s not always the full picture when it comes to how a person is being compensated in a particular role. Online job descriptions often include at least a partial list of benefits offered by the company, so you can see which companies give their employees medical insurance, paid leave, tuition reimbursement, and other types of compensation in addition to salary. That can be taken into consideration and compared against your own company’s benefits package to see if that lines up with industry standards as well.
Search the right places.
Job descriptions on career sites may have salary information, but those may be vague and aren’t always reflective of what a person ends up making in that position after accepting the job and negotiating pay.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is a fantastic, comprehensive source for employment data of all kinds—especially salary information. It’s a government database, supplemented by its yearly National Compensation Survey and research, which contains information (wages, earnings, and employment statistics) for just about any job you can think of. Again, having key words comes in handy, because not every job title will be the same—but you can usually find at least an approximate version of your job, if not one that’s right on the nose.
The BLS also provides employment outlooks for each job, which helps when you’re figuring out market value. Is a field declining now, or expected to grow over the next ten years or so? If demand is expected to grow, that can make your skills and experience more valuable from a market perspective.
Sites like Salary.com and Glassdoor also provide valuable context when it comes to market value. With real data and feedback from real employees, they also factor in data like location, education level, experience, and employee reviews to give you a comprehensive picture of each job’s market.
If you’re willing to do a little digging, it’s pretty straightforward to create a picture of your industry’s pay and compensation and figure out where you stand. Having this information at your fingertips will make you a better advocate for your career interests and help you plan your goals and next steps.