Here at TheJobNetwork, we talk a lot about the job hunt, and your career path. Revamping your resume, searching for the perfect job opportunity, getting your smile and handshake ready for the interview…all crucial career elements. But what about the most practical career consideration of all: your salary? You need a paycheck to pay for life’s basic necessities, and the goal for most of us is to keep building on that so that we’re able to live comfortably while doing something fulfilling. Sure, dreams of Ferraris and designer clothes are great, but in reality most of us are just looking for solid pay for a day’s work.
For years, salary was kind of a taboo subject—you didn’t talk about what you earned with anyone but your employer. And even now, there are a lot of unwritten rules: don’t bring up salary during an interview, let them mention money first, etc. So how do you know what you should (and could) be making? Where do you even start? Let’s look at the top tools you can use to research salary, and figure out what you’re worth in the workplace.
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
If you like stats and charts, this is the place for you. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is the data-heavy arm of the U.S. Department of Labor. It’s a comprehensive resource for information about just about any career you can think of, with an extensive database providing information about employment rates, regional employment information, job outlooks and projections, median salaries, U.S. employment trends, occupation profiles, and demographic information.
Pros: It’s not just a salary resource, but also one for general career information. You can find out not only what people are making in your field, but also what the requirements are, and job descriptions.
Cons: Occupation information tends to be very high-level, without much variance for different job titles. Also, the salary information is usually median, so it can be tough to see the full range of salary info.
PayScale is a massive salary database that is available to employers (to help them figure out what to pay) and employees/job hunters (to help them figure out what they’re worth, based on job title, industry, and region). Users can create a custom profile based on their current job, a job offer they’re considering, or just general job research. The site also offers general information and research on fair compensation, salary negotiation, and salary best practices.
Pros: Casual users can get a free “salary report” based on experience or location.
Cons: Much of the research and features of the “largest salary profile database in the world” are available as premium software for employers. Also, expect to give detailed (though non-personally identifiable) information about your current job title, salary, location, etc. in order to get your salary report.
Like PayScale, Salary.com is a comprehensive salary software that draws on a massive database of salary information, parsed out by region, job title, experience, etc. It has an enterprise software component for businesses and employers to research and compare salary data, as well as a free salary profile available to employees and job searchers. Notably, the site also has a Cost-of-Living Wizard, which lets you enter information and determine what your cost of living would be in various locations. This is very helpful if you’re moving and need to find a job, or are considering transferring in your current job.
Pros: Straightforward interface, and a huge database of job and salary information. The site also has a number of general job search and career development articles.
Cons: Many of its resources are available as paid options.
Idealist Career Salary Surveys
If you work for a nonprofit company, or are looking for a job with one, you know that they can be a different kind of beast than their corporate siblings. Compensation may be handled differently, so the standard resources might not be as helpful. If you’re looking for info on nonprofit careers, Idealist has compiled a number of different links and surveys to help you find the information you want on working for nonprofits.
Pros: It’s a comprehensive resource for nonprofit career information (job openings, career development, pay and benefits information).
Cons: The focus is limited to nonprofits, so it can be difficult to compare nonprofit salaries and jobs to other fields and industries.
Ideally, all of our companies would have a salary calculator where we could plug in our job title and level of experience, and see what the salary range is. (I mean, we’re all a little nosy about what other people are making, right?) Practicality often calls for more discretion, and most companies would prefer not to have that knowledge public. The exception to that rule: Buffer, a social media company who has pioneered the whole “transparent salary” concept over the past few years. Their Transparent Salary Calculator really only tells you what you’d be making if you worked at Buffer, but it’s still a handy tool for reference.
Pros: If you have a similar job title and level of experience, this can help give you a baseline to take with you into a new job offer salary negotiation, or a request for a raise. Also, yay transparency!
Cons: It’s very specific to a small social media company, so if you have a role outside of the 20 or so job types listed at Buffer, it’s not especially helpful.
Educate to Career Job Seekers Salary Calculator
If you’ve been around the block for a while, career-wise, you probably know roughly what people make in your field, or what you can expect long term. If you’re just starting out, say, as a recent grad, you probably don’t have that sense yet. Educate to Career helps students, recent graduates, or other job seekers figure out what they can make based on the field, job title, relevant experience, and location.
Pros: The database covers all states and regions, and factors in education level as a predictor of salary. It’s a straightforward search, and gives information on median salary, starting salary, top earner salaries, and likely market salaries. The states are broken down into regions, which gives very specific reports.
Cons: The site is very student-focused, so the general career information is geared more toward students and soon-to-be grads than the average job hunter.
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Whether you’re figuring out your market value or hoping to negotiate a higher salary for yourself, it’s important to know what’s legal or illegal when it comes to your pay. The U.S. government’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) publishes information about discrimination, equal pay, and the latest legislation that affects employee compensation.
Pros: If you’re concerned that you’re being underpaid or discriminated against by your employer, this is an excellent place to start.
Cons: It’s not a huge database, or a flashy interface—just straightforward information about employment practices.
If you want to know more about salary on a global scale, Salary Expert has a database for that. Like other salary search engines, Salary Expert allows you to get reports and make comparisons on salary and cost of living across the globe.
Pros: If you’re fantasizing about moving to London but are concerned about your earning potential and the cost of living, this is the tool to use. You can browse salary and cost of living data without signing up for any services.
Cons: The most advanced salary data is part of a premium software package purchase.
Next Steps After You’ve Researched
Once you know what you’re worth, you’ve got the tools you need to move toward your higher salary. We’ve got you covered on what to do next:
- Your Comprehensive Guide to Negotiating Salary
- How to Earn a Six-Figure Salary in Your Lifetime
- 11 Tips for Getting the Salary You Want
- How to Negotiate Your Salary in An Interview
- 6 Tips for Negotiating the Salary You Want
When you’re ready to talk money, you should have every possible tool at your disposal. These resources can help you be armed and ready to advocate for yourself, and make sure that you’re exactly where you should be—or could be. Good luck!
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