How much are you worth? Do you know? Are you sure?
Salary is one of the more difficult areas to assess in job search. Why? Because it is heavily dependent on others, not just you. What you do personally can and will affect your salary, yet only within a specific role and industry range, adjusted by geography for cost of living. There is a market value for every role, every level, every industry, every employer and every geography. Let’s cover how they affect your salary and what you can do to maximize your salary throughout your career.
At the core level, salary by role is driven by supply and demand. Go back to your Econ 101 class notes and apply these principles to salaries. The more demand relative to supply, the higher the salary. The less demand relative to supply, the lower the salary. As an example of the latter, consider teacher salaries. One might argue that there is great “demand” for teachers, since they are one of the largest employment groups. Yet our educational system is continually graduating more new teachers with education degrees than there are new jobs coming available. The result is highly competitive roles and lower salaries for teachers. On the other end of the spectrum, very few new graduates intend to go into sales professions and very few universities actually offer degrees or even coursework in sales. Yet there is need for sales talent across almost every industry, creating more demand than supply. This is why top sales performers are among the most highly compensated workers in any field. If you are still in the career planning stage, take the time to understand not only the current supply and demand, but also research projected growth for the role in the future in the careers section of CollegeGrad.com.
Salary by level will vary, not only between entry level and experienced, but also by how the level of experience changes the role. Going back to the teacher example, an entry level middle school math teacher and a 20-year middle school math teacher are essentially filling the same role. The latter may be more highly competent, but the role is the same. In other industries, the role may change markedly over that same 20-year period. While entry level salaries are more structured and predictable, experienced salaries have a greater standard deviation and can be highly variable, especially for superstar talent at the top end of the experience scale.
Each industry has its own salary standards that are fairly consistent within the industry. For example, the insurance industry is known for paying less than other comparable industries, but usually provide superior benefits and a better work environment. The software industry may be rather spartan on the work environment, but compensate higher in the salary category. So take the time to understand the differences by industry as well.
Within each industry, there is also variability by employer. Those employers who seek out industry best talent, such as Google, Amazon, Apple and Facebook, usually compete against each other for the best talent, sending their salaries quite a bit above the industry norm. But it’s also important to understand the salaries by role. For example, at Amazon the Software Development Engineer (SDE) roles compete directly with Google, Apple and Facebook, while the Amazon warehouse roles are competing with the local market for hourly warehouse workers.
Geography also plays heavily into salary. This is due to both the supply and demand of that geo as well as local cost of living. This becomes especially important when you are considering two different roles in two different geos. For example, is an entry level offer at $60K in San Francisco or an entry level offer at $50K in Atlanta the better offer? Check out our Salary Comparison Calculator to find the answer.
CollegeGrad.com provides a free Salary Calculator to our users. You can search dozens of job types across hundreds of geographical regions, for both entry level and experienced salaries.
How much are you worth? Start your research with the Salary Calculator, then do your additional research to understand the range. Then do your work in salary negotiations to work toward the top end of that range.