Getting a sense of what you should be paid is an important first step when preparing for a job search. But it can be challenging to find salary information that’s both reliable and relevant to your unique situation. Using a few creative approaches, however, you can better assess expectations for someone in your field and with your level of training and experience.
1. Salary Information Websites
Free online search sites are useful starting points when determining your worth in the labor market. Websites like salary.com, indeed.com, simplyhired.com, and glassdoor.com help professionals explore salaries using various search criteria, such as title, industry, and geographic location.
Pros: These websites provide easy access to salary data compiled in real time. This is because salary data is pulled directly from job listings as they’re published. Other sites, such as The Bureau of Labor Statistics, present estimates based on data compiled the previous year.
Cons: It can be challenging to find salary data in newer industries or those outside of mainstream job markets. You might also discover large disparities in the data when searching for titles that are broadly defined or that vary greatly by industry. For example, in a recent search for the title “project manager” on Indeed, the average salary reported was $81,012. But this calculation included roles for project managers within the retail industry (the lowest end of this range being $24,000) and the engineering industry (the highest end of this range being $174,000).
2. Professional Associations
Professional associations are valuable resources when researching salaries in your chosen field. This is because most organizations routinely distribute salary and compensation surveys as a means for tracking trends and sharing benchmarking data. Results are often free and made available on the association’s website, typically listed in the career section or under publications.
Pros: Salary data provided by a professional association is often the most accurate and specific to your situation because it is polled directly from professionals in your industry and field.
Cons: Not all professional associations offer benchmarking data to members. With that said, you can still glean insight directly from individual members. Continue on to the next section to learn how.
3. Members of Your Professional Network
Without question, the absolute best way to go about gathering salary information is by tapping into your professional network.
Pros: As industry insiders, members of your network can shed light into the going market rate for positions in your area of interest or career field. They may also provide personalized guidance to help in determining where you might fall within a given salary range. Salary websites alone cannot help you identify the myriad of other factors that might increase your earning potential.
Cons: For many, discussions around salary can feel uncomfortable. While you never want to ask the question, “how much do you make,” there are more diplomatic ways to inquire about salary. Here are a few options:
- What is the typical salary range for positions such as this?
- What type of salary range can I expect given my background and experience?
But what if you don’t have someone in your current network that you could approach? If this is the case, make the most of your professional association by browsing the member’s only directory and contacting members with titles similar to that you’re seeking.
In the end
Most professionals looking for their next job hope their move will be both meaningful and financially rewarding. Taking the time to research salaries early on provides the information you need to advocate for your best interest while making sure you’re fairly compensated for your talents.
About the author
Dara Wilson-Grant is a Licensed Professional Counselor and the Associate Director of Postdoctoral Affairs at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is also the owner of Careers in Bloom. Dara’s focus is on career-related issues, including career change, professional growth, and workplace challenges. Her career management workshops have been presented at universities, government agencies, and research institutions across the country.