Sources of Information on Pay for Major Jobs

You have already learned a variety of good techniques for negotiating your pay, but their effective use assumes that you know in advance the prevailing pay scale for the jobs you want. Although you often won't know precisely how much a particular employer might pay, some quick research will often give you a good idea.

The Top Excuse for Avoiding Research

When asked to relate the number one mistake job candidates make during the negotiation process, most employers say it is a failure to prepare. For those job seekers who take the time and effort to investigate salary ranges and benefits rather than simply "winging it," the rewards are worth every second of research. This section gives you a handle on where to locate such information quickly and painlessly.

The reasons individuals give for failing to prepare for salary negotiations, such as, "I didn't realize the subject would come up so quickly and didn't have time to prepare" or "I could tell the interviewer wasn't going to budge, and I didn't want to blow the opportunity," can often be boiled down to one excuse: Most of us are uncomfortable putting a dollar value on our skills.

"The reason many of us are hesitant to take our foot off the brake, get off our butts, and let people know who we are and what we do well is because we feel it is tasteless and unprofessional to do so," says behavioral scientist George Dudley. "We reached that conclusion because the people who have done it in the past are so oily. 'If I have to be like them to do that,' the logic runs, 'then I don't want to do it.'" Michael Schatzki of Negotiation Dynamics has an even more colorful way of describing job seekers' lack of enthusiasm for salary negotiations. "They see it as high stakes, table-pounding, your worst nightmare of a used-car salesman, and it all seems negative," he comments.

In the business world, modesty will get you nowhere. There is nothing shameful about asking for the amount of money you are worth. In today's environment, knowing yourself and your capabilities is a valuable commodity in itself.

Sources of Information on Salary and Wages

Like other parts of the job search process, the key to salary negotiations is preparation. It is very important for you to do your research before you begin negotiations. In order to determine the salary you are willing to accept, investigate the salary range someone with your skills and experience can expect to receive. The following sections describe some of the best sources of information.

The Internet

Use the sites in this section (from Best Career and Education Web Sites by Rachel Singer Gordon and Anne Wolfinger) to learn the average pay rates in your chosen field and find cost-of-living information for different parts of the country. (powered by JIST Works): This Web site provides free information, including more than 14,000 job descriptions and average pay for major jobs. Keep in mind that the pay ranges are national averages; local rates can differ significantly and those with less than average experience typically earn less.

Abbott, Langer & Associates ( You can find free summary data, including median salaries, from the various salary surveys that Abbott, Langer & Associates conducts. This site contains current statistics for more than 450 benchmark jobs and from more than 8,000 participating organizations. Select from major fields, such as accounting, information technology, and engineering, and then choose from the surveys available for each field.

JobStar Salary Information ( You can jump directly to JobStar's more than 300 links to general and profession-specific salary surveys and also take some time to explore salary negotiation strategies and test your own salary IQ. Information on print resources you might want to check out is also included. The site links to California libraries, but you can look up these books in your own local public library.

The Salary Calculator ( Thinking about relocating for a job? Compare the cost of living among hundreds of U.S. and international cities with this handy salary calculator. Just enter your salary and current location, and then select another city to find out what you'll need to make there to sustain the same standard of living. While here, check out other relocation tools as well.

Salary Expert ( Find free regional salary reports by selecting your job title and then your ZIP code or city. Reports list the position's average salary, benefits, and bonuses; show how salaries in a given area compare to the national average; provide a brief description of the occupation; give the average cost of living in the area; and list links to salary info for related jobs. Also available at this site are selected feature articles and international salary reports.

Wageweb ( Although Wageweb is geared toward employers needing to know competitive wages in order to retain employees, individuals can also find useful salary information at this site. It provides national salary information for more than 170 benchmark positions, broken down by category and then by job title.

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