Editor's Note: This is Part 2 of a two part series. Click here to read Part 1.
There are primarily two categories of compensation data available, employer-reported and employee-reported. The former is sourced from corporate HR departments nationwide (or worldwide), whereas the latter is crowdsourced from employees of various organizations.
Company-reported data is considered more reliable and is widely relied upon by organizations in devising compensation strategies and determining fair and competitive salaries, incentives and benefits for employees. Employers either conduct salary surveys or purchase survey reports from independent vendors or associations.
For organizations, investing in a reliable salary survey is a relatively small price to pay in order to maintain a competitive edge and be able to retain talent as well as attract new hires with the right skillset and experience. For an individual looking to determine their market worth, however, purchasing results of salary surveys is not usually feasible.
Free salary-related information is available from a number of career and salary sites. Some IT professionals refer to popular job and salary research sites for data on salaries, incentives and benefits to gauge their market value. Most of this information is free, but not necessarily reliable because it is user-reported and unverified.
Leading job and pay sites include salary.com, payscale.com, indeed.com and, in the United States, bls.gov. You can also find some salary information on LinkedIn.
Salary.com claims to collect data from employer-reported sources, which is subjected to QA checks by salary survey providers. Other sites, such as payscale.com, indeed.com and glassdoor.com rely on data provided by employees. This is why you may find that median salary ranges for the same role differ widely across different sites.
Drawbacks and shortcomings
As mentioned earlier, crowdsourced surveys aggregate data collected from employees. All of this is not necessarily accurate or current. If you look up a salary research site to know the market value of your role, you will be required to provide personal information, such as base salary, incentives, benefits, skills, employer name, and other details, in order to view what others in your role or similar are earning.
You might have to find a match for your role from a few job titles available on any given site. If you can’t find an exact match, then you will have to select the nearest match in order to gain access to compensation data.
It’s possible that some users wanting to see salary data pertaining to their role might not enter the accurate base salary or may not be certain about precisely how much their benefits and perks are worth. These sites don’t verify data submitted by users. The average or median salary provided by leading sites and job aggregators is based on user-reported data.
Employer-reported surveys offer precise job-matching based on job title, years of experience, skills, responsibilities job description and other role-specific information. Career and salary sites that use employee-reported data don’t use multiple criteria for job-matching, resulting in imprecise matches. Often, job-matching is based on job title alone.
Another concern regarding salary data is that not all sites provide information that is updated monthly, which means you might not get current median salary ranges for your role from some websites.
On the plus side
The advantage of looking up job and salary research sites, as well as the Occupation Handbook of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, is that you can get an idea of the average or median salary range for your role or one that you are aspiring to in any given location. For a more realistic estimate, you need to look at a number of leading sites and consult other sources.
Browse at least three or four leading job and salary sites, including salary.com, payscale.com, indeed.com and bls.gov. Some sites also provide company-specific salary ranges. Employee-reported data, of course, may not always be accurate.
The BLS Occupation Handbook is a comprehensive database for median salaries and hourly pay for a wide range of roles. This could be helpful for new graduates as well as professionals wanting to switch to IT from other fields. BLS also provides median salaries for the same job title in different industries.
Most of the information available on salary and job sites as well as bls.gov is free. On salary.com, some data resources are only available against payment, but their Salary Wizard is free to use. They also offer a benefits calculator.
On Payscale, you can search their huge database for information based on job title, experience or location. Their salary report is free. Indeed is a job listing site that provides some salary research options. They list average salary and specify the number of reported salaries that the average is based on.
Casting a wide net
As discussed in our previous article addressing this topic, one should consult multiple sources of information, offline and online, while attempting to determine your professional worth. It’s advisable not to rely on median or average salary ranges alone to arrive at a realistic understanding of your worth. Salaries vary by industry, company and location. You need to research these aspects and consider your personal priorities when trying to determine what you are worth.
Consulting one or more reputable professional associations in your industry is a good way to get current data on compensation. You may be required to submit a request for information. Another source for informal information about salaries is a professional network such as LinkedIn. Many tech professionals are active on LinkedIn. Connecting with other professionals in your industry is worthwhile for a number of reasons other than getting information about salary ranges.
A solid professional network can be a valuable tool for career advancement. It enables you to keep abreast of industry and occupation trends, get job leads, find solutions and get valuable career advice from professionals with deep experience in your field.
You can also look up government salaries for your role or one you intend applying for. Though public and private sector salaries vary, you will get to know what the government pays for a specific role.
If you have been working in IT for a number of years, you would likely have a fair idea of what your job responsibilities, experience, academic qualifications, skills and certifications are worth. Experienced tech professionals can find out from a range of employees in their field, including those they have worked with in the past, trusted colleagues, industry peers, seniors and college alumni.