11.2   Sources for Researching What you are Worth

Your market research begins by obtaining a benchmark on what recent college graduates are receiving. Even if you are experienced you will find the data on new graduates illuminating.  You may be stunned to find out you are making less than a new graduate with significant experience.

The web has a ton of sites with great salary information.  There are some fabulous sources for information on competitive salaries for every field imaginable.

The Occupational Outlook Handbook 

The Occupational Outlook Handbook is available online.  I love! love! love! the OOH!

This resource from the Bureau of Labor Statistics is simply amazing!

Vital, must-have, information on numerous occupations can be found with details including:
  • Nature of the Work
  • Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement
  • Employment
  • Job Outlook
  • Projections Data
  • Earnings
  • OES Data
  • Related Occupations
  • Sources of Additional Information

Salary.com provides excellent salary and career planning information for the both inexperienced and experienced professionals. Be sure to use the free Salary Wizard. It allows you to collect salary data based not only on job title but also by zip code. The information is organized by discipline and by location. Drill down and be creative in collecting information from this source. Search multiple job titles and be sure to read the job descriptions to be sure that the job title you are using as a benchmark corresponds to the job description for the job you are being considered for.

You will find that there is a fairly wide range of salaries for any given job title. For example when I searched for salaries for city planners in Oakland, CA, salaries ranged from $42,453 to $60,286. Why such a broad range for the same job? Because candidates range pretty broadly in their qualifications and because the potential employers range broadly in their ability to pay. We will get to that when we discuss your assets. It is definitely part of the equation.

Another thing, government typically pays less than private firms, but not always... And if you have a MS degree you will typically start higher on the pay scale and require less experience.

Here is the salary data and job info that I found at salary.com searching "Landscape Architect" (10/30/20019):

Average Landscape Architect III Salary range is $74,400 to 102,900 across the US

Average Landscape Architect III  Salary range is 77,800 to 109,700 in San Francisco, CA

Average Landscape Architect IV Salary Base range is $93,218 to 128,836 in San Francisco, CA

I recently worked with a Landscape Architect who was in salary negotiations in San Francisco.  He was unaware that his qualifications put him closer to a Landscape Architect IV than a III.  He was aiming for the low end of the III.  I encouraged him to go for low end of the IV - at least - close to a $10,000 difference.  He was very uncomfortable asking to negotiate but I convinced him that if he was made a low offer all he had to do was to ask "is that negotiable?"  That made it easy and non-confrontational. It was just a simple question that yielded great results. When he shared his assets list/qualifications summary and the data he had assembled from salary.com he got the much higher offer - much to his surprise!

A few years ago a young business graduate received an offer of employment from a financial planning company that she believed was low at $40,000.  She asked the manager making the offer if it was negotiable. It was early in her career and it was a bold move.  All of the interviews had gone well, they liked her, and they were very motivated to hire her. The manager was intrigued and impressed with her request. He asked her what she felt she was worth and why she felt she was worth. She said she was looking for $46,000 and gave her justification. She showed him the salary data she had collected during her research and she showed him a list of her assets highlighting her academic and employment achievements as well as her skills that matched the position's requirements. He bumped her salary to $46,000. She made $6000 in just moments by being well prepared and by asking!

LinkedIn Salary Data

I also use LinkedIn Salary for salary research.  They collect salary data from LinkedIn members that is quite accurate and similar to what can be found at Salary.com.

LinkedIn is extremely important for your job search.  It links you to professionals in your field and it is a perfect way to keep your contacts organized and updated.  People you are linked to update their own information.

Don't be shy!  LinkedIn is just an amazing way to network! If you are interested in a company or a job that has been posted - find someone on LinkedIn who works there and request information or coffee to find out more about the job and the company.

One experienced engineer searching for a manufacturing operations management position, that I worked with, found a job listed on Indeed and looked up current company employees on LinkedIn.  She found the CEO and sent him a message and he responded immediately.  It was a small firm and they needed someone desperately.  They spoke, she sent her resume, and she got the job in very short order.


Glassdoor.com is a so so source for salary and company information. They tend to get and post salary data skewed toward the lower end of the spectrum. 

The site includes reviews by current and former employees; questions asked in company interviews; salaries that are typical for different positions in a given company;  and a list of benefits offered. 

This site is hard to drag information out of.  You will have to create an account, share your data and then log in to see the information you need.  It is also cluttered with reviews that are quite irrelevant.  

Professional Associations and Organizations

Professional organizations associated with your field are another excellent source of both salary info and career information. For example the National Society for Professional Engineers survey their members and report salary information by education, experience, location, branch of engineering, industry and job function. I found the NSPE salary info at http://www.nspe.org. This organization requires that you pay for the survey.

The Occupational Outlook Handbook will give you names of professional organizations in your field under "additional sources of information"  in each job category.

Company Web Sites

Company web sites can provide you with information on available positions. They are an excellent source for information about your marketability.  Create a list of possible companies in the geographic area you are focusing on and start surfing their sites. Many companies will post salary ranges along with jobs that they post. They will also post complete job descriptions along with detailed job requirements (great information to include on your resume).