11.2   Sources for Researching What you are Worth

Occupational Outlook Handbook

Your market research begins by obtaining a benchmark on what recent college graduates are receiving. There are some fabulous sources for information on competitive salaries for every field imaginable. The web has a ton of sites with great salary information.  The Occupational Outlook Handbook is available online in it's entirety ... use the search box on the left. This resource will give you vital information (including salary data) on numerous occupations including:
  • Nature of the Work
  • Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement
  • Employment
  • Job Outlook
  • Projections Data
  • Earnings
  • OES Data
  • Related Occupations
  • Sources of Additional Information


Glassdoor.com is a good source for salary and company information. 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 from employees on the inside. 

The thing I don't like is that you have to log in to see the information you need...

The sight also includes a list of the best places to work 2016!


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 "city planner":

10th percentile: $42,453
25th percentile: $44,884
75th percentile: $54,209
90th percentile: $60,268
Job Description: Urban Planner

Develops land-use plans for the beneficial development of urban areas. Requires a bachelor's degree in a related field and 2-4 years of experience in the field or in a related area. Familiar with standard concepts, practices, and procedures within a particular field. Relies on judgment and limited experience to plan and accomplish goals. Performs a variety of tasks. Works under general supervision; typically reports to a supervisor or manager. A certain degree of creativity and latitude is required.

Alternate Job Titles: City Planner | City-Planning Engineer | Land Planner | Regional Planner | Town Planner | Urban Planner

A young business graduate named Stephanie 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. 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 it. 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!

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" under each job category.

Company Web Sites

Company web sites can provide you with information on available positions. Most reputable companies will post salary ranges along with any jobs that they post. They will also post complete job descriptions along with job requirements.