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 discover you are making less than a recent graduate with significantly less experience. 

There are a number of excellent web sites with spot on information on competitive salaries for every field imaginable.  The ones that are most accurate and useful are the ones that are based on employer surveys.  These are based on actual employed people.  

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!  It gives you an excellent starting point for your research.  It gives you a 3D view of occupations with every kind of vital information you need to assess your situation. 

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

O*NET stands for the Occupational Information Network. It is a free online database sponsored by the US government that lists and describes almost 1000 jobs. It is designed to be easy to use by just about anyone and everyone - students, jobseekers, labor force professionals, and businesses.

It is in the best interest of every country in the world for it's citizens be able to figure out where they are best suited.  O*NET provides exactly what people need to start their career planning and job search. This should definitely be a primary career research source for anyone choosing a major, exploring career options, or planning a first or next move.

This site links to training programs, apprenticeship programs, and universities by major and degree.  You can search jobs by title, interests, job family, industry, STEM, demand outlook, and career cluster.  It provides job descriptions, alternative titles, tasks, activities, required knowledge and skills for 900+ occupations.  

O*NET is also one of the best sources for salary data by job title and zip code across the US.  The salary data is spot on and essential for understanding what you are worth in different markets across the US. It will help you figure out what you are worth, what benefits you should expect and best of all, the information you find will help you negotiate your salary armed with everything you need to be effective. 

An excellent section for military personnel trying to identify key information for transitioning from the military to the civilian job market is also included in O*NET. 


Salary.com provides excellent salary and career planning information for the both inexperienced and experienced professionals.  Salary.com 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. 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.

Salary data and job info that found at salary.com searching "Landscape Architect" in 2019 for example listed various levels based on years of experience and increasing levels of responsibility.  The question is - what professional level should you be at based on what you bring to the table and what salary should be be at based on where you live?  Jobs pay differently based on experience and location. 

Average Landscape Architect III Salary range > $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

A Landscape Architect who was in salary negotiations in San Francisco 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 - a job level with a salary of $10,000 more.  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 simple question made it easy and non-confrontational. It was just a  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!

A new business graduate received an offer of employment from a financial planning company that she believed was low.  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 it. 

She told the manager what she was looking for 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. 

The manager bumped her salary to what she requested. She made $6000 in just moments by being well prepared and by asking!

LinkedIn Salary Data

LinkedIn.Salary is based on salary data collected from LinkedIn members which is similar to data found on 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 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,  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. Not my favorite by a long shot. 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.  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.The NSPE salary info at http://www.nspe.org 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).