Free Job Tools: A Quick Look at Salary.com

 
 
By Donald Sears  |  Posted 2008-08-29
 
 
 

Stop wasting my time You know what I want You know what I need Or maybe you don't Do I have to come right Flat out and tell you everything? Gimme some money Gimme some money

-Lyrics from "Gimme Some Money" by Spinal Tap

Free job tools on the Internet are plentiful, but not always helpful. It can be challenging to filter out the useful ones from the clunkers, and find enough in the free area of job-related sites without having to register or pay for some premium information (though in some instances, that can be useful).

Let's be honest: They all want you to buy the premium content. That's where I can help.

This first post in a series on free job tools looks at the thing everyone always wants to know about: money and salaries. While many of you may have probably come across this site just because of its popularity in search and extremely easy Web address, Salary.com is actually a good salary snapshot site for IT professionals (or for those thinking of getting out of IT).

Wait a minute ... How can an all-encompassing site that tracks salary information for every job imaginable possibly be good for my technology niche, you ask? Because of what it gives you for nada.

First, Salary.com's quantity of job titles, job levels and job categories for IT is impressive. Let me break it down for you with the number of job titles in each area:

-IT Computers / Hardware: 77 Job Titles -IT Software: 150 Job Titles -IT Exec. / Consulting: 27 Job Titles -IT Manager: 47 Job Titles -IT Networking: 73 Job Titles -Internet & New Media: 94 Job Titles -Telecommunications: 82 Job Titles

Granted, some of the Internet & New Media job titles are more marketing-related here, and there are crossover listings in each category, and yet you still can find a pretty significant number of job titles, with varying levels of experience and functions represented. CRM Application Architects in the house!

Once you choose a title, you are taken to a main page with four tabbed elements, which are (from left to right): Base Salary, Bonuses, Benefits, Paycheck. I think this simple organization works and takes you from a macro- to micro-view based on overall industry and regional numbers to the impact a given job will have on your take-home pay.

Base Salary View image The base salary tab is a graphical chart and shows a bell curve on salary ranges for a job title from low to high. To the right of the graphic is an area for entering your ZIP code so you can see a regional breakdown of that job title relative to yours.

Bonuses Adds the bell curve graphics for bonuses with the base salary info.

Benefits View image This tab lists salary, bonuses and other perks and costs like pensions, 401(k)/403(b) and Social Security, so you can see what a total compensation package might look like.

Paycheck View image This is my favorite tab and feature set: it's a great gut check for actually seeing what you would be compensated in a single paycheck, accounting for tax withholdings and other paycheck-related items with an eye-catching paycheck graphic.

Payroll Deductions View image By clicking on either the Edit Paycheck link or the Select Your Own Deductions link on the Paycheck page, you are taken to a detailed drop-down area that lets you fully customize the tax year, state, filing status, pay frequency, allowances, etc. as well as having a voluntary deductions area for 401(k), health care, dental, vision, daycare, and more. This is a pretty rich and smart way of allowing people to realize take-home pay. Simple, but really useful and meaningful.

The other thing I like about this site is that it does not shy away from allowing people to understand its methodology, research and premium content, and accounts for differences from the rest of the market. I can't guarantee that it has the best information out there, but Salary.com certainly appears to have been developed in a way that has your salary and job interests in mind. I intend to talk with the company in more detail about its proprietary nature and premium offerings in the near future, but as a free salary site, this is one of the best I've come across.

What salary, job and career sites do you like?

Here's what Salary.com publicly says about its methodology (excuse the length, but it is pertinent):

The Salary Wizard is an interactive database of up-to-date market compensation information. Unlike compensation surveys, which report data effective as of a fixed date, the Salary Wizard is a report of a continual research study. It includes data on approximately 1,200 unique jobs and 4,000 job titles that can be mapped to those jobs. The data is intended to provide a reasonable range for typical cash compensation earned by the typical person working in that job. The data used to develop the pay levels shown in the Salary Wizard is based on the pay practices of companies of all industries, companies of all sizes and companies from all around the United States.

The source of the job descriptions and answers in the Salary Wizard should be cited as "Salary.com," since they are the copyrighted work of our team of compensation consultants based on the review of multiple salary surveys, and our own research, analysis, and proprietary mathematical model.

Every job in the Salary Wizard has been thoroughly researched and validated by Salary.com's team of compensation consultants who have combined experience of over 40 years in the compensation and statistical analysis fields. Salary.com purchases the most current salary surveys available from well-recognized, reputable compensation consulting firms. This survey data is used for analysis and benchmarking by extracting and reporting the market salary data for each position that matches to one of the jobs reported in the Salary Wizard. To ensure jobs are appropriately matched, our analysts benchmark the jobs based on job content, not job title. Note that all data used in researching salary levels for the Salary Wizard has been reported by human resource professionals. Salary.com does not use any salary information from individual site users, placement agencies, job postings, nor any other sources that would traditionally be characterized as "unreliable" by compensation or human resource professionals.

The Salary.com research database includes information on more than 1.3 million incumbents and 5,000 companies. Most jobs in the Salary Wizard are based on 100 or more incumbent salaries.

The salary data is presented in two pieces: base pay and total cash compensation (base pay plus annual incentives). The market pay level is based on the median, or 50th percentile, of all salaries reported for a given job. This represents the midpoint of the competitive market rate for that job. To provide perspective on scope and distribution of pay amounts, the Salary Wizard also shows the range around the median that includes the half of the people in that job who are paid closest to the market median - and thus excludes the lowest 25 percent and the highest 25 percent by pay.

Results for each piece are displayed in a graph to show visually this "interquartile range." The minimum of the range is the 25th percentile, which means only 25 percent of salaries reported for a particular job fall below this level; the maximum of the range is the 75th percentile, which means 75 percent of all salaries reported for that job fall below this amount (i.e., 25 percent fall above this amount). Although this interquartile range roughly equates to the typical market range for the position, there are a reasonable number of people whose pay is higher or lower than the interquartile range - in fact, 25 percent of those in any given job are expected to be paid above the 75th percentile and 25 percent are expected to be paid below the 25th percentile.

Although the data sources we use are the most recent available, there is a lag between the effective data of the salary information they report and today - sometimes more than a year. To recognize that salaries increase faster than studies are printed, Salary.com uses the industry standard approach of modifying the data by applying an aging factor to adjust the data to a common date and to accommodate the movement of salaries over time. Not all salaries move at the same rate. For instance, in the last few years, salaries in the information technology field have increased much faster than salaries in other jobs (5 to 15 percent for IT versus 2 to 5 percent in general). Therefore, IT salaries are adjusted at a higher rate than non-IT jobs.

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