If you want to know if you’re being paid what you’re worth, here are five websites that can help you do that. These can be especially important if you’re thinking of asking for a salary increase. You want to make sure you’re being paid the going rate for your job, but at the same time you must be careful that you’re not asking for more than is typically paid for your job classification (or substantially more than your peers). You can find that out using one of the salary tools below.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
The Bureau of Labor Statistics, or simply “BLS” is an agency of the United States government. The website is likely the most comprehensive employment database in the US, and a major source of information for most of the rest.
The advantage of the BLS website isn’t just the data that it provides, but the incredible detail of that data that is available. For example, the site will provide salary data based on the region of the country you live in, including what is available in specific metropolitan areas. This is significant because salaries from one metropolitan area to another can vary to a surprising degree.
You should also check out the BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook. It offers information on salaries, especially in regard to the future outlook for various careers and jobs. This will include rating job classifications on a relative basis. For example, the outlook will rate job prospects in a given occupation compared to national employment overall. It will do this by rating growth in a field as average, above average, below average, or some other descriptive term.
If you’re looking for a raise in your pay, you should consider the outlook for that career. If the prospects are better than average, your case for asking for a raise will be stronger than if it’s below average.
Salary.com is quite possibly the most popular salary guide around. In fact, when I was in the mortgage business, we often used this site as a secondary verification source to justify salaries that seemed to be – shall we say – somewhat exaggerated.
The salary wizard is easy to use, and you can refine it down just about as far as you want. One limitation I find is that the job descriptions tend to be somewhat generic. For example, if you search for “accountant”, you will get results for titles such as “Accountant I”, “Tax Accountant III”, or “Financial Reporting Accountant II”. Those sound like internal corporate accounting descriptions, rather than the many diverse job titles that you will see in the real world. But like I say, you have to get as specific as possible in describing your position, and you may even have to improvise by going with the available job title that comes the closest to describing your position.
You can get plenty of information from the free version, including salary range, but the deeper information is available by paid subscription
Payscale is a more cumbersome system to use than most others. You have to complete information on several screens, after which it will ask you to establish an account and collect your email to send your report. The information is very specific, but it is neither quick nor does it give you the ability to adjust the details.
The upside is that if you complete the survey honestly, you will have a report that you may be able to take back to your employer to support your request for more money. If however you are looking for a general salary range, you’ll be better off using other sites.
There is no doubt that the requirement to subscribe, as well is to collect your email, is designed to put you on a mailing list. You can bypass this step. On the last page there is an option: No thanks…just send me my salary report, which will avoid you having to join the email list.
If you are on the higher end of the salary range, you may want to check out SalaryExpert. The site is aimed primarily at executives in upper management, but there’s a wealth of information for everyone else too.
One of the major benefits of SalaryExpert is that not only does it have information available for the job holder or job seeker, but it also has the capability to provide expert information for “Compensation Professionals”. That will enable you to see your salary from both sides of your employment.
The site also provides far more information than just salary range. Like the BLS website, it also provides enormous information on regional employment, including salary ranges in various metro areas. It also provides information on career research, including future projections of what your income will be in a given job classification.
The CBSalary site is CareerBuilder’s salary tool. The tool is quick and easy to use, and you can change details and locations as many times as you want. But since CareerBuilder is first and foremost a job board, the site is set up to get you to use it to conduct a job search, not necessarily a deep dive into the finer points of your current job or career field.
One thing to be careful of on the site are the ads that only look like they’re part of the actual site, when in fact they’re surveys looking to collect information so that they can interest you in an online degree program of some sort.
How to Use the Information
Before you ask your employer for a raise, or start looking for a new job because you feel you’re being underpaid, check out the going rate for your job on one or more of these sites first. And if you are being underpaid, these may give you the third party justification to ask for more money. Keep in mind, this information will vary across each tool. And there may be other factors that affect your salary. So don’t jump to conclusions if something doesn’t seem to add up right away. Try to look deeper into your situation, compare notes with friends or colleagues, and consider the total value of your compensation package, including your other pay and benefits.
You can also use the information in these tools to help you decide if a college degree will be worth it in the long run, or if you should continue down your current career path.