Salary Guide

Your salary is not determined randomly, but through research. With your job description in hand, your company researches your work against comparable jobs in the industry and functional area. The human resources department has access to in-depth studies of compensation in various industries through many sources. The industry average for your job is extremely important in setting the midpoint of your salary grade. This is why it is crucial for you to begin with the right job description.

Salary Grades
The classification system most companies use assigns a grade to each job, often in order from entry level to CEO, with the numbering usually starting at 3 or 4 for psychological reasons. A few companies number the jobs in reverse order, where the CEO and president are a 1 or 2, the Executive Vice President a 3, and so on.

In addition to a number, each job also has a salary range whose midpoint is approximately the industry average or median determined by the employer. The range extends usually 20 percent above and below the midpoint for most jobs, and sometimes closer to 15 percent for jobs that pay less.

Most companies aspire to pay employees, on average, at the salary midpoint for their jobs. Some pay 5 to 10 percent less than the midpoint and make up the rest in variable pay such as bonuses, while others (in industries such as investment banking, consumer products, and the Internet) pay higher than the industry average in base compensation to attract the best talent.

Your company probably wants to offer you about 90 percent of the midpoint in your grade. However, you want more. Directly or indirectly, you can probably figure out the midpoint and range of your grade. Some companies will tell their employees this information.

What Type of Salary Should You Expect
The minimum of the pay range means the least skill or proficiency is necessary to perform the functions of the job. The more proficient you get in your job, the closer you move to the median or middle of the range. If you are fully proficient and can perform a job with little or no training, you should target the middle of the range.

If you have several years of experience performing a job and not only are fully proficient, but also can direct and lead the work of others, then you might target your salary above the middle of the range. If you have little or no experience, you should question whether the job is worth applying for. The company will expect you to perform at some level and if you can't meet their expectations you will be setting yourself up to fail unless the company is willing to provide you with some initial training.

Below are some general pay scales for popular positions in the administrative field in the Washington Metropolitan area.

Positions Lower half Median base salary Top half
Executive Secretary $34,500 $39,025 $44,900
File Clerk $16,910 $20,580 $23,439
Mail Clerk $18,035 $21,939 $25,384
Receptionist $21,983 $24,564 $28,873
Secretary I $24,539 $27,892 $30,389
Data Entry Clerk $19,325 $21,874 $26,341
General Clerk $18,233 $20,456 $24,310
(This data is as of January 2004)  

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