How much should I feel I should be paid?
June 26, 2009 11:31 AM   Subscribe

How do I determine how much I should be paid? Or perhaps, how do I determine how much I feel I should be paid? Long explanation, of course.

I know I am currently being grossly underpaid. I chose to be so. I started working for my current company in 2003 in a position not related to my experience, but my position was changed to match that experience a year later.

At first, I didn't mind the pay disparity because I wanted to work at a stable company when the next economic downturn happened, and boy am I glad I did.

I'm a LAMP developer, but I also know PERL and XML/XSLT. I've done coursework in JAVA and C++, but I've never had to use them in this position. While I'm not a front-end development rock star, I do know my way around JavaScript, HTML and CSS. From my perspective, I'm fairly run-of-the-mill as far as web developers go.

And I believe that is my problem -- I don't know how to gauge my skills against anyone else. I can't tell if I'm really run-of-the-mill or better than average or even beyond that or below that.

(See my profile for a link to my music project website, which I built almost from scratch. That reflects the kind of work of which I'm capable.)

I'm the only person in my department with these skills, and I build mostly internal tools -- nothing that's accessible to the public. In reality, my skill-level from around 2003 is more than enough for the department.

In reality, I don't think I've ever really known what a person with my skills ought to be making. I got into web development because I got sick of content production.

I paid for a personal salary report on, and according to that report, I'm making 43 percent less than the estimated minimum of what it says I should make in my market (Austin, TX).

I'm somewhat skeptical of this report, and this comment from a question in 2006 reinforces it a little. (That question is the closest I could find to mine when I searched. Also, I am not going to post my salary figure because I do not want to post anonymously.)

I don't feel I have a good perspective on what I'm making because I'm pretty much an island. In the context of my office, I feel like I ought to get top dollar, especially with all the glowing employee reviews I get. But I have friends who are far, far better -- and much more conscientious about development -- than I am.

In the distant future, I want to close the disparity in my pay, but first, I want to get a sense of how accurate -- or inaccurate -- my perception is.
posted by NemesisVex to Work & Money (5 answers total)
I used to find the reports to be a little on the high side when I was first starting out, but I don't think it was as wrong as I thought - I was just fairly underpaid, too. Nevertheless, the top-tier on (75 percentile and above) still seems exaggerated to me for most jobs.

Nevertheless, it sounds to me like you are trying (or worrying about) getting paid based on your skills. I don't think you should worry about that. You've been at the job long enough and gotten glowing reviews, so you are obviously capable of doing the job required of you. Therefore, you should find out what an appropriate salary for that job is, nevermind your skills. Case in point: even PhDs make minimum wage at McDonald's.

Long story short: if you are making less than the mean average reported on, you are most probably under paid, especially if you're getting glowing reviews.

However, getting a raise in this economy might be tricky, who knows. Good luck.
posted by mbatch at 11:49 AM on June 26, 2009

Also, on preview of the comment you link to, they were pointing out the inadequacies of the free data, not the paid data.. so if you paid for a report it is probably somewhat accurate.
posted by mbatch at 11:52 AM on June 26, 2009

mbatch has it -- you don't get paid for your skills. At best, you get paid for the job you do; your skills merely determine which jobs you can and can't get. Start looking at other jobs that you can do, find out what they pay, and decide whether you want to apply for them. If you get a better offer, your current employer may ante up to keep you.
posted by jon1270 at 12:08 PM on June 26, 2009

-Some people may not think this is very "ethical", but this is what I did to figure out my monetary worth to the company (although this was for freelance purposes, but whatever) Can you look on the workplace server and whether there are estimates given to companies for your work? You may find that there is a list for X hours towards project Y with your job title right next to it. Before you decide, though, that you are worth all that $, if you are employed full-time I noticed that most people were paid about one-third of that money (I guess the rest went towards keeping the lights on, equipment, the company gets a cut, etc.)

-What are your friends making (let's say your friends that have similar amount of experience, etc.) - that may also give you information. If they all make $100000 and you are making $75000. I know you said they are better at career development, etc. but sadly I don't think there is a correlation in the workplace with the amount of work you put into it or even how good you are with pay.

-If you want to push the amt you earn up and would consider walking to other pastures, you may want to contact a headhunter. I actually found that a few were honest with me and got me into a place that paid more. From the start, there was 1 or 2 that point blank told me....that I should be earning a ### with a certain background and that there were companies that would pay that amt.
posted by Wolfster at 12:10 PM on June 26, 2009 is a definite start.

Two years ago, I scheduled an appointment with my manager after I was provided what I felt was a unsatisfactory financial compensation package for my review. I walked into my manager's office with the following packet: My nearly flawless unsigned review, my salary history at my company, the estimated salary I would be working if I had not internally moved into my job (exempt vs. non-exempt, loss of overtime, skill set, etc), 6 different job descriptions from because my skills had changed (for the better) the scope of my job, and a list of increased essential-expenses.

I asked my manager about my performance and asked him about the value that he felt I had brought to the company. He made good comments, and asked what I would like as a salary. I politely deflected the question and asked him to describe my job description, and his view of how it was changing. Based on his description, I presented two of the 6 salary ranges. From that, I asked him about my job description, again, I presented to slightly different Salary ranges. In both cases, my questions and his clarifications lead to an increase in both average and base salary by their calculations. In both cases, there was a signifcant change from what my current salary was. I explained my vision for myself, for my job (I'm fircely loyal and definitely a company man) and for the future utility of my work. I then stated that I found myself in a hard position being grossly underpaid with little ability to reconcile my financial worth with either my past productivity or my future goals.

I then went into dangerous territory and outlined a portion of my expenses - something I am very hesitant to do with an employer; however, in this case I felt as though identifying my job as failing to meet a rising cost of living was essential. I explained that with the original proposed pay raise I had been presented with there was no way that I could plan properly for the future. More importantly, that to protect the things that were important to me, I would be forced to re-evaluate my loyalty - not because of disloyalty, but because of financial realities.

I walked out with multiple things: most importantly, the raise I wanted. I also walked out with a plan for future career growth, and what reasonable compensation (from both perspectives) would be over the next few years. I have my career milestones identified, some level of company respect, and the knowledge that any time pay is ever brought up in office chatter at work, my boss sites my preparedness as him being steamrolled with undisputable information.
posted by Nanukthedog at 1:18 PM on June 26, 2009 [2 favorites]

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