How much of a higher salary for lots of traveling?
December 27, 2011 8:31 PM   Subscribe

How much more should a job pay if a significant amount of travel is required? More details inside...

As a follow up to my previous question, I'm starting to hear back from companies. I have an upcoming interview and have no idea how much this position should pay (every phone screen I've had with other companies has ended with "and how much money do you want?"). Given that there will be a significant travel component, how much money should I want?

The job is located in the Boston area and involves thinking about technology, making strategic recommendations and briefing senior managers about my findings. The advertisement says that travel would be 20% of the time (but I don't know where I might be traveling yet). I have no idea about how the.y handle per diems, but I will ask.

What kind of salary should I be looking at and how much of a premium should I expect for all of that travel? As posted in my previous question, I have ten years of experience as a software engineer and two relevant master's degrees.
posted by taojones to Work & Money (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
20% travel is one day per week. At the risk of sounding like a jerk, which is not my intention, I would flat-out not hire someone who did not agree to that much travel without any special concessions; any professional engagement should cover flight, hotel, and food costs for employees on business.

Perhaps everything here is relative, but I travel up to 50% of the time and consider it light compared to the sales guys at my company. Key there is "up to", as I suspect may be the case here - many job postings call out a low number of travel days to indicate that occasionally the job will require you to hit the road.

Without knowing about the industry, position, and responsibilities, it is impossible to guess at your reasonable salary expectations. Maybe you can give a bit more detail?
posted by ellF at 8:40 PM on December 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

It's really hard to answer this question without knowing the industry to which you're applying.

Investment bankers with your level of experience and education could earn north of $1 million per year after all is said and done (salary + bonus), while a pharmaceutical sales rep could earn a couple hundred thousand, etc.

You should expect to be compensated in some form for the travel you'd have to do (either indirectly, such as being allowed to fly business or first-class and being put up in business class hotels or directly, in the form of more money.)

Suggestions would be to (1) talk to people in the industry(ies) you're targeting about compensation levels for people with your experience and educational background, (2) review for salary information, and (3) try to ferret out salary information via LinkedIn or a professional networking organization for your industry.
posted by dfriedman at 8:41 PM on December 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

there are jobs with a lot of travel that pay all over the map. Truckers do it for around $40-50K a year. Attorneys who travel make a lot more. I don't think this is the big driver in reasonable compensation. I think you just have to look at the potential check and decide if it's worth it.

I would focus more concern on how they handle travel expenses - company CC? monthly reimbursement? Are actual expenses covered, or some set amount that you can gain or lose on? Sounds like you're already thinking about that.

Depending on how much you consider travel a burden vs. a treat, also be aware that some companies (and employees for that matter) consider on the road time a perk and a financial incentive. You're eating out and traveling entirely on their dime, saving you food and transportation expenses. I did a brief stint as a recruiter, and actually had one candidate call me because her company was cutting her DOWN to about 80% travel from near 100%. I thought she was a little crazy, but...

I would also ask probing questions and if possible talk to people who are already there to make sure the company is shooting straight about their travel percentage, as companies are often dishonest about this (both under and over estimating it for various reasons).
posted by randomkeystrike at 8:42 PM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Nthing asking how they handle the finances. I've had to cover everything myself upfront when traveling for business, reimbursed within 6 weeks. I was naive when I started this gig and would never do that again--I've had to float expenses upwards of $3k at times. Don't offer your employers no-interest loans, which is what this sort of practice ends up as, with you footing the financing.
posted by smirkette at 9:03 PM on December 27, 2011 [4 favorites]

It's not the travel aspect of the job that will make it command higher pay, it's the making strategic recommendations to senior management part. Leave the discussion of more travel being tied to more compensation out of your discussion both pre- and post- job offer. You can include it in your personal calculations, but you'll net more money by not sounding like it's an issue for you.

That said, smirkette's question on financial logistics is a perfectly valid one to ask post-offer. Floating expenses can be alright from time to time (I've gotten some nice credit card rewards), but once I start traveling frequently for a job I always make sure I get a company credit card. This is good for their sake and for mine.
posted by deludingmyself at 10:14 PM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

I know in consulting the industry is moving away from paying a premium for travel. It used to be that this was factored into your bonus, but it is pretty much just an expectation that you will go where the work is these days.

Also, I think you should skip the per diem question, it sounds kind of tacky to me.
posted by dobie at 3:18 AM on December 28, 2011

If travel is undesirable to you then it might increase your internal calculation of how much you'd like to be paid to make the job attractive. In my organization, which is a technology company, 20% travel (one day a week or one week a month) wouldn't even be considered a "high travel" job and we don't pay any more for high travel jobs. I find that some people especially enjoy the travel aspect of jobs and some hate it. We try to find the people who love it to hire for the positions that are very frequently on the road. We don't find that we have to pay any more, however.
posted by Lame_username at 4:38 AM on December 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

20% travel does not sound "significant" to me, or at least not significant enough to warrant any sort of premium. I agree with the general consensus that the salary should be what you expect it to be, regardless of travel. This does not mean that you should discount the additional responsibility. Definitely ask them how they handle expenses, board and travel. If you have personal responsibilities (family, pets, etc) you should also ask how much notice you should expect to receive prior to travelling. Travelling a day a week or a week a month if you know a month in advance is fine. Booking last minute flights and arranging a pet-sitter the night before you leave, that sucks.
posted by like_neon at 5:18 AM on December 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Also - I don't see how asking for a per diem is tacky and it matters enough to ask. I used to work for an international company and some of us would get all our expenses reimbursed at the return of the trip. Others got a per diem so they did not get any compensation for food. Some got alcohol paid for, others didn't and still for others it depended on what receipt it was on (dinner at a restaurant, yes. Hotel room service, no.). It depended on what country they were located in and it makes a difference.

My main point is that your focus should not be about a premium on the salary. It should be on fully understanding what their compensation/reimbursement policy is and deciding if it works for you or not.
posted by like_neon at 5:23 AM on December 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

Also consider how predictable the travel is going to be. If you have notice a month in advance what days you're going to be out of town, it's pretty workable. If you're traveling one day a week but don't know which day it's going to be until the night before, that's going to suck.
posted by craven_morhead at 5:53 AM on December 28, 2011

You should only expect a premium compensation for travel if the amount of travel is unusual for the kind of job you are being offered, making the burden of travel not part of the prevailing salary, or if the travel budget policies are less than typical, making the burden of travel more.

It's hard to get a handle on the latter, of course, but I'd try, especially if the company is one which exhibits strong signs of penny pinching. You'd surely want a salarly premium if your company policy requires you to share hotel rooms, take mass transit to and from airports, has no or minimal meal reimbursement or per diem, requires you to fly to Asia in economy class, etc.
posted by MattD at 9:46 AM on December 28, 2011

I'll nth the notion that 20% travel is not a high amount of travel, when compared to "road warrior" type jobs.

There's some good advice upthread about what to be aware of, but I'd also caution that at the "business analyst" level in large consulting shops, many things mentioned might not be negotiable. So for instance, reimbursement policies (and timing) may be governed by the corporate policy, with your individual manager having almost no leeway to grant exceptions. Likewise, policies over business/first class travel and quality of accomodations may be governed by what the client will pay for, which could vary from client to client. And getting a per diem versus actual expenses may also be set in stone.

Your due diligence about a particular company's travel policies and culture can take many forms. The interview is certainly an appropriate place to get information, but I would be worried about coming across as too "high maintenance" or naive about business travel. There may be an opportunity for you to talk with people who would be your peers in the organization (in a similar role), that might be the best place to raise some of those questions -- although remember, even though they'd be your peers you're still interviewing. If you have connections with the organization through LinkedIn, alumni networks, professional organizations or whatnot that might be a better way to get a more informal opinion.

I'll also nth that besides actual policies, the nature of the travel plays a big role in how burdensome it is. Transcontinental versus domestic, major metropolitan versus rural, leave-on-a-minute's-notice versus planned, frequent overnighters versus sporadic week-long engagements -- it can make a huge difference.

A few years ago, I had a (very large, Fortune 100) client which had draconian travel policies, most notably, they required their in-house lawyer to take the bus (NOT the airport shuttle) from LaGuardia to midtown. It was insane, everyone knew it was insane. But would that policy, by itself, make someone turn down an otherwise good offer from that company? Hard to say, definitely keep the big picture in mind.
posted by QuantumMeruit at 11:10 AM on December 28, 2011

I work for a global trade association and travel a bit more than that. There's no uplift in my pay to reflect that and I know now that the hiring decision was a tight one. Had I made a fuss on that point, I know the next guy in line was in the frame. Just a thought.
posted by dmt at 1:03 PM on December 28, 2011

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