Is my salary holding me hostage?
August 22, 2012 1:48 PM   Subscribe

I have a job. It's a pretty good job and I've been around here for a while. Some recent changes (some at work, some in life) and some things that haven't panned out like I envisioned have me looking around. But in my brief survey of the landscape, I think I may be stuck here because the salary ranges in my area for the skills I have are around 30% lower than the ~$85k I make in my current situation, which would simply not work for my budget. What fields or opportunities might I be overlooking?

I'll stipulate that I may be limiting my horizons. I don't want to move and I want to keep my commute to a minimum.

My "marketable" skills are technical (software/web development), but I also have a background in the liberal arts/humanities. I've done some freelance/independent work as well. After spending too many years getting my act together, I have about four years of work experience in my early 30's.

I don't want to make my location too specific, but maybe it's sufficient to say I'm not in a "tech hotbed" like Silicon Valley, but I'm not in the wilderness either. There are a few fairly well-known companies headquartered in my city as well.

So, what are some fields/areas of expertise that I might not be considering right now? For instance, it's not programming or IT but I recently began looking at business analyst jobs because I enjoy working with data and I'm really good at database stuff.

Or is my better option to focus on increasing income from my independent work so that I can either take a lower salaried job or maybe not need a "job" at all?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (4 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I am sure mefites engaged in web development will have better, more specific suggestions.

But based on what I have seen - Software development can certainly pay $85k or significantly more per year (based on your specific skills, experience, location etc.). Your location makes a huge difference. So does the specific skill set that you have. Industry/domain experience can give you a bit more money.

Depending on what development skill you are starting with, you can try to develop expertise in a relatively higher-demand product. Product deployment skills tend to go up or down in demand/pay (usually in consulting space, but also in smaller end-user companies) depending on availability/demand/complexity. Assuming you are not passionate about staying in your particular platform, there may be specific product(s) that you can try to branch into that pay you at least as much.

Consulting usually pays more. But depending on your life circumstances, you may not want to travel.
posted by justlooking at 2:03 PM on August 22, 2012

This really isn't enough to go on for specifics, but in generalities...

85k is not an unreasonable salary for a mid to sr level developer. Is your specialty more niche? If your area has a higher unemployment rate then it may be those higher paying jobs don't make it to the listings. Are there networking opportunities for you? Places you're interested in working that you can reach out to?

Where are you looking? Are you focusing on a certain company/organization type? The disparity between education/nonprofit and private industry can be big. Maybe you need to focus on different types of companies.

Are you looking at specialty places like DICE and the Stack Exchange career listings?

Perhaps your current organization is paying you as a more sr level person because of your knowledge of the company's operations and your institutional memory. If that's so then you may have little alternative but to stick it out a while if you want to stay at that compensation level. Or you need to up your credentials so you are a more senior candidate.

I recently began looking at business analyst jobs

Are you already an analyst? If you're looking at positions that limit themselves to being a programming grunt - someone who is handed the specs and test plan and who hands it off to someone else when its done - then you may be seeing appropriate pay. A senior level programmer doesn't work in a vacuum. A fresh grad can grind out code based on sufficient hand-holding. If you want the higher salary then you need to bring the ability to design, work with users/customers.
posted by phearlez at 2:46 PM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

I would look at marketing & advertising agencies, too. If you already have freelance experience, they might see you as a potential new leader for their technology side. But phearlez makes all the good points.
posted by circular at 2:50 PM on August 22, 2012

You've done your own market analysis that says you're overpaid, and withheld enough information that we can't second guess you. I guess the information your asking for is where your title ranks in the salary scales. For that, we turn to the BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook, specifically, the table of Highest Paying Occupations. You can also look at the similar occupations data for web developers.

Basically, you need to consider management training. Or med school.
posted by pwnguin at 8:47 PM on August 23, 2012

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