How should you read the salary survey numbers?

Analyze This!

How should you read the salary survey numbers?

Few of us work for money alone, yet feeling that we’re being fairly compensated for our labors is key to overall job satisfaction. Add to that the secretive nature of most people’s salaries, and… Hence, the popularity of MCP Magazine’s annual compensation survey. For this issue, we sent email messages to 25,000 MCPs throughout the U.S., sending you to a secured Web site to tell us what you do, where you do it, how long you’ve done it, what certifications you hold, and what you’re paid.

I love hearing from readers on any topic, and our salary survey generates plenty of mail all year long. You write to ask for more detail, to tell me that you distrust the survey methods, that you want international numbers, that you need salary ranges for your particular city or title combination—and finally, to either refute or confirm our numbers based on your own observations. With your top comments in mind from last year, here are some tips on getting the most out of our salary numbers.

  • The averages we tout in the main story are just that. While they’re interesting in an industry-wide sense, they’re probably of little direct value to your situation. Why? Because individual salaries are so influenced by factors like years of experience, location, certifications, job responsibilities, technical specialties, and even your negotiating skills. For more detailed numbers broken down by major metropolitan areas, job titles, size of company, and more, go to the main article and click on any of the regional charts listed in the menu.
  • Don’t rely on our survey alone. There’s a growing number of (free) technical salary surveys out there. We list a number of them in the "Additional Information" box at the end of the Salary Survey. Use them too. Compare the numbers. Come to your own conclusions about the worth of your titles and experience in the IT marketplace.
  • Your certifications are one factor in determining compensation. For example, don’t overlook the tie between experience and pay. That would be like overlooking a brick in your eye, but people do it. “How much should an MCSE make?” I get asked. Well, how much should a CEO make? The answer is just about as applicable.

Now go ahead and send me your personal take on our 1999 survey. Is it helpful? Were you able to find useful numbers that fit your situation? How can we make it better? I’m at

About the Author

Linda Briggs is the founding editor of MCP Magazine and the former senior editorial director of 101communications. In between world travels, she's a freelance technology writer based in San Diego, Calif.


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