Show me the money

Denise Wright

Jamie Bloss plans on being a librarian. Her career choice probably won’t make her much money, but she said she’s OK with that.

“To be realistic, I should probably care more (about my future salary),” said Bloss, a sophomore English major. “But I just want to be able to make enough to live comfortably – own a house, a dog, buy the food I like.”

PayScale.com provides workers and soon-to-be job-hunters like Bloss with an immediate snapshot of their specific field based on a range of information they put in.

“We recommend our site because it is the only (online) place to get salary data that takes all compensation influencers into account: Location, job title, job responsibilities, level of experience, type and size of employer and education skills,” Al Lee, director of qualitative analysis for PayScale.com, said in an e-mail. “These details are essential for determining an accurate market value of an employee, and PayScale is the only free salary report that provides this level of specificity.”

After providing these “compensation influencers,” users can view their individual salary report, which includes a salary range, expected vacation, health benefits and anonymous profiles of users who are in the same field and provided similar information.

Lee said PayScale.com has accumulated more than 14 million user profiles since its launch in 2002. PayScale staff members use these profiles to compile and report salary information on the site.

“PayScale staff performs a number of checks and analyses to ensure that the data is accurate,” Lee said.

He also said more than 25 tests are performed on the data. Extreme outliers, such as an 18-year-old who reports having 10 years of experience, are removed from analyses.

“Compensation professionals usually recommend using more than one source (to find salary ranges), no matter what the source,” Lee said. “But our data is reliable and accurate and measures up with other salary sources.”

Experts weigh in

Experts across the board agreed that PayScale.com could be used as a tool, but not “the tool” for salary information.

“I think it’s a great idea, but the reliability is going to depend upon how much information they get,” said Sam Maniar, management psychologist for PRADCO, which provides human resource services. “I would bet this (site) appeals to younger job seekers right now, and if those are the people who are putting in information, you would assume their salary would be less than someone who’s more established in the field.”

Maniar said both the age factor and the fact that the site only draws information from its members probably leads to a skewed average salary as well as a lack of input overall.

Jane Beckett-Camarata, assistant professor in political science, said she thinks the site would be somewhat useful for younger students, but said she finds it less useful for seniors at Kent State.

“The site helps to generally see what’s out there, but it’s not specific enough to help with the decision in choosing a job,” she said. “It’s one resource.”

But Beckett-Camarata was quick to recommend other resources.

She said she thinks students would be better off taking advantage of internships. Interning students could talk to employees who hold positions in which they’re interested, she said.

Beckett-Camarata also said students can talk to professors who know of employers, or they can talk to representatives at Career Services.

Honey Wess, director of account services at Alliance Staffing Solutions, agreed students would benefit from going to Career Services or calling local staff agencies.

“Quite honestly, with the little bit of interaction I’ve had with looking at the site, I’m not really an advocate for it,” Wess said. “I think it’s a little diluted and misguiding, and I think there are better tools out there.”

Ralph Lindeman, associate professor in business and accounting technologies at the Geauga campus, agreed with Wess’ statement about the Web site being diluted. He said he thinks the profile that members are required to fill out asks for unnecessary information.

Both Maniar and Beckett-Camarata, on the other hand, said they liked the more detailed questions because it provided information about benefits as well as salary in relation to location.

At any rate, Beckett-Camarata said students shouldn’t be too concerned about salary.

They need to focus on their unique skill set, such as writing and communication skills, flexibility and adaptability, she said.

“Employers are looking for people who can come in and do the job with the least amount of training,” she said.

Contact features reporter Denise Wright at [email protected]