by Lisa McGrimmon
Understanding career salaries in your field is an important aspect of career management. Knowing typical salaries in your industry will help you to make more informed career choices, and that knowledge will also help you to negotiate your salary more effectively.
Unfortunately, our salaries are something that we just don't talk about in "polite company," so many people have no idea about what is reasonable to expect in terms of salary.
Luckily, this information is typically quite easy to find for free if you know where to look. If you are looking for salary information for the U.S., O*Net is a good place to start. Simply type your job title into the "Occupation Quick Search" box at the top right of the screen, and you will be taken to detailed information about that career including median wages.
For Canadian wage information, visit the Job Futures Site, type your job title into the box at the top left, and you will find information on average hourly earnings in your field.
For other countries, use a search engine and search for labor (or labour depending on how it's spelled in your country) market information and the name of your country. So, if you were looking for information about salaries in Australia, you'd do a search for labour market information Australia. Many countries have good government run websites with detailed salary and other career related information, and these sites are often the best place to start when you're looking for any kind of labor market information.
If you'd like more career salary information, simply search for job ads for similar positions in your local area. Of course many employers do not state salary information directly on their job ads, but some do include that information. Don't rely on salary information on just one ad. Be patient and continue to search for related job ads and compare the salaries noted on a few ads before you complete your research.
One final way to find career salary information is to contact employers directly and ask them. Admittedly, this is not the easiest way to find salary information, and depending upon your personality you may have to put aside some shyness before you make the calls, but it can be a very reliable way to determine typical career salary ranges in your industry and in your local area. This process of getting career information directly from employers is called an informational interview, and it can be a very valuable job search and career planning tool.
Keep in mind, if you are going to ask employers directly about salaries, you'll need to phrase your question in a way that's appropriate. Questions like, "How much do you make?" or "How much do you pay?" typically make people feel uncomfortable and will likely result in a vague answer. A better question to ask is, "What is the typical starting salary for someone in this line of work in the local area?" While the difference is subtle, this question is less personal and will typically get you the information you're seeking.
When you understand typical career salaries in your field and in your local area, you'll be in a much better position to negotiate effectively when you are offered a job and to make informed decisions when you are choosing a career. Spending a bit of time researching this information is a good investment in your future.