Salary Wizard help topics

Throughout this section, terms in italics are defined in the compensation glossary.

Using the Salary Wizard

Selecting a job category
Entering ZIP Code/metropolitan area
Selecting a job title and generating a report
Doing an advanced job title search
Choosing a search term
Comparing jobs
Researching related jobs

Calculating benefits

Frequently asked questions

How can both employers and employees use these results?
Where does the data in the Salary Wizard come from?
How do I know if a job title is appropriate or accurately reflects my job responsibilities?
Can adjustments be made for some specific skills I have?
What do levels I, II, and III mean?
Why can't I find my job in the Salary Wizard?
What is the difference between median and average?
Why is the result from the Salary Wizard so much higher/lower than I expected?
How many job titles does the Salary Wizard contain?

Compensation glossary

The use of this data

Using the Salary Wizard

Selecting a job category

Select the appropriate job category by clicking on the selection in the drop-down box. Your choice of job category will determine which job titles and related resources are returned for you choose from in the next step. The use of job categories makes it easier to navigate among the hundreds of job titles listed in the Salary Wizard. The Salary Wizard defaults to the first job category if none is selected. [return to top]

Choosing a location

You can narrow your salary search to a geographic area by typing in a ZIP Code or by selecting the metropolitan area from a menu. If you enter both, the ZIP Code will take precedence. The Salary Wizard will default to the U.S. national average if you make no selection. [return to top]

Selecting a job title and generating a report

Select the job title for which you would like to generate a salary report, then click on the button that says “Create Salary Report.” The Salary Wizard defaults to the first job in the category if none is selected. [return to top]

Doing an advanced job title search

The advanced job title search lets you search on all job titles in the database and on the alternative names associated with the job titles. If you can’t find a job that you think should be in the database, you can type in a word or a part of a word and the Salary Wizard will return all matching job titles. [return to top]

Choosing a search term

The search function performs a wildcard search through all the job titles and alternative job titles in all job categories. For example, if you type in “senior,” you will see all job titles and alternative job titles with the word “senior” in them. The same job will show up multiple times, since there are many alternative names for each job title. The best way to use the search is to type in the fewest characters that contain meaningful information for the search. [return to top]

Comparing jobs

The Salary Wizard lets you compare a job title and location to other jobs in three ways. You can compare the current data to the U.S. national average for the same job; to the same job in a different metropolitan area; or to a related job (that is, another job in the same job category) in the same location. The comparison will use the current setting - either base salary or total compensation. [return to top]

Researching related jobs

The related jobs section creates a new salary report with the selected related job as the base job title. The new report will provide information on base salary, no matter what the current settings are. [return to top]

Calculating benefits's benefits calculator puts a value on what your employer spends on your total compensation based on typical practices at various income levels. Your employer's cost includes base salary, bonuses, and benefits. The numbers shown in the Salary Wizard benefits report represent the annual dollar amount paid by typical employers for each benefit shown. These are company-paid benefits only, reflecting broad-based benefits - those benefits available to all employees. Benefits covered include the following, which are defined in the glossary.

  • Social Security
  • 401(k) and 403(b) plans
  • Disability insurance
  • Healthcare
  • Pension
  • Time off

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Frequently asked questions

Question. How can both employers and employees use these results?

Answer. The goal of the Salary Wizard is to provide timely, reliable, useful compensation data. The Salary Wizard offers information on a spectrum of job titles in the United States, from entry-level to CEO. The Salary Wizard allows you to compare your salary against the market competitive rate of pay for your job. Use this information to develop an accurate picture of what your experience and skills are worth, in monetary terms, in or outside your company. All salaries are expressed in U.S. dollars.

The role of a human resources (HR) professional is to attract, motivate, and retain competent employees. To be successful, an HR representative relies on available market data to determine appropriate pay levels for the jobs in his or her company. So when you apply for a job or go after a promotion, the HR professional goes out into the market place to benchmark your job to one commonly found outside the company.

A benchmark job tells your HR representative what the market is willing to pay for certain skill sets. Normally, a company will pay you the competitive market rate reflected in a benchmark job if you have all the necessary skills to perform the job. If your salary is above the median value, your company is probably pursuing an aggressive competitive pay practice. However, most companies tend to pay their employees at the median or slightly below it. One way to determine how competitive your salary is relative to the market is to divide your salary by the median salary in the Salary Wizard.

Employee Current Salary Salary Wizard's median salary Market competitve ratio
Employee 1 $10,000 $10,100 0.99
Employee 2 $20,000 $20,000 1.00
Employee 3 $15,000 $17,000 0.88
Employee 4 $30,000 $40,000 0.75

The table indicates that employee 2’s salary is the most competitive salary, while employee 4 has the least competitive salary. [return to top]

Question. Where does the data in the Salary Wizard come from?

Answer.The Salary Wizard is an interactive database of compensation information. It includes data on more than 1,000 different job titles. The data it includes is intended to provide a reasonable range for typical cash compensation earned by the typical person working in that job - the data used to develop the pay levels shown in the Salary Wizard are based on the pay practices of companies of all industries, companies of all sizes, and companies from all around the United States.

Every job in the Salary Wizard has been thoroughly researched and validated by's team of compensation consultants who have combined experience of over 40 years in the compensation and statistical analysis fields. Select salary data -gathered from multiple salary sources including surveys, purchased surveys from well-recognized, reputable compensation consulting firms, and government sources- is analyzed and benchmarked by extracting and reporting the market salary data for each position. To ensure jobs are appropriately matched, our analysts benchmark the jobs based on job content, not job title. Note, all data used in researching salary levels for the Salary Wizard has been reported by human resource professionals. does not use or collect any salary information from individual site users, placement agencies, job postings, nor any other unreliable sources.

The research database includes information on more than 1.3 million incumbents and 5,000 companies. Most jobs in the Salary Wizard are based on 100 or more incumbent salaries.

The salary data is presented in two pieces: base pay and total cash compensation (base pay plus annual incentives). The market pay level is based on the median, or 50th percentile, of all salaries reported for a given job. This represents the midpoint of the competitive market rate for that job. To provide perspective of scope and distribution of pay amounts, the Salary Wizard also shows the range around the median that includes the half of the people in that job who are paid closest to the market median - excludes the lowest 25% and the highest 25% by pay.

Results for each piece are displayed in a graph to show visually this "inter-quartile range." The minimum of the range is the 25th percentile, which means only 25% of salaries reported for a particular job fall below this level; the maximum of the range is the 75th percentile, which means that 75% of all salaries reported for that job fall below this amount (i.e., 25% fall above this amount).

Although the data sources are the most recent available, the numbers are modified by applying an aging factor to adjust the data to a common date and to accommodate the movement of salaries over time. Not all salaries move at the same rate. For instance, in the last few years, salaries in the information technology field have increased much faster than salaries in other jobs (5%-15% for IT versus 2%-5% in general). Therefore, IT salaries are adjusted at a higher rate than non-IT jobs. The date of the data is the common date to which all data has been aged.

The Salary Wizard calculates the total cash compensation for every job in its database. The distribution of the data is presented in the same way as base pay. Total compensation includes all bonuses, incentives, and commissions.

Base compensation
Minimum Average Median Maximum average
$31,584 $35,024 $39,285
Total cash compensation
Minimum Average Median Maximum average
$31,847 $35,528 $40,005

The median base compensation for an Accountant I is $35,024, while total compensation is $35,528. The data indicates that the average bonus for an Accountant I is $504, approximately 1.43 percent of base pay. This result suggests that someone working at this level is less likely to receive substantial compensation beyond base pay. [return to top]

Question. How do I know if a job title is appropriate or accurately reflects my job responsibilities?

Answer. A job title is a quick way of describing a collection of tasks, responsibilities, and duties. Normally, a job title is not the most constructive way to determine the actual responsibilities of that job. It’s always best to read the job description, which covers the skills, experience, and knowledge needed to perform the job. Nevertheless, there are situations when a job title alone may be sufficient to determine your pay level. For instance, the title Accountant I implies that it’s an entry-level job, which means the incumbent may have little or no experience in accounting. [return to top]

Question. Can adjustments be made for some specific skills I have?

Answer. Currently, the trend in HR is to pay for performance, or rather pay for competencies used to perform a job. Several years ago, employers typically rewarded employees for longevity and not for how well they actually did their job. Today, companies are willing to pay a premium for scarce skill sets. This is most evident in the information technology industry, where the difficulty in finding people with certain sets of skills has led to enormous increases in salaries. In most cases, years of experience is becoming less important than competency.

Similarly, having an advanced degree such as an MBA does not guarantee an increase to your salary. Employers are only willing to pay you more money for a degree if it gives you additional skills and knowledge that make you more competent in your job. Consequently, the data in the Salary Wizard has not been adjusted to accommodate advanced education, unless it is a requirement of the job. [return to top]

Question. What do levels I, II, and III mean?

Answer. The Salary Wizard uses three levels to distinguish the level of skill, knowledge, and responsibility needed to perform a job within a given job family. Generally, a level I represents 0 to 2 years of experience; level II requires 2 to 4 years of experience; and level III is 4 years of experience and above. These levels may differ according to discipline or functional area. [return to top]

Question. Why can't I find my job in the Salary Wizard?

Answer. is continually adding new jobs to the Salary Wizard. If you can't find your job title, simply drop us a line and we will make sure the most popular jobs get to the top of the list. [return to top]

Question. What is the difference between median and average?

Answer. Both the average (also known as mean) and the median are measures of central tendency. The median discounts extreme data points and measures only by the middle value. Consequently, the Salary Wizard uses the median salary, because it describes the typical pay for a given job. [return to top]

Question. Why is the result from the Salary Wizard so much higher/lower than I expected?

Answer. The key to using Salary Wizard is to match your position correctly to one of its jobs. The Salary Wizard displays the data from minimum to maximum. Your salary will between those two points based on your level of experience and your performance on the job. Since people's performance levels and proficiency differ, the Salary Wizard does not adjust its data based on experience levels or presumed performance. However, the less experience you have in a job, the more likely your salary is to fall between the minimum and the median. If you have had many years of experience in a particular job, and your performance has either met or exceeded your company's expectations, you are more likely to find your salary at or above the median. The Salary Wizard is a representation of a typical person in a given job. Your actual pay might be different for any of a variety of reasons. For example, the size of the company you work for might contribute to this. For a more detailed discussion, please review our methodology section. [return to top]

Question. How many job titles does Salary Wizard contain?

Answer. As of January 2011, the Salary Wizard lists salaries for more than 4100 job titles. More jobs are added every month. [return to top]


Compensation glossary
The following terms relate to the Salary Wizard. A more comprehensive glossary of business and HR terms that apply to individual employees is also available at

25th percentile. In the Salary Wizard, the 25th percentile represents the range of data points less than or equal to 25 percent of the salary data distribution, and is synonymous with the minimum. [return to top]

75th percentile. In the Salary Wizard, the 75th percentile represents the range of data points less than or equal to 75 percent of the salary data distribution, and is synonymous with the maximum. [return to top]

401(k) and 403(b) plans. Section 401(k) of the Internal Revenue Code allows employees to contribute to retirement plans. This code section has now become the de facto common name of a specific type of retirement plan. These tax-deferred saving plans allow employees to contribute by deferring compensation; these contributions may accumulate interest until disbursements are made. The interest and often the contributions are tax-deferred.

Nonprofit organizations have similar plans known as 403(b)s or TIAA-CREF plans.

Employers often make additional contributions to these retirement plans. Employer contributions often match some or all of the employee's contributions. Employer matching is usually between 25 cents and a dollar for each dollar the employee contributes to the retirement account, up to a preset limit.

Because employer matching functions like an instant guaranteed return of 25 to 100 percent on your money, an eligible employee at a company that provides a retirement plan should take advantage of this benefit. Including the employer's contribution to a 401(k) or 403(b) plan when calculating total compensation is important, since it is another amount of money you are receiving from your employer. [return to top]

Aging factor. A percentage that represents the adjustment for pay increases for a specific period of time. [return to top]

Average. The sum of a list of data points divided by the number of data points. [return to top]

Base salary. The fixed pay an employee receives that does not change due to performance or results achieved. [return to top]

Benchmark. An internal job matched to an external job of similar content. [return to top]

Bonus. A payment or reward given to an employee, a team, a division, or an entire company, because of performance. Bonuses can be paid as cash, but also as stock options, shares, or other valuable things. [return to top]

Central tendency. A statistical term that describes data clustering around a central value in a distribution, usually determined by the mean, mode, or median. [return to top]

Commission. An amount paid to a salesperson for a sale, usually expressed in terms of percentage of sales. [return to top]

Date of the data. The date to which the data in the Salary Wizard is aged. See also aging factor. [return to top]

Disability insurance. Some employers offer short-term and long-term disability insurance (STD and LTD) to eligible employees. If you are away from work for an extended period due to an injury or a maternity leave, you will receive partial income through your employer's disability insurance programs.

Short-term disability coverage usually does not begin until an eligible employee has been out of work for five to ten consecutive days. A typical plan might pay a disabled employee 80 to 100 percent of base salary for the first 10 to 30 days away from work, then 50-75 percent thereafter. STD normally covers a maximum of 180 days.

Long-term disability policies usually pay benefits for a few years, up until the age of 65 in some cases. Coverage usually begins after the short-term disability coverage period ends.

Because the company often pays the entire premium, or pays the premium up to a certain amount of coverage, it is important to add disability insurance when calculating the value of your total compensation package.

Discretionary bonus. A reward given out at the employer’s discretion, often as a result of skipping or ignoring the process of setting goals, monitoring performance against them, etc. [return to top]

External job. A job outside the employing organization. [return to top]

Geographic differential. A number used to pinpoint the difference in salary levels for two regions or cities. The U.S national average typically has a value of 100.0, as it is usually the point of comparison. For example, at a salary of $30,000, Dallas, Texas, has a geographical differential of 95.0, which means this salary is 95 percent of the national average. [return to top]

Healthcare. Healthcare benefits are perhaps one of the most important benefits companies offer employees through subsidies. Typical coverage includes medical insurance and dental insurance. If your company is large and well established, your health benefits may also include vision care, prescription drug benefits, and counseling services.

Whatever the plan - individual, individual plus one, or family coverage in an HMO, PPO, or indemnity plan - employers often pay a significant portion of the costs. You usually still pay something for healthcare coverage, but it is a small amount compared to what your employer pays.

The company's contribution reported in the Salary Wizard is based on what a typical employee receives. acknowledges that users have different healthcare plans - individual, individual plus one, or family coverage. The Salary Wizard uses an average number somewhere between the costs for an individual and the costs of family coverage. [return to top]

HR. Human resources. The personnel department. [return to top]

Human resources. HR. The personnel department. [return to top]

Incentive. This is more or less a synonym for bonus, commission, or other pay that depends on performance. [return to top]

Incumbent. A person doing a job; the employee. [return to top]

Instant incentive. A reward (bonus) on the spot for a particular achievement. [return to top]

Internal job. A job within the employing organization. See also external job. [return to top]

Job category. A collection of similar jobs that can be found in a variety of industries. An accountant, for instance, can be found in accounting, banking, or financial services. Within each job category are a number of job titles. [return to top]

Market competitive ratio. A person’s salary divided by the Salary Wizard’s median salary. [return to top]

Maximum. In the Salary Wizard, the highest salary level for a particular job; synonymous with the 75th percentile. [return to top]

Mean. The simple arithmetic average from a set of numbers. [return to top]

Median. The item in the middle when a set of data points is ranked from the lowest to the highest, so that there is an equal number of data points below and above it. [return to top]

Minimum. In the Salary Wizard, the lowest salary level for a particular job; synonymous with the 25th percentile. [return to top]

National average. In the Salary Wizard, an average of all salaries encompassing the United States for certain jobs. Also the point of comparison for geographic differentials used to determine a specific salary for a particular city and/or region. [return to top]

Pension. A pension plan is a retirement plan that pays a fixed monthly amount each year during retirement, like an annuity. The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) does not require employers to provide pension plans, but does set the minimum standards for those employers who offer pension plans.

Companies pay a specified amount in benefit to employees, otherwise known as a defined benefits plan. The amount is calculated with a formula that may include salary, years of service, and a fixed percentage. Most pension plans allow employees to start claiming the benefits at age 65.

A pension plan offers retired employees stability because the benefits are defined by a formula, rather than being subject to investment performance risks as in a 401(k) plan.

Because your employer probably pays the full cost of your pension plan (if you have one), pension plan benefits are an important component of the total compensatio package. Your own Summary Plan Descriptions (SPDs) or the plan document will tell you how much pension you accrue for your service. [return to top]

Social Security. Social Security is a complicated benefit program sponsored by the U.S. federal government. Often noted as FICA (Federal Insurance Contribution Act) on your paystub, Social Security covers three benefits: disability, retirement, and Medicare. The FICA taxes you pay out of your paycheck and your employer's matching payment help fund these three programs.

The Social Security tax is a flat rate of 12.4 percent, the cost of which is shared evenly between employers and employees. In other words, for the year 2015, the employee pays 6.2 percent of the first $118,500 of a worker's annual pay and the employer pays the same 6.2 percent of the first $118,500 of a worker's annual pay. In addition, Employers and employees each pay 1.45 percent on all pay for Medicare costs. Altogether, if your pay is below the Social Security Taxable Wage Base ($118,500 in 2015), you pay 7.65 percent of your payroll income to FICA taxes.

Here are two examples of how FICA taxes work. If your annual income is $30,000, you will contribute $2,295 (7.65 percent of $30,000) to Social Security. Your employer will pay $2,295 (7.65 percent of $30,000) thus bringing the total contribution to $4,590. If your annual earned income is $300,000, your Social Security contribution is $7,347 (6.2 percent of the first $118,500) plus $4,350 (1.45 percent of $300,000) for a total of $11,697. Your employer will also pay the same $11,697 (6.2 percent of the first $118,500 plus 1.45 percent of $300,000) generating a total of $23,394.

If you are self-employed (an independent contractor, business owner, partner in a partnership, etc.), you are responsible for paying both the employee and employer halves of the Social Security contribution. [return to top]

Time off. Companies offer paid time off in the form of vacations, holidays, personal leave, and sick days. Typically, employees receive two to four weeks of vacation plus 10 to 12 holidays yearly. Companies also grant between one and four personal days, while sick days can vary from five to 15 days a year. Some companies have written policies that include paid time off for election, bereavement leave, military service, and jury duty.

Because you are paid even though you are not working, paid time off is a significant component of your "hidden paycheck" and can increase the value of your total compensation.

A portion of your employer's cost for this time off is included in your base salary, but does not represent the full cost of this benefit. When an employee takes paid time off, the employer continues to pay that employee and either pays another person to take on that employee's work or suffers a loss in productivity and associated soft costs for the days the employee is out. [return to top]

Total cash compensation. The overall cash payments made to an employee for his or her services during a given year. [return to top]


The use of this data accepts no liability for any loss or inconvenience arising from the use of the Salary Wizard. The Salary Wizard is provided at no cost to the user, and is for informational purposes only. Salary Wizard reserves the right to revise the data without notice.

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