Statistics can be boring—even salary statistics. But we know that the first thing you're going to do is flip
through this survey, find the job title that most closely matches yours in the industry that most closely matches yours and see how your salary compares. If you come out on the short end, you
might try to find a reason that makes you feel more comfortable with the idea that you aren't paid enough; we call this "cognitive dissonance." You could do this by looking at the regional
differences charts on pages 26 and 27 of the PDF file, which you can download using the link at the top of this page, or the industry comparisons table on pages 24 and 25. If you end up ahead of
the curve, you may be tempted to drop this issue on the desk of your least favorite lower-paid colleague and talk about how great this survey is; we call this "passive aggression." (It helps to
put a little tick mark next to each of your titles.)
Fun with statistics aside, the real goal of this year's survey is not so much to give you a yardstick by which to compare
yourself to your colleagues or give you leverage with your boss, but to provide a snapshot of the quality profession as a whole and to point out general information that might be useful in an
interview or in planning your next career-enhancing move.
For example, if you're a woman, it wouldn't hurt to read the section on the gender-based salary gap and how things
haven't really changed since Quality Digest's last salary survey in 1996. If you're planning to hang your hat in another part of the country, you might want to look at regional salary
differences. Or maybe you want to work in a different industry; some definitely pay more than others. Have you been thinking about furthering your education or getting a specialized certificate?
If so, take a look at the salary by certification chart in the PDF file, which you can download using the link at the top of this page
Whatever your future goals, we hope this
survey provides some of the information you need to steer your career.
That darn glass ceiling
The new millennium hasn't brought any changes as far as pay
discrepancies between men and women are concerned. Men are still paid more than women, regardless of years of experience, education or years at the
company. This is true for managers and executives as well as those in technical positions. Looking at the difference between men's and women's salaries across
years of experience, we see a difference of anywhere from 3 percent to 19 percent (which is only marginally better than it was six years ago). In 1996, the
same gap ranged from 6 to 19 percent. It's most pronounced in those men and women with zero to five years of experience, where the difference in salary
ranges from 14 to 19 percent. For those with six to 20 years of experience, the gap drops significantly (3 to 6 percent). But it pops back up to about 17 percent
for those with more than 20 years of experience. There is less disparity in Western states, with men and women almost at parity. In fact, female
respondents from Western states often earn more than their male counterparts with the same amount of experience. Although the gender gap in the quality
industry still exists, it's much better than the average U.S. male-female salary gap, which is around 24 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics ( www.bls.gov ).
The ratio of women to men in management and executive positions has increased to about 1 in 4, compared to six years ago when the ratio was 1 in 6. The ratio of
women to men in executive positions alone has remained the same at about 1 in 5.
As we have seen in the past, quality professionals in Western and
Northeastern states tend to have higher average salaries—$72,200 and $71,000 respectively—than those in the Southern and North Central states, which have
average salaries of $65,800 and $63,800 respectively. Although this is probably attributable strictly to regional economics, it could also be related to the types of
industries that dominate those regions. The majority of higher paying high-tech industries are concentrated in the East and West, whereas the preponderance of
major manufacturing is centered in the Central and Southern states.
If you ever need to prove a point to your children about the value of going to college, just share with them the following: Although salaries for those with high
school or GED, vocational/technical training and two-year degrees are comparable (roughly $55,000), an extra two years of hitting the books will
increase your salary by 22 percent, or $12,000. That's enough to buy a new car. Spend an extra two years to get a master's degree and your salary averages
$81,275, an increase of $26,000 compared to what you can expect with just a high school education (and enough to purchase a new sports utility vehicle).
The importance of a college education is most pronounced in technical jobs; our survey shows an average salary of around $48,400 for those with less than a
four-year degree to about $67,700 for those with a master's or doctorate, a 40-percent difference. Executives with less than a four-year degree can expect to
earn about $82,200, compared to $102,500 for those with a master's or doctorate, a 25-percent difference. For managers the difference is $56,400 for
less than a four-year degree to $75,600 for a master's or doctorate, a 34-percent difference.
What does all this mean for a person who is already working? Check with your
human resources department; many companies encourage employees to increase their education by giving them more flexible hours in order to attend classes or
sometimes even subsidizing tuition costs if the education is directly related to your job. Although going to school part time can be difficult, you become a more
valuable asset to your company, for which they will usually pay. If they won't, others probably will.
Change can be good
While we're on the subject, it's probably no secret to most people
that one of the quickest ways to increase your salary is to change companies. Our survey bears this out. Looking at the salary levels vs. experience in the Salary by
Job Title and Region table on pages 26 and 27 of the PDF file, which you can download using the link at the top of this page, it's apparent that the most recent
hires earn more than employees with longer employment at that company. Salaries break even somewhere between five and 10 years. You have probably
even experienced this yourself learning that a new hire with the same qualifications as yourself is earning more.
The reason is that in a good job market, companies will woo a prospect with valuable skills. The current market price for good employees is often higher than
what the same employee would be paid after several years with the same company. Once hired, employees find that salary increases are locked in by
salary caps, salary levels (e.g., steps or grades), increase caps and so forth.
Increasing your education and gaining certificates can make you more valuable as
a new hire than it does as an existing employee, but there is a downside. Too much job hopping can look bad on a résumé. But for younger workers, an
obvious trend on the résumé that shows the potential new hire has been gaining education and moving up the ladder (say from assembler to test technician to
associate engineer) shows the employer that you're excited about your line of work and are willing to do what it takes to be the best at your job.
Don't fear change, but do it wisely.
If you're wondering whether pursuing an ASQ certificate is worth
your while, the answer is yes. Our survey indicates that ASQ certification can enhance your personal bottom line.
Depending on your job title (see the table on pages 24 and 25 of the PDF file, which you can download using the link at the top of this page), holding an ASQ
certificate could mean anywhere from a 3- to 10-percent higher salary. In the table on page 23, we have looked at the value of holding an ASQ certificate
while working in one of several functional areas.
In most departments, having an ASQ certificate works to your benefit. We're
not sure why the manufacturing category so dramatically showed the opposite. One possible explanation is that "manufacturing" is a very broad term,
encompassing a lot of disciplines, which could have muddied the results. It seems unlikely that an ASQ certificate would actually harm you.
Another interesting observation is that although at least 75 percent of our respondents (and possibly more) are quality professionals, only about half have
an ASQ certificate, despite the fact that it could increase their salary.
Unlike ASQ certification, which shows value no matter where you are, any
salary benefits derived from Six Sigma training would most likely be evident only in companies that are implementing Six Sigma. As we pointed out in our Six
Sigma survey in the November 2001 issue, Six Sigma is primarily used in large companies. In order to properly examine the impact of Six Sigma training on
salary levels, one would have to compare salaries from like positions only from companies that are implementing Six Sigma. Because there's no way to stratify
our data that way, there's no point in trying to draw any conclusions here. Common sense dictates that if your company is pursuing Six Sigma, it will
probably compensate its Six Sigma practitioners more than the others. Your human resources director will be able to answer that question.
Quality Digest contacted more than 33,000 subscribers by e-mail and
invited them to take the salary survey online. Of those 33,000, we received more than 3,200 responses. Weeding out invalid or incomplete responses, there were
2,775 from the United States and 186 responses from Canada, which became the basis for our analysis.
Because of the relatively small amount of Canadian responses, we were only
able to do a broad analysis of Canadian salaries. Therefore, regional and industry breakdowns were not performed for Canadian participants.
More than 75 percent of the respondents indicated that they were quality professionals (the actual percentage is probably higher). For the rough
breakdown of respondents see the charts on the PDF which you can download using the link at the top of this page.
About the author
Dirk Dusharme is Quality Digest's technology editor. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org . Letters to the editor regarding this article can be
e-mailed to email@example.com .