Getting Paid: Researching Wages and Salaries

Article excerpt

Who isn't interested in being paid what they're worth and in wondering how much their co-workers are making? Perhaps you're negotiating a starting salary at a new job or an increase in your current salary. You may simply be curious about average pay packages for particular professions or job categories. Aside from rampant curiosity and self-interest, other reasons exist to research wages and salaries.

You could be looking at pay packages for legal reasons, such as the minimum wage in a particular geographic area. Both unions and management need wage and salary data to support their negotiating positions. Politicians might be interested in earnings data they can use to support legislation or to win an election. Journalists could need data as background to a story. Public policy researchers might want statistics so they can analyze gender pay gaps nationally or even internationally. Economic development offices want to tout affordable wage ranges to attract new businesses to their area. Human resources might be considering revising merit raise policies, researching concepts such as realizable pay, or wondering about intern payment requirements.

Whatever the reason, remember that some data is extremely easy to find, while other data is, and will probably remain, secret. A few companies make compensation information available internally but require it not be disclosed to the outside world. Most companies aren't even that transparent with their wage and salary information. There's also a difference between aggregated data and personal data. Although you may find that the average salary for a job is $50,000, that doesn't mean that someone you know who holds that type of job makes $50,000.


Wages generally refer to hourly pay. If wages are set at a certain figure per hour, the worker's pay varies depending on number of hours worked. Salaries, on the other hand, are fixed. If an annual salary is $39,000, for example, the worker is paid $3,250 per month, $1,500 every 2 weeks, or $750 every week, depending on the employers' pay schedule, regardless of the number of hours worked. Compensation is a broader term, encompassing other pay elements, such as bonuses, stock options, commissions, profit sharing, deferred compensation, special perks (extended vacation, company car, school fees for expats, etc.), and incentive payments.

Although the concepts may be different, thesaurus terms in many of our premium content databases mix them up. ProQuest's ABI/INFORM, for example, uses Wages & Salaries. It also has the terms Executive Compensation, Compensation, and Minimum Wage. Gale Business Insights: Essentials has similar thesaurus terms, with the slight variation of Wages and Salaries. They share the term Executive compensation. Two other relevant terms in Gale Business Insights: Essentials are Wage surveys and Compensation management. Factiva eschews the term "salaries," preferring Executive pay and Workers pay. The former equates to salaries, the latter to wages. Factiva also includes Minimum wage and Personal income/average earnings as controlled vocabulary terms.

EBSCO's adaptation of controlled vocabulary is considerably more complicated than that of other business databases. For one thing, Business Source Premier makes extensive use of subdivisions. Thus, you can find a profession or an industry followed by one or more subdivisions: Accountants--Salaries or Law firm associates Salaries, wages, etc. or Financial institutions Officers & employees--Salaries, wages, etc. Just to confuse you, however, Business Source Premier also uses the opposite configuration on occasion, such as Wages Day care center employees.

Business Source Premier prefers the term Wages for both salaries and wages. It has a notation under Salaries to use Wages instead. Not every indexer got the memo, however. A search for Salaries, wages, etc. resulted in 538 articles. …