Salary Basics

Conducting salary research is essential when exploring careers. Use the information in this free lesson to start exploring salaries.

Salary research resources

Researching salary information used to be a difficult task, but several online resources have made the process much easier. Still, it's important to note that you should not depend too heavily on a single source as you conduct your research. Using multiple resources will give you a broader understanding of an industry and will allow you to develop more realistic expectations about the kind of salary you're likely to earn.

Try using some of the salary resources listed below:

Try this!

Look up the average salary for an accountant using two of the resources above.

Building realistic expectations

As you research salary information for different careers, be sure to think about all of the variables involved in a salary estimate. If you're not careful, you might end up with unrealistic salary expectations, which can do more harm than good. For example, while the average salary for a position might be $40,000 per year, you shouldn't expect to earn that much if you're just starting a career in the field.

I didn't realize how big the gap between the 'average salary' and entry-level salary would be in publishing. It's been very tough to make my student loan payments and it could be several years before I can ask for a raise.-Peter

You should consider the kind of salary you expect to earn as you gain more experience. Some positions have a clear hierarchy and structure with opportunities for growth, while others don't leave much room for advancement. Think about the kind of salary you can expect to earn after five years in a career and if it will meet your financial needs.

My salary was more than enough to cover my expenses when I graduated from college, but I didn't consider how my financial needs would change over time. I wish I had chosen a career path with more room for growth and development.-Susan

It's also important to think about the added value of certain benefits, such as health insurance and retirement. While it may be tempting to pursue a career based entirely on a salary estimate, a generous benefits package can sometimes outweigh a high salary.

I took a consulting job because the salary figure was much higher than anything else I'd ever been offered. But I was shocked to learn how hard it is to pay health insurance and plan for retirement on my own-Rick

By taking a careful and considered approach to your salary research, you'll be able to build realistic and useful salary expectations.