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I've been trying to understand how my compensation stacks up against the competition. I understand that this can be a bit of a localized question, so I'll do my best to avoid local issues.

There are a number of web sites that provide salary survey data about different jobs. I've been looking at the data on careerbuilder.com in particular. I would like to use this data to understand how much salary I would be wise to ask for in negotiation, but it seems impossible to interpret.

Let me start with job titles. I have a background in mathematics and computer programming. I am currently doing database-driven web development using mostly SQL, .net, and Javascript. I do much more programming than I do web design. In my current position, I was told that I would be a "Web Developer". I was told that I would be junior to the "Application Developers", but senior to "Junior Developers". That was fine with me. After several months lapsed, I received (with no prior notice) a new nameplate for my cube that bore the title "Application Developer". The developers who had been previously called "Application Developers" are now called "Sr. Systems Analysts". As far as I know, these new nameplates did not accompany any actual organizational change or pay differences.

However, when I go to the salary surveys on careerbuilder.com and enter in "computer programmer", "application developer", "web developer" and other seemingly similar titles, I get wildly divergent results.

Even more divergent are the results on Glassdoor.com, which reports survey results from individual companies. Consider this example: ( http://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/net-salary-SRCH_KO0,3.htm ) that has differences of over 100% salary between different companies for the same title!

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What's the question? Are you just unhappy with the title change? "it seems impossible to interpret" is false. It actually is impossible to compare job titles across organizations in any way. Even within a single enterprise, different managers are free to interpret titles anyway that they feel necessary to retain people. There are no rules and no standards. What do you want to know? Please update the question to ask something that we could actually answer. –  S.Lott May 15 '11 at 16:08

3 Answers 3

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Your best bet, if you are trying to use salary sites, it to look at the description to see if there is something about the following included in the description of the title:

  • Range of years of experience
  • Number of individuals supervised
  • Degree of supervision
  • Nature of work conducted
  • Education

For example, a listing for an entry level developer will be something a long the lines of the following:

Junior Web Developer Writes code for web applications under close supervision for a well defined task. Generally has less than three years of experience and may require a Bachelors degree.

Which would stand in contrast to something along the following:

Senior Web Developer Writes web applications with limited supervision. Responsible for the overall design of the solution based provided requirements. May supervise other developers and generally expected to provide guidance to new employees. Typically has 10 to 15 years of experience and a Bachelors degree.

The title itself doesn't mean that much and depending upon the field they will change (e.g. Web Developer, Embedded Developer, etc) which may cause some variation in terms of salaries; however, the major points will be the experience, degree of supervision, and if any you supervise anyone yourself. Once you know which description is a fair equivalent to your own, you can look at the salary curve to see where you sit. Generally most companies will try to have you at or slightly below market (i.e. the average for your area) so if you are significantly under market you might have grounds to go to your boss for a raise. if you are over market then you would have a hard time making the case unless you are looking for an actual promotion.

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At my present company, developers with 20 years experience and many leadership and architecture responsibilities have the exact same title as someone fresh out of school. You are distinguished by reputation, not title.

At a previous job, I went through a new salary-band title every 1-2 years, but no one except my manager and I knew what it was. People with lead responsibilities got more public titles to reflect that, such as "test coordinator for project X" but it had nothing to do with salary.

It boils down to what you are "worth" is whatever both you and your employer agree upon. If you feel that number is too low, ask. If they don't agree, ask elsewhere.

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Even where there is a good correspondence between a title and a set of qualifications and responsibilities, that correspondence doesn't match the one used at other companies. It isn't even often a good predictor between divisions or sites inside a corporation even when it is internally in a given division or site.

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