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Finding compensation surveys

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Research background: Rose and Associates, an accounting firm, is working on a valuation of a privately held mechanical engineering firm.

The firm needs to determine if the engineering firm owner’s salary is excessive compared with industry norms.

A staff member is assigned to find compensation surveys for engineers. She is to focus her search on senior-level and/or executive-level mechanical engineers.

Her manager wants her to gather what free information she can find and also compile a list of compensation surveys that are available for purchase.

Research strategy employed: As is often the case with research projects, the place to begin the search is not immediately obvious.

The researcher would like to see if anyone has created a portal for the type of information she needs.

In this case the ideal portal would be an Internet site providing links to compensation data.

One of her favorite ways to find this kind of specialized portal is the Librarians’ Index to the Internet (LII) (, which describes itself as a “searchable, annotated subject directory of more than 11,000 Internet resources selected and evaluated by librarians for their usefulness to users of public libraries.”

On the LII home page she can either do a keyword search or look through the list of subject headings.

The researcher starts by entering compensation surveys in the search box. This search retrieves two hits, one of which looks interesting: Valuation Resources (, a portal of information of interest to business appraisers.

She follows the link to the site, and after spending a minute looking over what it has to offer, finds the link Salary Surveys. She follows that link and finds a gold mine: links to eighteen different sources of salary data.

Nevertheless, before following any of the links, she scrolls to the top of the page and begins reading.

This is helpful, because she finds the following statement: “The ‘Salary Survey’s section provides a comprehensive listing of compensation resources for a wide variety of industries.

For resources specific to a particular industry, see ‘Industry Resources Reports.’” She follows tat link, which works well, because the site’s owner, business appraiser Jerry Peters, has already gone through the eighteen sources of salary data listed and has pulled out those that contain salary data for engineers.

The Industry Resources Reports page is organized by Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) code.

The researcher doesn’t know the code for engineers, so she does a keyword search on engineer using her browser’s Find function (Control F in Internet Explorer) and lands on SIC 8711 Engineering Service.

The first paragraph on the page that follows has the link compensation surveys, where she finds links to seven sources of salary and compensation data for engineers from the Web sites of trade associations, consultants, information publishers, and the U.S. government.

Many of these sites have useful information that she will include in her report to her manager.

In addition to the sites specifically geared toward the engineering industry, one general site is listed: JobStar Central ( This portal is developed and maintained by librarians who have compiled links to more than three hundred general and subject-specific salary surveys.

The researcher wants to make sure she hasn’t missed any good sites, so she goes back to LII and drills through the site’s subject headings.

She starts with Business, Finance, and Jobs, and then moves to Wages and Benefits. In this search she finds a few sites that she didn’t find on the engineering industry list at Valuation Resources, including one from the Wall Street Journal.

The Web site for the Wall Street Journal’s CareerJournal ( is touted as “The Premier Career Site for Executives, Managers and Professionals.”

From the home page the researcher follows the link Salary and Hiring Info and finds two search options listed in the center of the page:

(1) Search Our Database of Salary Data and
(2) Review Salary and Hiring Trends. The former is a salary database called

Note that there are other ways to get from the CareerJournal page to the Salary Expert database.

One is to use the drop-down menu under Salary and Hiring Info to choose Salary by Title. Another is to click on the Salary and Hiring Info tab and choose Salary by Title from the menu bar on the left.

She searches the database by job title. She has to narrow the search by geographic area, because there is no option to search the United States as a whole, so she adds a zip code or state as requested.

Nevertheless, when the report is generated, she finds U.S. national average data along with the regional data.

She wants to find more information about the database, so she follows the link to find out that the database is created by Baker Thomsen Associates Insurance Services. The firm offers a more detailed “Executive Compensation Report” for $189.

Following the Review Salary and Hiring Trends link, from the center of the Salary and Hiring Info home page (, the researcher selects Engineers from the list of Industry and Job Functions, which takes her to a page containing links to a few current articles and a list titled “More salary tables for engineers.”

This list contains links to some great data, including charts of salary data culled from trade journals and organizations’ reports.

The researcher finds two charts containing data from the Abbott, Langer & Associates’ Compensation in Mechanical Engineering 2002 report, which she prints out for her report. She then follows the link provided to the Abbott, Langer & Associates site and finds even more free information from the report.

Finally, she does a search on Google using a variety of keywords, such as mechanical engineers compensation survey, and find links to sites that she had already found from LII and from Valuation Resources.

Research results: The researcher writes a memo to her manager and attaches the free compensation data she found on the Internet and a summary of survey the company can purchase if more detailed data is needed (see below).

Because her manager needs compensation data for senior – and executive-level engineers, she did not include data on entry-level positions.

Summary of Research Results: Compensation in the Engineering Field

Free information
• From’s Salary Expert database I found a chart containing low, high, and average compensation plus bonus and benefits figures for mechanical engineers in the United States.

• Also from I found three charts from an Abbott, Langer & Associates report.

The charts are “Mechanical Engineers Median Annual Income,” “Mechanical Engineers by Specialty Annual Median Income,” “Mechanical-Engineering Independent Consultants Annual Median Income,” and finally, the “Professional Engineers by Industry/Field, Registration Status and Responsibility” from the National Society of Professional Engineers’ Income and Salary Survey 2000.

• On the Abbott, Langer & Associates Inc. home page, I found a “summary data” page from their Compensation in Mechanical Engineering 2002 report.
Additional Reports Available for Purchase

• Baker Thomsen Associates’ ( Executive Compensation Report is compiled by SIC code, organization size (revenues), and by region (national, state, county). Cost: $189. The report is not generated on the Internet Customers e-mail or call with their orders.

• Integra information ( provides a five-year benchmarking report that contains the one-line item “Officer compensation.” Cost: $140.

The report can be ordered online. Customers must specify report by SIC code and sales range.

• The National Society of Professional Engineers’ 2002 Income and Salary Survey( is available in print and on CD-ROM.

It provides salary data for “licensed vs. non-licensed engineers with similar experience, education, and level of responsibility.

New income data also include size of firm, gender/origin,co-op level jobs and shared jobs, and overtime pay benefits offered to salaried engineers.” Cost: $150 for member and $375 for nonmembers.

• PAS, Inc. ( is a private, for-profit corporation that “specializes in wage, salary and benefit information primarily for the construction and engineering industry.”

The firm’s Consulting Engineering & Design Staff Salary Survey, published every April, contains “the detailed analysis necessary for maintaining accurate wage information for electrical engineers, mechanical engineers, civil engineers and architects employed within the construction design industry.” Cost: $330.

• PSMJ Resources ( is a consulting firm specializing in the architecture and engineering fields. Its A/E Management Salary Survey can be purchased for $299.99.

• ZweigWhite & Associates ( publishes the 2002 Principals, Partners & Owners Survey of A/E/P & Environmental Consulting Firms, which contains “comprehensive data on all major forms of compensation and perks for principals.” Cost: $275.

Summary of solution: Starting with a directory site (Librarians’ Index to the Internet), the researcher has found several portals dedicated to compensation data.

One portal provides links to sources of compensation data. (, and another portal ( provides a compensation database and abstracts of larger, fee-based reports.

It is definitely worthwhile to find portals of compensation and salary data, because the portal owners have already done a lot of the research by gathering data from a variety sites.

The researcher was able to provide a handful of free charts that summarize the current compensation for engineers and a fairly lengthy list of more-detailed reports for a fee.

Useful tips
• When using a directory site such as Librarians’ Index to the Internet, use the keyword search and the subject directory search features. By doing so you may get different yet more relevant results.

• Take the time to review a Web page instead of immediately clicking on links. You may find that the site owner has put relevant, timesaving information on the page.

• Think of synonyms for your search words, such as “salary” and “wages” for “compensation.”

• When you find pertinent data on the Internet, find the source of the data and go to its Web site. You may find even more information on your subject.


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