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Overpaid, underpaid or right on target?

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Question: “A few months ago, a reader inquired about web sites regarding salaries. I checked them out only to find that I am significantly underpaid. My title is assistant to the director of HR. The other admin in our small company is the assistant to the executive administrator. She also assists the president/owner on a daily basis. We both handle “extremely confidential and sensitive” material.

Our wages fall between $14 and $15 an hour. Is our pay sufficient for the work we perform?” —Elly


$14 - $15 is a fair wage for your position in the region I work in. Many factors come in to play where salary is concerned so it's difficult to say if you are really underpaid or compensated fairly. Some factors to consider would be: 1) The City/State you work in (large cities may pay much higher than a small farming community); 2) Your work background/experience; 3) Education (degree in HR?); 4) Is your company privately owned or a Government entity?; 5) The industry your company is involved in (homebuilding, financial, retail, etc). Now, another question is have you looked at your 'Hidden Paycheck'? What I mean by that is how much does your company pay to have you as one of their valued employees? Do they pay all of your health, dental and Rx insurance? What's your vacation/sick policies at the office? Is there a bonus each year? Do they reimburse you for continuing education? Do they have a 401k, and do they match it? If so, at what % do they match? So, before you start feeling underpaid and undervalued, please take a moment to look into these items. I know I didn't answer your question really, but just give these items some thought. Hope this helps somewhat.

It depends on your region, your experience in the position, how long you have been at your current job, and how well your manager is paid. Some department managers give good raises, some department managers do not. You may work for a manager or director who is stiffing you because he or she does not get paid very well, either. If you believe that your education and/or experience garners a raise, ask the next person in the line of supervision and be prepared with a good list of reasons for your raise. If it is near your evaluation period, wait until then and ask for more than the generally given raise. If you are denied, and you KNOW for sure that you are being underpaid for your position, quietly begin looking for another position and if you leave, do not under any circumstances burn your bridges by bad mouthing the company for not paying you adequately. It will be known why you left, and you can always let them know in your exit interview why you are leaving. You may be recruited back at a higher wage in the future . Also keep in mind that women do not ask for raises as often as men do, for many reasons, including entrenched cultural and psychological ones. Do not let this happen to you. Get paid what you deserve. Also keep in mind that your enjoyment of your job is key. If you love your job even though you aren't paid exactly what you deem worthy, keep in mind that plenty of overpaid people dread coming to work every day. Balance is key.

It's all relative to the size of the company, in which state you reside (cost of living), number of staff, education, government vs. private, etc., etc. Each company is different. If you feel you are grossly underpaid for what you do, then I suggest you approach your supervisor with the salary survey and discuss your concerns. If you are valued, your supervisor will listen to your concerns and will fight for you an increase, if it is within the company's budget. If it's not possible to give you an increase at this time, at least you have brought it to their attention and it may benefit you in the long-run.

Seems okay. You do have to look at what your total package worth is. Like is your health insurance paid, is there 401k matching, how much vacation you have, etc. Those benefits do add up and increase your total package. If you all make the same it is probably in line. It really does matter on where in the country you live. In my feild in the southern states you make like $8.00 per hour doing the same thing in massachusetts you make about $50-60k. Huge difference.

I know when I checked into this to see about my salary I did the survey. At my job we have vacation and sick pay and we get 25% for our income put in a 401K. I thought that since I didn't get the other benefits that companies offer like medical/dental/short-term disability etc. I thought it just evened out. It did not. I stated that 17% of your salary was the average for benefits. Well, I get 25% for just my 401K so realized that I actually get more than the average person. Really made alot of difference to me. I also, checked the local newspaper for jobs and I found one for more money and less duties. I asked for a $1.50/hr raise and that still didn't bring me up to the job in the paper but I was satisfied.


I would imagine it depends on where you live, what your responsibilities are, and the company. As assistant to a Director of a large corporation in South Florida, I earn over $22.00/hr.

If your state has the equivalent of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics you should be able to find out what the prevailing wages in your area are for the work you do and in your industry. You should also calculate the total value of your package, including benefits (you may be surprised to discover that for those businesses who are generous with benefits, it can add up to an additional 40% of your "salary") In my part of the world, $14/hr is not generous at all, but we have very high cost of living and even double that amount means that many people live paycheck to paycheck.


Oftentimes the feeling of "entitlement" our younger generation exhibits starts from home and carries on into the workplace. Many times the younger generation feels entitled to a raise or a bigger "entitlement" package for less work performed. It's no wonder that jobs are being outsourced overseas.

Boy Gina, you sure are down on the "younger generation." Shall we post our assumptions and generalizations regarding the older generation feeling threatened as well?

Personally, I think you are all UNDERPAID and undervalued. An Assistant is extremely resourceful, intelligent and has a lot to offer. Yes, Gina is correct, sometimes the younger generation feels an entitlement that maybe they aren't due just yet. Some of the older generation have paid their dues, put in 20-30 years and understandably so should make more money. Unfortunately, our country doesn't seem to value the older generation's wisdom and experience. We are all valuable in one way or another tho...whether we are the younger or older generation. I feel we should all work together as a team to bring the best to the table. Just my 2 cents from an "older" generation kinda person with a younger flare! :-)


I've worked in Los Angeles ($45k), Hartford CT ($40k), Nashville ($24k - about $11.50 hour) and Milwaukee ($43k). As you can tell while the Nashville job paid much lower than my other jobs, but that was the going rate for a senior administrative professional in that area.

If you really want to know if you're being paid the going rate for your area, consult a local employment agency and ask what they pay for a temp-to-perm job at your level and then what the pay will be after it goes perm. My guess is that you are well within the proper range.

In Riverside & San Bernardino counties in California, that is about the going wage for admin assistants. I was recently looking for a position and even the HR/Payroll Management postions were only $17 - 18 per hour. A lot of the county jobs I looked into for Admin Asst. were only $10 - 12 per hour.

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