RE: Salary Review...

Subject: RE: Salary Review...
From: "Humbird, Len" <len -dot- humbird -at- intel -dot- com>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 31 Aug 2000 11:39:33 -0700

> From: Bruce Byfield [mailto:bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com]
> However, the range of responses may also suggest that the survey
> draws from too small a sample to be accurate. First, it draws
> only from the STC - that is, from only 20-50% of tech-writers,
> depending on the area. Second, it includes only STC members who
> bother to respond.

Maybe we should also include dishwashers and marketing flunkees who think
they're good at writing just so we can have a bigger sample? I don't live
and breathe STC, but today there is no other professional association that
caters to tech writers as well as they do. What they represent makes up the
best market segment for survey data. As small as the sample is, the result
is still a useful tool.

Actual salary data points are all over the map due to many issues which may
or may not be in your favor. Among them are:
* Geographic location
* Field of expertise
* Familiarity with related fields (programming, graphic design, etc.)
* Years of tech writing experience
* Level of education
* Tech tool familiarity
* How well you market yourself and handle compensation negotiations

And if contractors chip in on the survey, the numbers get really skewed.

So what good is the survey if only to give you a ballpark estimate of what
you should be making? You should know better than anyone else, given your
qualifications and the market you're in, what you can potentially be making.

> Another problem may be that there are two salary scales in some
> areas. In what I call the "traditional" scale, writers are paid
> about two-thirds of what a coder with the same experience is
> worth. By contrast, in the new high-tech scale, writers draw the
> same pay as coders.

Your "new high-tech" scale has been around at least as long as I've been in
this racket - the mid 80's. I was in that "coder" pay range even back then.
If you gain the respect of your programmer peers (that is, you can 'think'
and talk like a programmer), then you can make a case for earning similar
pay. But if they think you're nothing more than a word janitor, then you're
only pulling down the rates for everyone.

> In my experience, people on the high-tech scale either don't
> belong to the STC, or else belong but aren't active members.

Be careful with your wording there, Bruce. For a minute I thought you meant
that highly-paid tech writers don't belong in the STC.

I'm not a member of the STC anymore, but I still help contribute my time to
the local chapter from time to time. I do wish the salary survey had
different spins on the data - such as including contractor rates in addition
to salaries, and then splitting contracting rates into agency and
independent rates.


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