Re: STC Salary data collection

Subject: Re: STC Salary data collection
From: Steven Jong <SteveFJong -at- comcast -dot- net>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Sat, 24 Nov 2007 13:05:11 -0500

"Pro TechWriter" (<pro -dot- techwriter -at- gmail -dot- com>) wrote:

> I've just looked at the data that is available online at for
> "free" (if you are a member), and I am somewhat appalled.
> I must not be living in the real world or something, but the
> salaries quoted
> look very low based on what I *know* people are making here, and
> based on
> what I make. (I can't believe I am in the 90th percentile!) And, I
> am in a
> state that is in the bottom four to tech writing salaries anyway.
> Those numbers could set technical writer salaries back 20 years.

I do think the BLS data more accurately reflects the real world. I've
seen estimates that only 10% of technical communicators worldwide are
STC members, so our salary survey didn't reflect the real world. The
BLS data is much more complete.

The article in the November 2007 issue of Intercom describing the BLS
data gives a number of reasons for the discrepancy, and I'd like to
touch on one reason in particular. Studies have shown that employees
tend to inflate salaries when responding to salary surveys. Some
people in other forums have bristled at that suggestion, but I don't
think we should take it personally. First, the statement is a general
observation, not directed at technical communicators and certainly not
at STC members. Second, the STC surveys were self-selecting
(respondents chose to respond), and self-selection explains how
inflation can happen even if every respondent answers honestly. If you
feel good about your salary, and have reason to believe it's above
average among your peers, you are more likely to report it;
conversely, if you feel you are underpaid, you are less likely to
report it. Self-selecting surveys are known to be biased by survey
professionals; the technical term is "voluntary response bias."

As for setting salaries of technical writers back 20 years, that's
something to work on. (Solidarity, brother!) The current BLS
definition of "technical writer" is outmoded, and includes the phrase
"may assist in layout work." That's not our world. I would consider
layout work to be technical typing, word processing, or--dare I say
it?--font fondling. I know the Society is working to get the
definition changed to reflect the more valuable tasks technical
communicators perform today.

Speaking strictly for myself, I don't find the BLS data appalling. In
fact, given all the reasons for the salary discrepancy, I see a
marketing opportunity in it: STC members make more money 8^)

-- Steve

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