Mike Richman  |  08/01/2008

2008 Salary Survey

Our annual look at who makes what in the quality industry.

Click here for a complete version of the salary survey along with all charts.


Surveys in general, and salary surveys in particular, lend support to Mark Twain’s observation that “there are lies, damn lies, and statistics.” In other words, when dealing with large sets of respondents broken down into numerous categories and subcategories, the granularity is such that you can make the numbers say pretty much anything you want.

So, this year we’re going to say less and let you do your own interpreting of the data. We will, however, note that certain general trends keep coming up as we look at these numbers year after year:

Gender disparities. There still appears to be a difference between what men and women get paid. However, the issue may be related to industry or title, rather than sex. In other words, there may be more women working in lower-paying positions or industries than men, but getting the same pay.

Regional differences. Want to make more money? Pick a coast, either coast, and move there: That’s where quality professionals earn the most.

The advantage of education. It’s no surprise that those with doctorate degrees earn nearly twice that of those with GEDs or high-school educations.


The last point regarding education is an important one. Quite simply, we need more and better-prepared quality professionals to emerge from the ranks of academia. Industry professionals with whom we’ve spoken, particularly within metrology, have decried the lack of young people entering the field. To be sure, institutions such as North Carolina State, Georgia Tech, Arizona State University, California State University at Dominguez Hills, Cerritos College, and others offer programs in quality principles, including Six
Sigma and the measurement sciences. However, the number of graduates entering our industry from these programs represents a mere drop in bucket compared to those who become accountants, lawyers, and general corporate managers. Might salaries be part of the problem? We’re not sure, but this is an issue that we’ll continue to discuss both in the magazine and online at www.qualitydigest.com during the coming

Overall, this year’s survey indicates that salaries are flat or even down in some regions of the United States, which surely is a symptom of the generally worsening economic picture for the nation as a whole. In figure 9 on page 39, you’ll note salaries by region for all respondents. When comparing those data to the same chart from last year’s survey, we find that female respondents in the Northeast earn 4.8 percent more than last year, while their male counterparts in the region earn 2.0 percent more; in the North Central region, women show a decrease of 0.2 percent, and men an increase of 5.0 percent; in the Southeast, women are up 5.0 percent, and men are down 1.2 percent; finally, in the West, women are down 0.9 percent, and men are up 2.1 percent.

What’s it all mean? Simply that salary increases have cooled along with the rest of the economy. U.S. companies are feeling the pinch of higher gas prices, a bad balance of trade, and the lingering effects of credit and housing crises. The survey reflects that quality professionals are feeling the pain along with everyone else. This quick and dirty, last-year vs. this-year analysis doesn’t even take into account the number of people in our industry who’ve lost their jobs completely. In that light, a smaller-than-hoped-for pay increase--or even a salary cut--doesn’t look so bad.

It will be interesting to see how these trends continue to play out. Next year’s survey will provide more insight into the factors that affect the earning power of everyone in our industry, including a yet-to-be-determined change that will certainly have far-reaching implications--the elections in November. The question is, will John McCain or Barack Obama work as hard for his salary as you and I work for ours?




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Mike Richman