Your local library or bookstore should have a number of references to help you determine the salary range for the occupation you are considering. A list of such references follows. Ask your librarian for assistance, as most libraries provide a variety of references that may not be listed here.
The Occupational Outlook Handbook and America's Top 300Jobs (JIST Works). Both books contain the same text and are updated every two years based on information from the U.S. Department of Labor. I mentioned these books in chapter 3 as an important source of information on jobs. Both include starting and average pay rates for the most common jobs. You can use detailed information from these books to know what pay to expect for various jobs at differing levels of experience.
Career Guide to America's Top Industries (JIST Works). This book includes information on about 60 major industries. Written mainly for job seekers, it provides a description of each industry, employment projections, working conditions, typical occupations, training and advancement, outlook for industry growth, and earnings information.
As this book shows, there can be substantial earnings differences among industries, even for the same types of work. Knowing about these differences in advance is important so that you are not unpleasantly surprised. On the other hand, you can also benefit from your industry research by looking for jobs in industries that tend to pay better.
College Majors Handbook with Real Career Paths and Payoffs (JIST Works). This book is based on an enormous study of 150,000 college graduates by the U.S. Census Bureau. The authors used this information to create a practical guide on the actual jobs and earnings of college graduates in 60 majors. The result is the most accurate facts available on long-term outcomes associated with particular majors.
Best Jobs for the 21st Century (JIST Works). This helpful book provides pay rates, job descriptions, and many other details for about 500 major jobs that have the best combination of pay, projected growth, and number of job openings.
American Salaries and Wages Survey(Gale Group). This title gives detailed information on salaries and wages for thousands of jobs. Data is subdivided geographically. It also gives cost-of-living data for selected areas, which is very helpful in determining what the salary differences really mean. Finally, it provides information on numbers employed in each occupation, along with projected changes.
American Almanac of Jobs and Salaries (Avon Books). This title provides information on wages for specific occupations and job groups, many of which are professional and white collar. It also presents trends in employment and wages.
Virtually every occupation and industry you can imagine (and some that you can't) has one or more associations. Most of the larger ones conduct salary surveys on an annual basis, and this information is available to members and, sometimes, in their publications. Back issues of an association's journals or newsletters (if you can get them) can provide excellent information on trends, including pay rates. Consider joining an association to get access to this information, as well as access to local members with whom you can network. You can search for associations by industry and geographic location at the American Society of Association Executives Web site at asaenet.org/cda/asae/associations_search/. Choose Gateway to Associations to locate an association.
Local pay rates can differ substantially from national averages; starting wages are often substantially less than those for experienced workers; some industries pay better than others; and smaller organizations often pay less than larger ones. For these reasons, you need to find out prevailing pay rates for jobs similar to those you seek. Following are some additional sources of this information:
Your network: Talk to colleagues in your professional network. Although people frequently don't want to tell you what they personally are making, usually they are willing to talk about salary ranges. Ask colleagues, based on their experience, what salary range you might expect for the position.
Job search centers: These centers (which you can find in schools, libraries, and community centers or as part of federal, state, or local government programs) frequently keep salary information on hand.
Your past experience: If you are applying for a job in a field in which you have experience, you probably have a good idea of what someone with your skills and abilities should be paid. Think about your past salary. Unless the job you are applying for requires a dramatically different amount of responsibility than your former position, your previous salary is definitely a starting point for negotiations.