Your Conservation Career: Resources for Negotiating Your Next Salary

In November of 2014, I gave an ECPN Webinar titled “Beyond the Portfolio: Your Conservation Career” in which I briefly discussed salary negotiations (that webinar is here). Whether you’re just starting out or are further along in your career, here are two more resources to help you research and negotiate your next salary.
1) BUST magazine recently had a short but excellent feature on how to negotiate a salary for a new job. If you’re male, be aware that although BUST is aimed at women, most of the content is great for men, too. Including this article, which you can read here.
2) The 2014 AIC/FAIC Compensation Survey is online now, here! I LOVE these things! They are gigantic goldmines of data about our profession. But back to you – here is how to use this survey report for salary research. Start by having an overall look at how the report is organized, and then start to think about which sections and criteria apply to your situation. Page 69 gives an example of how to combine criteria to determine a salary.
Let’s use the survey for a pretend scenario: you are applying for a full-time job at a medium-sized, private museum in Washington, DC; you have a master’s degree in conservation and 3 years of post-graduate experience. What kind of salary offer should you expect?
To do this exercise, you’ll need to have the survey in front of you. Flip to page 70, Exhibit 3.17. We’ll move back and forth between columns a bit; because you’re a relatively new grad, you can expect your salary to be below the median in most categories. But I also don’t want you to aim too low, so we will stick mostly to the 25th percentile column* and not reference the 10th percentile data. Once you get the hang of this, though, you can figure out a range for yourself with points at the high, middle, and low end.
You can see that a salary in the 25th percentile for a medium-sized museum is 49K – write that down. It’s not part of a university, so the 25th percentile there is about 47K. Write that down, too. For a private museum, we’re at 46K. Keep writing these numbers down. You have less than 5 years of experience, but here let’s look higher – you’re really good, right? The 75th percentile for your level of experience is 47K. This would be a new position for you, so 35K. Look at the numbers for gender (yes – look again, my friends!). We’ll say you’re female. Write down 45K. Nope, that was too painful for me.  Erase 45K! Let’s assume instead that your work is worth the same as a man’s; write down 60K. You have a master’s degree in conservation, so write down 45K. Probably no one will be reporting to you, so write down 34K. Will you have input into the department’s budget? Probably not? Write down 34K. We’ll say you’ll be working under supervision, write down 34K. DC is in the “South Atlantic” as defined by the survey (which you know, because you paged through it and looked at how the report is organized), so write down 43K.
Based on this super basic research, you should be looking at a salary somewhere between 34 and 60K/year. Add together all the numbers you wrote down (I got 474) and divide by 10 to get the mean, which is 47. 47K/year would be a solid salary offer that you could feel good about.
Remember that you can calculate a salary range for yourself based on the different criteria and percentiles given in this table. Also remember the gender disparity; if you’re female and you feel a salary offer is too low, this survey provides solid statistics to which you can point.
Finally, you can use this survey for more than salaries; it gives good data on rates charged by private conservators, and you can also use it to evaluate benefits packages. In case you were wondering, I had nothing to do with this survey. I just really like it. Good luck!
* When you use this survey to find a salary range, make sure you use the data in a way that makes sense for your situation. This example is written for a recent graduate, which is why I suggest the 25th percentile in most places. If you’re mid-career, look at the 50th percentile. If you’re quite senior, look higher. There are also a few places where the survey data are sorted by level of experience. In these places, look at the midpoints that match your criteria.

One thought on “Your Conservation Career: Resources for Negotiating Your Next Salary”

  1. Thank you Suzanne! It’s great to have you walk us through a pretend scenario using the compensation survey– this is incredibly helpful. I have to say I’m dismayed to see that the gender pay gap in our field appears to be widening (based on the 2014 survey data). Hopefully, this blog post will encourage more female conservators to initiate salary negotiations.

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