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White-collar pay in goods-producing industries, March 1990.

Recent engineering graduates received an average annual salary of $31,412, while experienced top level engineers planning, organizing, and guiding highly complex engineering programs averaged $93,514, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' March 1990 survey of white-collar pay in private goods-producing industries.(1) Engineers, divided into eight work levels of skill and experience,(2) accounted for 77 percent of the workers surveyed in the larger occupational group designated "professional." The survey shows that skill and experience continued to be the primary determinants of white-collar pay. (See table 1.) [Tabular Data Omitted]

The effects of skill and experience on pay levels are evident for the three other broad occupational categories studied: administrative, technical, and clerical. The five levels of systems analysts were the largest cohort of administrative workers surveyed--29 percent. Salaries ranged from $34,883 per year for analysts working independently on routine projects (level I) to $69,520 for those who develop broad, unprecedented computer systems (level V).

Engineering technicians accounted for about half of the workers surveyed in technical support occupations. Engineering technicians I, the lowest of five work levels, perform simple, routine tasks under close supervision or follow detailed procedures; they averaged $19,674 per year. Average annual salaries rose to $37,036 for engineering technicians (level V), who plan and conduct complex projects under general guidelines supplied by a supervisor or professional engineer.

Secretaries were divided into five pay levels and accounted for about three-eights of the clerical workers surveyed. Secretaries (level I) averaged $19,850 annually for independently performing routine office procedures. Secretaries (level V), who use initiative and judgment in performing nonroutine duties for executives of large establishments, averaged $32,830.

The survey also found that workers in different occupations, but in positions requiring similar skills and experience, were often paid comparable salaries. A relatively narrow spread in average annual salary (about 14 percent) separated the highest and lowest paid workers in the following eight professional and administrative jobs:(3)
Work level Average annual
 salary level
Attorney $80,502
Personnel supervisor/
 manager III 75,501
Director of
 personnel III 74,831
Accountant VI 73,097
Chemist VI 73,114
Chief accountant III 72,068
Personnel specialist VI 71,262
Engineer VI 70,646

However, pay for similar skill and experience across occupations was skewed by labor market demands, especially at entry level professional positions. For example, both beginning engineers and beginning accountants work under close supervision, perform routine tasks, and are just learning to apply knowledge and principles learned through schooling. But, the average annual salary for beginning engineers was $31,412, 27 percent higher than the $24,723 for entry level accountants.

Manufacturing industries

In 1990, average annual salaries in all goods-producing industries--mining, construction, and manufacturing--ranged from $11,522 for general clerks in level I to $119,670 for attorneys in level VI. Salary date were dominated, however, by input from manufacturing establishments. About four-fifths of the workers in each of the 28 occupations surveyed were in manufacturing firms.

When the data were compiled by industry, pay levels in establishments producing chemical and allied products were generally higher than in other manufacturing industries. In 40 of the 46 occupations for which data could be presented for the chemical and allied products industry, pay rates were higher than the average for all manufacturing industries. The pay advantage, however, was typically less than 10 percent. (See table 2 for selected examples.) [Tabular Data Omitted]

Survey methodology

The March 1990 survey of private goods-purchasing industries reflects changes introduced in 1986 to broaden the coverage of the Bureau's White-Collar Pay Survey (formerly known as the National Survey of Professional, Administrative, Technical, and Clerical Pay--PATC) to include more industries and smaller establishments.(4) Complementing the March 1990 survey of private goods-producing industries is the March 1989 survey of white-collar pay in private service-producing industries. Rotating industry coverage in alternate years allows the Bureau to obtain a broader scope of pay data within budgetary constraints. The 1990 survey findings were combined with update information from the service-producing establishments studied in 1989 and delivered to the President's Pay Agent in August 1990. These data were used to make recommendations for Federal salary levels, based on comparable jobs in the private sector.

A comprehensive report, White-Collar Pay: Private Goods-Producing Industries, March 1990, Bulletin 2374 (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1990), is available for $6.50 from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402 or from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Publication Sales Center, P.O.Box 2145, Chicago IL 60690. The bulletin provides salary distributions by occupational work levels, tabulations by establishment size, and salaries by occupation work level for selected manufacturing industries. A separate appendix presents the combined data from the 1989 and 1990 surveys.


(1)The White-Collar Pay Survey (formerly the National Survey of Professional, Administrative, Technical, and Clerical Pay--PATC) is conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Survey occupations used in Federal pay comparisons and survey coverage issues, such as establishment size and the private industries to be included, are determined by the President's Pay Agent--the Secretary of Labor and the Directors of the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Personnel Management. The arrangement reflects the use of survey findings in the pay-setting process for Federal employees. The role of the survey is described in George L. Stelluto's, "Federal pay comparability: facts to temper the debate," Monthly Labor Review, June 1979, pp. 19-28.

The 1990 survey covered establishments employing 50 workers or more. (2)The survey occupations are divided into work levels based on duties and responsibilities. The number of work levels (designated by roman numerals) varies from occupation to occupation, as do the degree of difficulty and responsibility. (3)In the survey coding structure, the level designations among various occupations are not synonymous; for example, the first level of attorneys is comparable to the third level of engineers, accountants, and most other professional and administrative occupations. Classification of employees in the occupations and work levels surveyed is based on factors detailed in definitions, which are available upon request. (4)See John D. Morton, "BLS prepared to broaden scope of its white-collar pay survey," Monthly Labor Review, March 1987, pp. 3-7.

Michael Miller is a labor economist in the Division of Occupational Pay and Employee Benefit Levels, Bureau of Labor Statistics.
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Title Annotation:Research summaries
Author:Miller, Michael A.
Publication:Monthly Labor Review
Date:Dec 1, 1990
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