How does your salary measure up?

From Alaska to Florida, 1998 was a good year for those who design, integrate, or install telecommunications networks.

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From Alaska to Florida, 1998 was a good year for those who design, integrate, or install telecommunications networks.

Catherine Varmazis

Times are good for those who work in the telecommunications industry. That`s what the results of our first-ever salary survey tell us.

Earlier this year, we conducted a survey of salaries in the telecommunications industry for 1998. We sent questionnaires to 2300 randomly selected readers of Cabling Installation & Maintenance, asking them how much they earned in 1998, as well as questions about their formal education, industry-specific training, and the type of companies they work for. Ninety-eight of you--from 31 states and the District of Columbia--returned usable questionnaires.

That`s a 4% response, which statistically does not necessarily represent all of our approximately 25,000 readers. However, imagine that you and 98 of your peers from around the country got together to discuss compensation issues. We believe our data is as valuable as the information you would obtain from such a discussion, and it is in that vein that we offer it to you.

Respondent profile

We sent questionnaires to project managers, foremen/supervisors, network designers, systems integrators, and cabling installers at companies with annual revenues ranging from less than a half-million dollars to over $8 billion. We received the most responses from project managers, followed by foremen/supervisors, network designers, systems integrators, and, finally, cabling installers. The respondents represent all age categories: 31% are 50 or older, 34% are in their 40s, 31% are in their 30s, and 5% are under 30.

Forty-one percent of those who responded have a high school diploma or equivalent, 28% an associate`s degree, 20% a bachelor`s degree, and 5% a master`s degree.

Data provided by the U.S. Department of Labor`s Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the difference between average salaries nationwide and the salaries of our respondents. Compared to workers with equivalent education employed in other fields, our respondents earned far more at all educational levels. Particularly striking are the more-than-double earnings of survey respondents with a high school education--$52,187--compared to the $24,908 national average for their equally educated counterparts from the general population.

Salaries reported by our respondents include overtime but not bonuses or benefits. Of those we surveyed, about one-third reported having received a bonus in 1998. Bonuses ranged from less than $500 to more than $15,000, but most fell between $1500 and $15,000. Thus, the true earnings of many of our respondents were even higher than shown in the table.

By job category, those reporting that they received a bonus in 1998 were as follows:

62% of network designers

40% of project managers

32% of foremen/supervisors

33% of cabling installers

29% of systems integrators

At the high end of the salary scale, respondents earning $60,000 or more per year earned as follows: Those with a master`s degree earned an average salary of $80,166, while those with a bachelor`s degree earned $79,785. Surprisingly--or because our data pool was small--it appears that those with an associate`s degree earned less than those with a high school diploma: $74,928 and $78,500, respectively. Joe Jones, education manager for BICSI (Tampa, FL), comments, "The academic requirements for this industry are not very stringent. They are obviously more stringent at the RCDD [registered communications distribution designer] level, but we don`t require someone to have a 4-year college degree to be an RCDD. If you have a high school diploma and you`ve been through training, and you`ve been out in the field learning how to install the equipment correctly, and you`ve got the credentials, having an associate`s degree wouldn`t make a lot of difference. Their specific experience is what`s important."

In general, the longer someone has worked in the industry, the larger his or her salary. But even those with fewer than five years in the business are pulling in some hefty earnings. Our responses show that for individuals in the business no more than five years, salaries can reach the $76,000-to-$80,000 range, with nearly half the respondents in this category earning between $51,000 and $55,000 per year. For those in the industry for six or more years, salaries range from a low of $31,000 to a high of over $100,000.

How important is education--not just formal education, but also industry-specific training and on-the-job training? Asked which factors they felt correlated most closely with higher pay, 43% of our respondents singled out on-the-job performance, followed by formal education and related work experience.

Nearly two-thirds of managers who make hiring decisions cited related work experience as their most important hiring criterion. The job applicant`s attitude--including willingness to learn, work ethic, and dependability--ranked second in importance among these decision-makers, and his or her formal education ranked third.

Despite the secondary or tertiary role of formal education, industry-specific training is clearly important to both managers and other employees. Many have several types of training under their belts. More than two-thirds of respondents--68%--have BICSI training, 29% have training from the Association of Cabling Professionals, 17% have trained with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), and 6% have training from the Communications Workers of America. In addition, 66% have taken in-house training, 62% manufacturer training, 46% distributor training, and 43% have trained with commercial training firms.

Fully half of hiring managers indicated BICSI training as most valuable in their employees. They cited on-the-job training as second in importance, and IBEW training as third most valuable. In the case of RCDD training, says Jones, "most people want it because their job or their boss requires it. That provides quite an incentive. And many times the reason their bosses want them to get it is because they`re bidding on large commercial projects that require someone with the expertise of an RCDD, or the bid states they must have an RCDD approve the telecommunications distribution design."

For BICSI-trained respondents, salaries for those with installer registration average $53,944, with a high of $91,000 to $95,000 and a low of less than $25,000. Those with technician registration average $59,026, with a high of $96,000 to $100,000 and a low of $31,000 to $35,000. Those with RCDD registration average $58,205, with a high of $81,000 to $85,000 and a low of $36,000 to $40,000. These figures do not take into account years of work experience or formal education (see page 59).

By region

While our data pool was not large enough to extrapolate regional average salaries, some "snapshots" of real salaries around the country are shown on pages 64 and 65. To get a better idea of how your salary compares to that of your counterparts, see the complete listing of responses--including job title, years in the industry, and salary--on our Web site at Click on the "Website Spotlight."

Bigger and better

The editors of Cabling Installation & Maintenance would like to make our telecommunications salary survey an annual feature of the magazine. Because our data pool was small this year, we were able to offer a "low-res" image of salaries in the industry. To make next year`s survey "high-res" and more comprehensive, we need many more of you to respond. So look for reminders of the next salary survey in our magazine and on our Web site and then...participate!

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