Salary: What’s In a Number?


When looking at a job that is within a career path, many people look to the salary to determine if it is going to be a step in the right direction. Often, as an employee we wonder how does the employer come up with this number?  As an employee, there is so much more that goes into your compensation than just your base salary though. When an employer is considering salary for a position they have to take into consideration not just the fair market value for direct wage and salary payments  but also the long term budget for employer contributions towards benefits and payroll taxes (i.e. Health/life insurance, retirement, Medicare, Social Security and Workers Compensation).

Yet the salary and ensuring that the salary is equitable and consistent within the industry is important. How, exactly, is compensation determined within higher education and more specifically at the state college level? Various industries refer to labor market salary surveys to determine salary for positions. These salary surveys take into consideration a variety of different factors such as:

  • Competencies: What is the level of knowledge, skill and ability needed for the position?
  • Market demand: Demand for certain positions can be high which can affect the salary.
  • Location of Position: What is the cost of living? Is the location in a rural or urban area? Level of Travel?

It is important to use a labor market survey that best fits your organizations structure, industry and size to make accurate wage and salary comparisons. Each year, Green River College participates in an annual administrative salary survey that is published by the State Board of Technical and Community Colleges (SBCTC). The survey is designed to collect salary data on key administrative and professional positions in each Washington State community and technical college as an aid to colleges in setting administrative salaries.

Most position codes and descriptions are identical to those used in the College and University Personnel Association (CUPA) survey and there are also position descriptions used that are unique to our Washington State Community and Technical College System.


Salaries for our classified staff are set by the state Department of Personnel (DOP) and the Washington Federation of State Employees (WFSE).  The DOP provides a list of all classified positions, a job class description and a link to the pay range and step.

Link to the WFSE salary schedule:


Salaries for faculty are determined by a similar scale in that both work/teaching experience and education are reviewed to determine their initial salary placement on the salary schedule which is found in the Green River United Faculty Coalition Agreement:

Exempt Staff

Exempt staffs (including Administrators) are determined based on the specific job description as well as state and regional comparisons. The following is a link to the 2014 administrative salary survey that we participate in each year

W-2 Wage

While these are the places we determine the base wages of employees, there is sometimes additional pay for work done outside of the normal scope of a job.  While the reported wage for a position might be one amount, the wages in the course of the year may be different.  The total salary plus additional monetary compensation for work are called the W-2 wage.  As a state employee, your W-2 wage is subject to public disclosure.  The information for all state employees is available at

As you have read, compensation is definitely more than just a number and how the employer gets to that number for each position is determined by various factors. Hopefully, this post has provided you with some insight and knowledge into how compensation is evaluated for positions within our organization.