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How Much do You Earn – and What are You Worth?

Bob Little 

April 29, 2016

Image copyright Catherine Lane 2015The E-Learning Guild’s recently published 2016 US E-Learning Salary & Compensation Report – drawing on data collected from more than 4,000 E-Learning Guild members in the U.S. – reveals that the average U.S. base salary for this sector, of $80,359, is down 0.89 per cent from the 2014 average of $81,079. Nonetheless, it’s still higher than the lowest recent overall average figure of $78,932, recorded in 2011, and more than 57 per cent of those surveyed have received a merit increase, or a pay raise, within the past year.

There are, of course, regional differences where salaries are concerned. New Jersey is the place to be if you want to enjoy the highest average base salary in the U.S.’s e-learning sector ($97,192). In second place is California ($93,087). In terms of the spread of average salaries, New Jersey’s average salary was 54 per cent higher than the lowest reported average state salary – that of e-learning professionals in Missouri ($63,167).

The biggest state “mover” in terms of average salary is Tennessee, whose average salary of $92,105 moved it into the top five states. Last year, Tennessee was near the bottom of the report, with average salaries there reported to be some 17 per cent less than that year’s national average of $81,079. Another big “riser” in the salary league table is Georgia (currently $89,004), which last year was mid-table but has now risen to occupy a top five position.

Unsurprisingly, the highest average salaries in the profession are found in metropolitan areas. Leading the way are California’s San Francisco ($98,536) and Los Angeles ($98,130). Moreover, much of the improvements in average salaries in Tennessee and Georgia can be explained by increases in salaries in those states’ metropolitan areas. In particular, e-learning professionals working in the Atlanta metropolitan area saw their salaries rise by some 15 percent from $78,747 in 2015 to $90,404 this year.

However, things are well below par in the Columbus, Ohio, metropolitan area – once the home of a number of internationally-known online learning technologies companies. Currently, in Columbus, the average e-learning professional’s salary is just $72,310 – presumably only just enough to keep The Mall at Tuttle Crossing or the Graeter’s ice cream parlors from Bethel to Worthington in business.

The report’s authors claim that, “There are striking differences in US private-sector and public-sector base salaries.”

The average base salary reported by this year’s federal government respondents ($87,233) was 1.3 per cent higher than the aggregate average of all private-sector respondents ($86,149). Other public sector entities, such as non-profits, trade associations, and state and local governments, continue to lag behind the aggregate average of all private-sector respondents and the federal government.

Average salaries lag furthest behind the private-sector average in universities and colleges (26.3 per cent lower, at $63,528) along with K-12 education institutions (28.2 per cent lower, at $61,865).

The report states that, this year at least, professionals’ qualifications have a smaller influence on the salaries they receive. While those with a doctorate still earn a higher average salary ($90,847), the gap between their salaries and others’ is narrowing – and it’s only 13 per cent above the national average of $80,359.

The average salaries of those holding a master’s degree ($81,041) were a mere 0.85 per cent above the national average salary – but at least they fared better than those with a bachelor’s or associate degree. These people’s average salary, of $78,655 for those with a bachelor’s degree and $73,089 for those with an associate degree, were considerably below the average salary level ($80,359).

Turning to job roles whose exponents tend to earn well above the national average salary, the report highlights executive managers (an average salary of $107,283), strategy and planning specialists ($103,747), and sales, marketing and business development specialists ($102,463). All of these job roles, however, saw the percentage by which they were in excess of the average salary fall this year, compared with 2015.

Those in job roles who were paid below the national average included content authors (with an average of $77,545), instructional designers ($76,489), and writing and technical support workers ($74,577).

In terms of gender differences, women in this sector who work full-time work, on average, 43.7 hours a week, while their male counterparts work some 44.9 hours. The hourly rate paid to full-time women workers amounted to $34.39 – some 10.3 per cent less than the hourly rate paid to men who work full-time ($38.35). The difference in average salary is some $12,000 a year – or $1,000 a month. Women who work full-time earn, on average, $77,608, while men earn $89,376 a year.

The report’s authors comment, “Looking at US average base salaries by gender, we found that the average salary for all US men who participated in the 2016 survey was $88,347, while the average salary for 2016 US women participants was $75,561. This means that base salaries reported by US women are 14.5 per cent less than for the men who participated in this study.

“This year, we also looked at US total compensation – that is, base salary plus bonuses, tuition reimbursement and continuing education costs. In addition to the 14.5 per cent gender gap in base salary, the average bonus amount for women ($7,529) was 35.3 per cent lower than for men ($11,634).

“However, the gap between women’s average tuition ($4,516) and men’s average tuition ($4,713) was relatively small at 4.2 per cent. But there remained a gap of 19.1 per cent between women’s average continuing education reimbursement ($2,280) and men’s average continuing education reimbursement ($2,819).”

The report includes links to best-practice guidelines, reports, tools, and other references and reports, including those on global salary issues and trends. Included in these is a link to the Guild’s updated 2016 salary calculator, which gives you the option to compute and compare national U.S. baseline salaries.

Also included in the 2016 US E-Learning Salary & Compensation Report is a section on action planning and steps to help you maximize your personal benefit from the report’s data and findings. However, if you’re thinking of personalizing your benefit from this report, you need to remember that all these figures are averages whereas, in the real world, no one is “average” and everyone is a special case.


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