This is a question that comes up a lot. Sometimes it’s more in the form of “Why do they get paid more than me?” or “Why does one profession get paid more than another?” There are several answers to this question. There are several ways you can use this information to get paid more for the work you do. This post will talk about why one profession gets paid more than another. A later post will talk about why two people in similar jobs or at the same company might get paid different amounts.
Let’s start with why one profession gets paid more than another. Consider teachers. They are vitally important, but they are not paid very well in this country. Why do they get paid so little? The short answer is supply and demand. According to the National Center for Education Statistics there are about 3.5 million teaching jobs in the US. According to the Bureau of labor statistics teaching jobs are expected to grow about 6%. Now back to the National Center for Education Statistics. There are more than 250,000 education degrees being awarded each year. That means that there are more teachers coming out of school each year than there are new teachers. This actually includes people leaving the profession and teacher turnover. Since there are more people than there are jobs, employers don’t have to pay as much to get someone that is qualified. Since the demand for new teachers is low, but the supply is high there are people willing to work for less money just to get the job. That drives down the pay.
The other side is areas where it is hard to find someone that is willing and able to do the job. For example, chemical engineering at the height of the last oil boom. A chemical engineering degree is difficult, and time consuming to get. There are not many people who have one. During the oil boom a lot of companies needed chemical engineers and there were not very many people coming out of school with that degree. This meant that if a company wanted to hire someone they had to offer more money than the next company. This drive up pay for the industry.
Supply and demand drives a lot of the reason that different jobs pay more than others. Jobs that are easy to do or require little responsibility do not pay much because it is easy to find someone that can do it. It is easy to find someone willing and able to flip burgers. It is easy to find someone that can sweep floors. It’s not as easy to find someone that can be a manager. It’s much more difficult to find some that has a specialized skill set like chemical engineering. This also applies to jobs that everyone wants or no one wants. It’s easy to find people that want to be congressional interns, and those are unpaid jobs. It’s tough to find people willing to clean up crime scenes, so those jobs pay well.
So what can you do about it? The simple answer, pick a profession that pays well and that there are not enough people doing. Sometimes this can be easier said than done. But just because you don’t have a knack for chemical engineering doesn’t mean that you can’t get paid the same. Look at your skill set and find jobs that match that. Look for the higher paying jobs. Or if there is a job that you want, gain the skills to do it. For the highest paying jobs this usually means a college degree, but it doesn’t have to. It might mean doing a different training program. Or it might mean following someone that currently does what you want to do to learn the job. The key point is to gain a skill that employers are willing to pay for. A skill that not everyone has. Don’t chase the money, though. Make sure the path you choose matches your interests or you might end up in a job that you regret. The other option is to be willing to do a job that others don’t want to do.
How do you see this in your own career?