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Thread: How we did it
05-09-06, 01:18 PM #1
How we did it
May 15, 2006
How we did it
Comparing the pay of service members and their civilian counterparts with similar jobs and experience levels with pinpoint precision is not easy.
We start by asking service members what they do, how much experience they have and where they’re assigned. We then call businesses and institutions in the same area — the same city or county, if possible — to get salary data for civilian workers with similar jobs and experience.
For a military air traffic controller, we call an airport near where the member is based. For a human resources manager, we call local companies to see what their HR personnel earn.
We also contact professional associations and job recruiting and placement firms, as well as personnel officials and wage-and-benefits specialists.
After determining local wages, we do a similar exercise, using additional data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and other online resources, to get a national average for a service member’s equivalent civilian profession.
Still, making such comparisons is an inexact science that leaves plenty of room for debate. Many military jobs match up readily with the civilian sector — law enforcement, health care, aviation — but others don’t translate as easily.
For example, Army Sgt. John Fleet, one of our volunteers this year, is an instructor in a new unit at Fort Carson, Colo., called the Installation Replacement Training Company. The unit runs refresher training for troops heading to Iraq in such areas as weapons qualifications, convoy and urban operations, land navigation and traffic control.
Obviously, that’s not a job with an instantly recognizable civilian equivalent. After discussing his military duties, we decided that they match up closest with someone who trains civilian law enforcement officers.
Placing a value on experience is another subjective judgment. We gauge years of experience in the job a service member holds now, not total years in uniform.
For example, senior enlisted people often move into jobs outside their career specialty when they reach grades E-8 and E-9. An E-8 may have 24 years in the military but only a few years of experience in the job he is doing now, so our civilian pay comparison probably will be on the low end for that job.
Every year, readers write in to say that our military pay figures are much too high.
But when allowances, special pays and other factors, such as bonuses and the tax advantage derived from untaxed allowances, are included, military pay invariably is much higher than what’s listed on a pay stub — and we don’t even try to add in the value of other benefits, such as health care or commissary savings.
05-09-06, 01:19 PM #2
May 15, 2006
How your pay stacks up
You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone in uniform who would not like to make more money.
But judging from the comments of the volunteers for the 2006 version of “How your pay stacks up,” our annual comparison of military and private-sector pay, service members are much more content these days than they were a few years ago.
Sure, pockets of disgruntlement remain — it wouldn’t be the military without a little griping. Some troops, especially midgrade enlisted members, say their compensation still doesn’t match their education and responsibility levels, which have been on an upward swing for a couple of decades now.
And, as always, a number of our volunteers cite the fact that unlike many 9-to-5 jobs on the outside, service members work much longer and much harder hours that keep them apart from their families — never more so than in the current wartime environment.
Still, most military personnel understand and acknowledge the efforts the Defense Department has made to restore the value of military pay that had eroded significantly toward the end of the 1990s, particularly for midgrade and senior enlisted people and warrant officers.
And while a few of our volunteers noted that the Pentagon’s proposed 2.2 percent minimum raise for 2007 may signal the end of the pay boom of recent years, most say that for the moment, they’re satisfied.
Coast Guard Senior Chief Electrician’s Mate Ron Inget, based at Naval Station Mayport, Fla., summed it up this way: “As far as pay in the military … for the most part, I think it’s pretty close to the civilian sector. I have no complaints — and if I did, it wouldn’t matter anyway.”
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