What you should be getting paid in DC (and why you might quit)

Staffing firm Robert Half has just released its 56th annual free Salary Guide. Created in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Labor, it covers projected starting salaries for more than 500 positions in professional services jobs, including finance, accounting, technology, marketing, creative, customer support, legal, health care, human resources and administration.

Accompanying the guide is a survey of working professionals. The big takeaway? Professionals feel underpaid.

“It is pretty staggering. We found out that 50% of workers that are based in D.C. feel underpaid,” said Trey Barnette, regional vice president with Robert Half, who says many companies, especially startups and small firms with limited HR resources, are often flying blind when it comes to setting compensation for their positions.

“Companies are seeking out the reasons why their employees are leaving for other opportunities and we’re consulting them on potential reasons why, like low pay and full benefit packages,” Barnette said.

So the guide is not only a comprehensive resource for job seekers, but for employers as well. And paying competitive salaries is one way to staunch what’s becoming “The Great Resignation.”

The Robert Half survey found nearly one in three professionals would consider quitting their current job if they don’t get a bump in pay by year’s end. That includes more than a third of working parents and almost half of respondents under 25.

“If employers can get in front of it on the front end, and look at their compensation packages and start paying at what is really the prevailing salary, they’ll be able to retain those employees,” Barnette said.

Robert Half says remote work is here to stay, and companies should at least consider hybrid options for employees when appropriate.

But, for the employee, the ability to work remotely from anywhere does not mean the paycheck will follow them.

“Companies are staying ahead of this by doing what is called a cost of living adjustment. So if someone is living in a more rural area but they’re doing work for a company in one of the metropolitan areas, they will do an adjustment to the salary so it is a level set to where they are living, rather than where their (employer is based),” Barnette said.

Overall, salaries are rising. In interviews with hiring managers, Robert Half found starting compensation for U.S. professional occupations is expected to increase an average 3.8% in 2022, and 48% of employers are offering some form of signing bonuses to entice new hires.

The survey was conducted in April, June and July of 2021, and results included responses from more than 3,800 professionals and more than 2,800 senior managers.

Robert Half’s 2022 Salary Guide is available online for free, but requires registration.

Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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