Vol. 23 • Issue 2 • Page 6
The results of the 2010 ADVANCE salary survey give reason for celebration. According to data submitted by the 1,196 respondents, the average laboratorian is a female bench technologist aged 50 to 59, is certified and works in a hospital laboratory. While "average" paints a general picture, the full story is found in the details.
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True to history and anecdotal reports, the Pacific region of the country (AK, CA, OR, WA) pays higher salaries ($80,751) followed by Middle Atlantic (NJ, PA, NY), and New England states with around $70,000, then the Southeast and Mountain states. Bringing up the rear again is the East South Central (AL, KY, MS, TN) at $54,916 (Table 1).
The wide spread between highest and lowest salaries may be a result of cost of living, competition, labor shortages and other factors not measured by this particular survey.
As in previous surveys, the current data (Table 2) indicates that pathology personnel are the most highly paid ($86,920), followed by virologists ($76,962). Cytologists and LIS coordinators are in the middle of the pack, being paid approximately $71,000, while most of the more common specialists cluster around the low $60,000 (blood banking, chemistry, hematology and microbiology for example).
Generalists are paid an average of $58,776 (an increase of 7.5 percent since 2008). Phlebotomists bring up the rear in absolute numbers ($33,684), but show a substantial increase of 28 percent over the 2008 rate. Generally, while the relative rankings have changed, all specialties have seen an increase in annual salary compensation.
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Tables one, two, three and four.
Despite the down economy and tales of belt-tightening by healthcare organizations, almost every category shows an increase as compared to a similar ADVANCE salary survey conducted in 2008. Not surprisingly the highest paid are administrative directors and managers at $84,852, while the lowest paid are phlebotomists with an average salary of $29,738 annually (Table 3). Next to managers, educators are the most highly compensated at an average of $71,003, followed by LIS specialists, point of care coordinators, chief technologists and then bench technologists at $54,815 (Figure).
These are in the same order found in the prior survey. However, the percent changes vary widely as compared to 2008. Point-of-care coordinators show a 25.6 percent increase, the LIS coordinator increase is 17.3 percent, lab director/manager increased by 13.6 percent and phlebotomist salaries increased by 13.1 percent. Bench technologists, chief technologists and educators all experienced a similar increase of 10 percent since 2008.
The only category experiencing a decrease is medical laboratory technicians (MLT) who went from $40,682 to $39,839-a 2.1 percent decrease. While the survey does not explain this anomaly, one explanation could be that the MLT respondents are newly-hired and are at the bottom of the salary scale for their role. Additionally, the sample size might have influenced that finding. The last survey showed the average pathologist salary at $105,500. However, there were no responses from pathologists this time around.
The majority of laboratorians (69 percent) work in hospital laboratories (Table 4). Eight percent work in a physician office laboratory, while six percent work in commercial labs. Reference or commercial laboratories tend to pay more than hospital laboratories- an average of $66,930 versus $61,892. Veteran's Administration lab salaries compare very favorably with those of commercial laboratories while public health laboratories pay less than average. Physician offce laboratories pay the least, averaging $51,599 per year.
An overwhelming 94 percent (1,126 of 1,196 respondents) are certified, compared to only 6 percent (70) being non-certified. The average salary difference is not significant, however. There is only a 6.6 percent spread. (Table 5). One likely explanation is that the noncertified personnel may be older or longer-term employees who have either climbed up the salary ladder over time or have performed exceptionally and are paid competitively despite lacking certification.
The vast majority of respondents are baby boomers aged 50 to 59 (36 percent); a fact that is not surprising given the aging of the professional workforce. This is confirmed by the fact that the 60-plus age group make up 12.5 percent of the respondents, up from only 5.9 percent in the previous survey.
Starting at age 50 to 59, there are fewer respondents and a lower salary in each descending age group (Table 6). These two factors together might be summarized as "a largely aging workforce, members of whom are at the top of the pay scale, possibly due to length of service."
The 21-29 age group makes up just 8 percent of the workforce and are paid $44,678 compared to their senior colleagues who are paid an average of $68,538.
To some in the profession this scale might indicate room for growth; to others it might mean a depressed scale-if not flat, at least with only a slight incline demonstrating merely incremental change over several years of service.
Most clinical laboratorians are females; a fact common to much of healthcare. Seventy-eight percent of respondents are female; 22 percent are males (Table 7). Males are paid 9.6 percent more than females on average. This finding shows a smaller difference than in the last survey (13.7 percent). Why this gender difference? This isn't unique to clinical lab science. One might guess that, like other professions, males are found in management in higher proportion than women of similar ages and qualification. This tends to be true even when men are in the minority. This observation is open to conjecture, but can't be explained by this survey.
Click to view the larger graphic for Tables five, six and seven.
Overall, this survey brings good news. Salaries are continuing to rise, despite the economy and fears of job instability. As with every survey there are anomalies and nuances that must be considered when interpreting results.
The sample size is limited and is made up of a sub-set of clinical laboratorians-readers of ADVANCE who are committed to responding to a voluntary survey. The size of each work-site was not captured. A large hospital or hospital system might pay significantly higher than a smaller hospital and may be over or under represented in the sample, thus affecting results. The large number of older respondents might skew the average salaries reported as compared to your particular laboratory.
Base salaries do not give the full picture. Total compensation includes benefits (like health, life, dental insurance), paid time off (PTO), bonuses and a host of other possible perks. These perks, employee engagement or employer-loyalty cannot be measured in this survey although they bring value to employees.
Differences seen in geographic areas are largely due to cost of living. The costs of housing and basic necessities dictate what is considered a fair salary. So, California laboratorians are not necessarily much better off than those in Alabama because of the relative cost of living in both areas.
If you look at the survey and find that your own individual salary is significantly less than those in the survey, then it is important to consider the context and limitations of the survey. However, one might use this survey to convince their human resource department to conduct a market survey to stay competitive. Another strategy might be to cross-train in a more competitive field.
While the current survey shows salaries on the rise, each individual should consider not just the findings, but the implications for their own situation. If you are totally satisfied with your salary, benefits, organizational culture and employer support, then the grass might not be greener on the other side. On the other hand, if you are dissatisfied with how you stack up against the pack, consider strategies to move toward the front of the pack.
Glen McDaniel (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a healthcare consultant, clinical lab scientist, speaker and freelance writer. His interests include mediation, leadership, change and ethics.
Gift Certificate Winner
- Congratulations to Cat Maniaci of Maryville, TN, the winner of our $150 ADVANCE Healthcare Shop drawing for completing the salary survey.