Salary Survey Then and Now

The first time ASQ (then ASQC) ever collected salary information on its members was in 1986; the first annual salary survey report appeared in the April 1987 issue of Quality Progress. (In 1982, QP did publish a series on the status of the quality profession that included salary data from a national referral service.)

The 1987 report, representing 2,433 responses, consisted of three and a half pages. Specific quality job titles numbered seven: analyst, director, engineer, manager, statistician, supervisor and technician. (All except statistician still exist in today's survey in some form.) Average salaries ranged from $24,583 for technicians to $54,013 for directors.

Other breakouts of data included industry classification (nine plus an "other" category), level of experience, ASQ certification status (five available then), level of education and educational specialization (management, engineering, science, business or other).

A "salary by job function" table was telling of the times, with only six functions listed: auditing, inspection, purchasing, quality assurance/quality control, quality control laboratory and reliability/availability/maintainability. There were no data on salaries by age or gender--another sign of the times.

Fast forward to 2003 and the 17th edition of the annual salary survey (p. 30 and online). This year's survey received more than 9,500 responses representing 21 job titles (five new this year), 20 industrial classifications, six types of employment status, 11 ASQ certifications (plus 10 from the Registrar Accreditation Board) and 39 major metropolitan areas (in addition to the 50 states, eight territories and 12 Canadian provinces and territories).

The data also include breakouts such as salary by age and gender, number of work hours, number of employees overseen and organizational classification (size and location, quality infrastructure). The 2003 report spans 26 printed pages, plus 16 more sections online comprising numerous more pages. As another example of continuous improvement and growth, for the first time the entire report (including the pages in this issue) is available to ASQ members online in PDF for easier reading and downloading.

While this year's results present a fairly gloomy picture, the silver lining is this growth of the survey--because that expansion reflects on the quality profession itself. The survey has been modified and improved each year based on feedback from QP readers, who have told us how their needs are changing as the world they work in changes. This transformation has meant increases in the number, scope and level of jobs for quality experts and in the industries and organizations that find their expertise valuable and relevant--a good sign and worthy direction for the future of quality.

Debbie Phillips-Donaldson

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