The Blog

Average Wages: What Could I Be Making? - Iowa Edition

If you read the headlines, you know wages are flat. While unemployment is low, employers may not be using higher wages as incentives to bring on new employees. And you could look at that number positively if you understand that wages, while not growing dramatically, are not going down.

Most people wish they could make more money, but aren't ready to have the conversation with their employer about why they deserve more. This occasionally leads to employee turnover as employees seek greener pastures.


What Does "Median Salary" Even Mean?


Dust off your thinking cap and remember these concepts: Median, Mean & Average.

  • Median = the middle value of the range
  • Mean = the average salary (add up all the salaries and divide by the number of values)


Living in Iowa, doing an online salary search for average salary is not very helpful because our wages are affected by the lower cost of living we enjoy.  Some communities, like Iowa City and Des Moines might be more typical when it comes to median salaries by industry, but it helps to have local data to get a clear picture of what the market compensation truly is.

The Gazette.com has a great resource to job seekers looking for wage ranges in Iowa by category or job title. 


"How much do employees in Iowa make?" by Chris Essig, Data from Iowa Workforce Development featuredon TheGazette.com


Figuring Annual Salary


Once you find the potential hourly rate you can convert it to annual salary with some simple math:

  1. Multiply the number of hours worked per week by the hourly wage.
  2. Multiply that number by 52 (the number of weeks in a year).

Example: If you make $20 an hour and work 40 hours per week, your annual salary is $20 x 40 x 52, or $41,600.

If you want to go a step further and calculate your take home pay, you can get fancier by including local tax rates and other factors.

Knowing What You're Worth

All in all, salary should only be part of the conversation with your employer or potential employer. Ask about benefits, paid time off, potential contributions to a 401k or if you are lucky enough to be looking at an ESOP company, ask about when you can expect to benefit from the stock ownership plan. If you are seeking an increase at your current company, be armed with your individual contributions to provide your manager with solid reasons why you should be earning more.

Things to think about on the job:

  • What responsibilities are you willing to take on to make more?
  • Do your duties now exceed your job description significantly?
  • What actions have you taken recently that have favorably affected your company's bottom line?

Even if you don't end up getting a fatter paycheck after your conversation with management, you will have positioned yourself in your own mind where you should stand. And that's a good place to be.