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Winter 2007-08 Vol. 51, Number 4

Beyond averages: Other ways to look at occupational wages

When it comes to occupational wage data, averages arenít all you need to know. Learn more in this article.

Information on average wages for an occupation is a useful tool for gauging an occupationís earnings potential. But data on average wages mask important differences within an occupation. 

Workers in a given occupation may earn more or less than the average based on a number of factors, including their skills and experience, the industry and location in which they work, their specific employer, and, in some cases, their ability to negotiate a higher wage. 

To learn that kind of information, youíll need to look beyond averages. A good place to start is with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program. OES data on wage distributions, or percentiles, provide more and better information on wage variability and earnings potential within an occupation. And data showing how wages vary by industry and location give additional details.

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U.S. Department of Labor
Bureau of Labor Statistics

Last Updated: May 1, 2008