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Professional Staff Salary Survey



In 2012 the University of Washington retained the independent consulting firm of Milliman to conduct a cash compensation survey for its professional staff positions.

Milliman evaluated cash compensation for fifty-seven (57) benchmark jobs in the University's professional staff group. Base salary and total cash compensation data were collected from regional and national institutions of higher education via a custom survey for thirty-eight (38) jobs and published surveys for nineteen (19) jobs.

A similar survey was conducted by Milliman in 2007.

The fifty-seven (57) benchmark jobs, chosen by the University's Compensation Office, the Professional Staff Salary Survey Advisory Group (a committee of professional staff employees) and Milliman, provide a solid representation of benchmark positions with the University's grade structure and across job groups as summarized by the tables that follow.


Market conditions have changed somewhat from the period when the last survey was completed:

2006 2012
Unemployment (Washington) 4.0% 8.6%
Turnover (Washington) 20.6% 15.8%
Minimum wage (Washington) $7.93 $9.04
Prevalence of variable pay (U.S.) 79% 82%
Median pay increase (Puget Sound) 3.8% 2.7%

The following chart illustrates the changes in market compensation over the past thirty-one years and also shows the University's annual professional staff salary increase merit pool percentage for the most recent twenty-one years.

The fifty-seven benchmark jobs, chosen by the UW Compensation Office, the Professional Staff Salary Survey Advisory Group, and Milliman provide a solid representation of jobs and employees within the University's grade structure and across job groups as summarized by the tables that follow.

The University's entire professional staff supports one of the nation's premier public research universities. There are 7,692 professional staff in grades 5 through 11. The University's teaching hospital is a leading health care provider in the region and nationally known for a number of its programs. The staff in this group provide expertise to support the University's teaching, research and public service mission.

The University, like other major organizations in the Puget Sound region, recognizes the importance of hiring and retaining a highly talented staff. The cost of turnover can be significant with the costs equal to 25% to 50% of pay (a conservative estimate) per replacement. For jobs in high demand or those with skills that are scarce in the marketplace, the cost of turnover can be significantly higher.

Maintaining competitive levels of compensation is critical to staff retention. Compensation for new hires is also critical in that the University must offer competitive rates consistent with what our peers are offering as well as what existing employees at the University are being paid.

This analysis covers professional staff jobs in grades 5 through 11, which includes 7,692 employees.

The University sources professional staff employees from the education sector and from general industry (including the private sector). In most areas, the University loses employees to both of these markets. The private sector can often provide a total pay package that includes elements that the University does not offer and which make competing difficult for most educational institutions. For example, the private sector is able to offer direct compensation that consists of base salary, annual incentives, benefits and often long-term incentives such as stock options.

The University is limited in the value of its total compensation package by the absence of annual and/or long-term incentives. Historically the University has addressed this limitation by:

Additionally, when making a national hire the University is more challenged than many of its peer institutions because of its location. The cost of living in the greater Seattle area is roughly 34% higher than the national average, according to Economic Research Institute data. Cost of living certainly impacts the decisions of potential employees from other parts of the country. While the cost of labor in Seattle is 13% higher than the national average and new recruits can make more dollars here than in many locations, the difference can present obstacles to recruiting.

While the above elements can impact recruitment, the University provides a number of significant attractions beyond direct compensation. These include a highly desirable location, the opportunity to work at a premier institution of higher education, a stimulating work environment, job security, and rich cultural experiences to name just a few.

This compensation analysis included a custom survey of institutions of higher education and data from published surveys. Published data used are primarily regional in nature while the custom survey included universities across the United States (global challenge peer institutions as well as the University's primary peer group). All data in this report, both published survey data and data from the custom survey, have been geographically adjusted to reflect the Puget Sound area.

Chart of UW Benchmark Group & Sources of data used in the survey:

2012 UW Benchmark Job Group Published
Counseling/Student Services X X   X
Development X X   X
Health Care X   X X
Information Technology X X X X
Manager/Strategic Advisors X X X X
Public Information/Communications X X X X
Research X X   X

Published survey sources included both regional and national surveys:

National Surveys Regional Surveys
CUPA Milliman Northwest Health Care
Economic Research Institute Milliman Northwest Management & Professional
Higher Ed Custom Milliman Puget Sound Regional
McConnell & Company Institutional Advancement Milliman Technology
Mercer Finance, Accounting & Legal  
Mercer Information Technology  
Mercer Integrated Health Networks  
Pearl Meyer Research & Development  
Towers Watson Health Care Clinical & Professional  
Towers Watson Health Care Administration & Support  
Towers Watson Health Care Executive & Management  
Towers Watson Information Technology  
Towers Watson Office  
Towers Watson Professional  
Towers Watson Supervisory & Middle Management  
Wamser University Foundation/Development  


Cash compensation in general is well aligned with the market TCC 50th percentile, though on average it is 4.2% below that competitive level across all jobs when comparing the UW structure to the market. When comparing UW individual salaries to the market TCC 50th percentile, the UW employee-weighted average is 7.6% below the market. The difference between the two numbers reflects the impact of the salary freeze on employees' individual salaries, especially in areas such as research and IT, which have larger numbers of incumbents. The two charts following illustrate this conclusion (for the non-weighted structure comparisons).

In contrast to the study completed in 2007, the results here suggest that the University has been able to provide competitive compensation around the market target, though somewhat below the desired level on average. The following chart shows how the University's base pay compares to a normal range around the market TCC 50th percentile (a normal range is usually considered between 80% and 120% of the market competitive level). As illustrated, nearly all jobs fall within a "normal" range around the market 50th percentile.

Next - Methodology

2012 Salary Survey