2000 Salary survey

The median income of respondents to Grounds Maintenance's 2000 Salary Survey was $43,987 - an increase of more than 17 percent compared to 1996.

How do you measure up? Do you make more or less than your professional peers? Does education really matter in the grounds-care industry? Does your benefits package match what's typical of this industry? Grounds Maintenance conducted its 2000 Salary Survey to help answer questions such as these.

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Not surprisingly, the survey reflected a growing industry of well-compensated professionals. The vigorous U.S. economy has created more disposable income, so more customers are willing to pay, and pay more, for commercial services. The resultant growth has provided great opportunity for those in the green industry and has put skilled managers in high demand. The tight labor market also has kept wages up.

Compare apples to apples It is isn't meaningful to simply compare what you're making with the average salary of all grounds-care professionals. To conduct a valid comparison for yourself, it is necessary to examine others that are similar to you in terms of geographic location, education and experience - factors that significantly affect earning potential.

For example, respondents with 25 or more years of experience earned $51,172, compared to $35,555 for those with between 5 and 9.9 years of experience in this industry. Education is also an important earnings booster. While high-school graduates earned $39,545, college graduates averaged $45,714 and those with graduate degrees took home $54,054.

Regional variations also can be substantial. If you work in New England, you likely earned more than your counterparts in other regions, sometimes considerably more (see map, at right). Interestingly, regional rankings changed since our last survey. In 1996, the Pacific region boasted the highest salaries, but it only slightly exceeded the 2000 Survey median salary. Conversely, the New England region almost exactly matched the national average in 1996.

The Salary Survey illustrates extremes as well as averages. For example, although more than 7 percent of landscape contractors reported annual sales exceeding $5 million, nearly 60 percent performed less than $500,000 of business. And while more than one-half of lawn-care operators service less than 100 customers, nearly 15 percent of respondents worked in firms with greater than 1,000 clients.

The tables at left provide greater detail about "typical" Grounds Maintenance readers according to job type. The tables on the facing page show the relationship of salary to experience level, education, title and industry segment.

In June 2000, Grounds Maintenance mailed 2,500 questionnaires to 500 readers in each of the following categories: golf courses, Institutional facilities, landscape contractors, lawn care operators and "Others allied to the field" (such as architects, arborists, irrigation contractors, etc.). The responses included more than 800 useable surveys, for an effective response rate of about 33 percent. Questions asked in the survey covered current salary and benefits, and numerous demographic factors.

All figures shown here are medians. The median is the value that represents the midpoint of responses. Therefore, the same number of answers, by definition, fall above and below the median value. Medians are useful for comparisons because they provide what can be considered a "typical" value. For example, the median salary of $43,987 indicates that an equal number of respondents made more and less than that amount.

Because the "other" category is difficult to define, it is not included in most of the breakouts shown in this article. However, it is included in the overall median salary of $43,987.

You can order a complete copy of the 2000 Grounds Maintenance Salary Survey for $50. Send check or money order to Grounds Maintenance, Marketing Dept., 9800 Metcalf, Overland Park, KS 66212.

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