AAUP Compensation Survey: An Overview

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The AAUP Business Handbook >> Part Six: General Management



The AAUP Compensation Survey is conducted annually under the auspices of the Business Systems Committee to collect information on salaries and benefits paid by university presses in both the United States and Canada. The resulting report consists of two sections, a general section that is distributed to the membership and constituency of the AAUP and a confidential section that is distributed only to directors of member presses that participate in the survey.

The Survey

The survey instrument is circulated each fall to directors of presses. Responsibility for completing the survey lies with the director of the press, but this responsibility is often delegated to the business manager or chief financial officer. To maintain the confidentiality of the data, presses are instructed to mail the completed surveys directly to a data processing firm working under contract to the AAUP.

General Information Section

The general information section of the survey instrument requests information that allows data from the responding press to be placed in the appropriate categories in the report. The information requested is:

(1) Name and address of the press

(2) For the book division:

  • Category of dollar net sales
  • Number of employees
  • Total payroll

(3) For the journals division:

  • Number published by type of ownership
  • Dollar net sales by type of ownership
  • Number of employees
  • Total payroll

(4) Corporate status of the press

(5) Type of control over salaries

(6) Fringe benefits by type and whether the employee contributes to cost

(7) Number of paid holidays per year

(8) Number of vacation days per year

The categories (ranges) of dollar net sales in which presses are classified are the same as those used in the annual statistical survey. The categories were changed in 1992 and again in 1997, when the following categories began to be used:

  • Up to $1,499,999
  • $1,500,000 to $2,999,999
  • $3,000,000 to $5,999,999
  • Over $6,000,000

The Business Systems Committee may also use this section of the survey instrument to ask questions designed to aid in the preparation of future surveys.

The Salary Survey Section

The salary survey section of the survey instrument lists, for each of the standard operating departments of a press, job titles for commonly existing positions together with a brief job description and blank spaces for indicating the annual salary, the salary tier (see below), and the gender and ethnicity of the employee. For positions for which there may be more than one employee, multiple sets of blanks are provided, and the presses are instructed to add still more sets as needed.

Operating Departments

The operating departments for which job titles are listed are:

  • General and Administrative
  • Editorial
  • Production and Design
  • Marketing
  • Business
  • Electronic Data Processing
  • Journals

Salary Tiers

The salary tiers used in the survey are intended to allow users of the data to compare different positions within a given department on the basis of authority, responsibility, and autonomy. The tiers are defined as follows:

Tier 1: Top position in the department.

Tier 2: Positions that have authority to make departmental or program decisions autonomously and/or in the absence of the department head.

Tier 3: Positions that have authority to make departmental or program decisions subject to higher approval before implementation.

Tier 4: Positions with limited decision-making authority.

Tier 5: Clerical positions.

The person responsible for completing the survey is asked to consult with department heads on the assignment of tier levels to each incumbent.

Directors stand above the tier system, but for practical purposes they are included in tier 1 in the report itself.

Within departments, not all tiers need be used, nor need tier designations be the same for all incumbents of the same position. For example, if two incumbents are listed as acquisitions editors, one may be placed in tier 2 and the other in tier 3.

Because assignment to tiers is done locally, the identical position may be classified in, for example, tier 2 at one press and in tier 4 at another. Moreover, because the assignments in a given press may be made by more than one person, positions of similar responsibility in different departments of the same press may be assigned to different tiers.


The survey collects the full-time-equivalent salary of each incumbent of each position. When an employee functions in more than one area, the total salary is to be reported under the position that is commensurate with the employee's principal responsibility. Canadian presses are to report salaries in U.S. dollars.

The Report

The annual compensation report is sent to the directors of all presses who participated in the survey, usually in February. The report has two sections: nonconfidential general information and the confidential salary survey.

General Information Section

The general information section, or front matter, of the report is disseminated both to the directors of presses who participate in the survey and to the membership at large, usually by publication in some such vehicle as the AAUP newsletter, the Exchange.

The general information section displays information derived from the general information section of the survey. It includes the following elements:

  • A list of participating presses by name and geographic region.
  • Tabulations of the number of participating presses by geographic region, type of ownership, sales volume, form of organization, and method by which compensation is determined.
  • A tabulation by staff size of the number of participating presses, the total number of employees, and the average compensation per employee.
  • A tabulation of journal publishing data.
  • A tabulation of fringe benefits available by type.
  • A tabulation of annual paid holidays.
  • A tabulation by salary tier within department of the numbers of women and members of minority groups.

Salary Survey Section

The body of the report, which contains tabulations of salary data, is distributed on a confidential basis only to the directors of participating presses. Further distribution within each press is at the discretion of the individual directors.

Data on salaries are displayed by job title within each department. The listings under the general and administrative department include provisions for reporting on those heads of departments who have titles such as associate director or assistant director and who, in addition to their duties as department heads, assist in the overall management of the press. Salaries for these positions are reported both under general and administrative and under the individual department.

Data for all other positions are reported only once, under the department in which the position commonly falls. Included with the title is a brief job description. Below the title and job description is a table that breaks down data by:

  • All
  • Sales volume
  • Geographic area
  • Ownership
  • Salary tier
  • Gender

The columns for each category display:

  • Number of participating presses
  • Number of employees reported
  • Actual reported salaries, in thousands of dollars, at the following points in the range:

Low - 25th percentile - Median - Average - 75th percentile - High

When the number of salaries to be reported on a given line of the report is so small that displaying them would permit identification of the individuals involved, the data are not displayed.

Use of the Data

Data on salaries for individual positions are best used in the setting of the individual press rather than globally throughout the profession. Anecdotal evidence indicates that the data are widely used by directors in establishing salary levels, especially to support applications to institutional personnel offices for reclassifications and salary increases.

The data contained in the front matter of the report can be used to reach some general conclusions that may apply throughout the profession. An extensive analysis cannot be provided here, but the following is illustrative.

The number of presses participating in the survey increased from 62 in 1987 to 78 in 1992, and it is holding steady at that level (76 in 1997). The number of presses in each category of sales volume is also of interest. There were 28 presses with net sales below $1,000,000 in 1987 and 30 in 1992. In 1997, 34 presses had net sales below $1,500,000. The number of large presses has increased. In 1987, 10 presses had sales above $4,000,000; in 1997, 10 presses had sales above $6,000,000.

Average compensation has also increased. In 1987, the average of reported total compensation was $23,600; in 1992 it was $30,000, and in 1997 it was $35,500. Average compensation is also reported in several ranges of staff size.

Data on numbers of women and minorities in each position were not collected until 1988. In that year, women accounted for 68% of incumbents in all tiers in all departments combined, a ratio that remained the same in 1992 and increased only to 69% in 1997. Women accounted for 48% of incumbents in tier 1 positions (including directors) in 1988, 51% in 1992, and 56% in 1997. In tier 2 positions, after increasing from 68 percent in 1988 to 69% in 1992, the ratio has slipped to 67%, reflecting perhaps the advance of women into tier 1 positions. The ratios of women in tier 3 positions were 75, 73, and 71 percent for the years reported, while women in tier 4 positions represented 76%, 75%, and 79% of the total. On tier 5, the proportion of women increased from 67% in 1988 to 69% in 1992, and to 72% in 1997.

Data on minorities reflect a situation that is largely static. The proportion of minorities in all positions combined was 9% in 1988, 10% in 1992, and 9% in 1997. While there has been some movement in the upper tiers (from 2%-4% in tier 1, for example), it is clear that the absolute numbers are small. Conversely, members of minority groups are more numerous in tiers 4 and 5, where their numbers have remained relatively steady. In tier 4, the ratio moved from 14 in 1988 to 16 in 1992 and back to 11 in 1997. In tier 5, the movement has been from 22% to 23% to 22%.

These are the kinds of useful information that can be derived from the data presented in the general information section of each annual compensation report. Much more could be said, but the level of detail required would take us beyond the purpose of this article.

The AAUP Business Handbook >> Part Six: General Management

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