THE MAGAZINE

You Earned It

By Mike Moran
Compensation for security professionals in the United States in 2009 rose 4 percent to a median of $90,000. The average for 2009 is $102,000. That’s according to the 2009 ASIS International U.S. Security Salary Survey, which collects data from participants for the current and preceding years in order to capture an accurate representation of a single group’s experience year-to-year.
 
The survey examines trends in both average and median salary, because the two measurements can offer different perspectives; the average is a total of all items in the sector divided by the count in the sample, while the median is the precise midpoint of the range of all items reported.
 
Forms of compensation other than salary are also examined. The average performance bonus in 2009 is $10,000. This figure is unchanged from the 2008 salary survey.
 
But the percentage of those receiving a bonus dropped from 56 percent to 46 percent this year. Also noteworthy is that while the median value of bonuses rose, the average value remained unchanged, indicating stagnation at the upper levels of bonus packages.
 
Just 11 percent of respondents received any compensation from profit-sharing, continuing a march back from 13 percent in 2008 and 15 percent in 2007. The average value of that profit-sharing package fell by a median of 4 percent to $5,000, representing the first fall in value in the 5-year history of this survey.
 
Stock options are also fewer, dropping from 16 percent receiving them in 2008 to 13 percent in 2009, though the median value remained constant at $10,000.
 
Amidst these medians and averages are industries and regions that are compensating at rates far higher and lower. Independent factors such as job duties, personal qualifications and experience, and the size and structure of the employer are also indispensable in benchmarking compensation rates.
 
Public or Private Sector
 
More than half (56 percent) of respondents work for privately held companies, a sector reporting an average compensation of $98,000 and a median of $85,000. Their peers working for publicly held (stockholder-owned) companies report the highest average compensation in this comparison at $118,000, with a median of $100,000—up 1 percent over the year prior.
 
By contrast, federal government/law enforcement employees report an average salary of $107,000 and the highest median of any sector at $105,000.
 
The distinction between the federal sector and the publicly held commercial sector provides a useful illustration for assessing compensation characteristics using both averages and medians.
 
 
For publicly held companies, which tend to be larger than sole proprietorships, there was a spread of $18,000 between the average and median; the spread shows that there is more upward potential. The federal sector had the higher median with a difference of just $2,000 between average and median, showing much less range overall in what one can earn in that sector.
 
The survey shows that most security professionals are apt to be better paid in the federal sector. What the publicly held companies offer in comparison is the opportunity to earn far more at the top end of the pay scale.
 
The 90th percentile of security practitioners in the federal sector earn an average salary of $153,000. Their peers employed by publicly held companies report an average of $200,000.
 
This year’s survey also provides an interesting glimpse at the effects of the economic recession and its relative impact in these sectors. Median salaries among those working for publicly held companies rose just 1 percent this year. Those in the more sheltered waters of the federal sector saw median compensation increases of 5 percent.
 
Those in the lowest 10th percentile of the compensation range report increases of 8 percent in the federal sector versus just 3 percent in publicly held companies. That difference reverses in the top 10 percent (the 90th percentile), not surprisingly, because there’s more room for salaries to rise at the high end of the private sector than in government, as noted earlier. Thus, median compensation among that top slice rose 4 percent among publicly held companies and 3 percent in the federal sector.
 
Municipal government/law enforcement compensation rose just 2 percent, with an average of $84,000 and a median of $78,000. State government/law enforcement again ranks lowest in this year’s survey, with an average compensation of just $82,000 and a median of $75,000.
 

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