First, three programming notes to make you aware of:
- I’ve posted a great guest article from Sarah Thiel, founder of CEZoom – this is a fantastic way to track your CE hours and stay within compliance of your state. I highly recommend you check out her article.
- Second, I’ve launched a partnership with Healthcare Specialists – a national recruiting firm who specifically is looking for hygienists interested in dental sales jobs. If you are interested in more information about their job openings, go here to learn more.
- Lastly, I am also working with Twice as Nice Uniforms – probably some of the best scrubs and lab coats available. I’ve secured a 10% discount for my followers – just use promo code GETHIREDRDH at checkout to get that deal.
It’s that time of year – the US Bureau of Labor Statistics has released their annual report on professional wages, including dental hygiene.
So this week, let’s review where things stand for each state.
First of all, I recognize these are only state averages. Metro and rural areas within each state are generally going to be higher and lower proportionately. However no salary survey is perfect because every office is unique. Salary surveys are only meant to give you a rough idea or starting point.
The fact of the matter is, each employer has a different threshold for compensating employees – some a generous and others are, well… not so much. And, there are other factors, too. Some employers may have a lower wage but make up for it in bonuses and benefits. Others pay exceptionally well, but offer no benefits and an office culture that is strained.
So a salary is only one measure of your experience as a dental hygienist. The value of salary surveys is that they give you some power in negotiation (if you are on the lower end). And give people like me an opportunity to point out trends that can arm you with a little bit of information.
This salary survey report is also just snapshot in time – from May 2015. The BLS begins gathering its data in May of each year and within about nine months have it all compiled and ready for report. So in this article I will be comparing the May 2015 data to the May 2014 report.
Nationally, dental hygiene hourly wages are up $0.65 from the year prior – it seems like a modest gain, but compared to other industries is actually pretty good. Nationally, all industry wages only crept up about $0.05 per hour. The overall economy was still surging a bit from 2014 to 2015, but has since slowed so it will be interesting to see if wages show slower growth in the May 2016 report.
Eleven states reported gains of more than $1 per hour for hygienists in 2015. Leading the way was New Mexico, who saw average wages improve by a staggering $6.59 (from $36.34 in 2014 to $42.93). New Mexico hygienists improved so much that they went from ranking 15th in the nation in the previous year to third highest state (behind California and the District of Columbia).
Also reporting big gains were Alaska, who received a $4.21 per hour raise and Oklahoma, who got a nice $3.06 increase. However, Oklahoma now at $31.20 per hour is still less than the overall national average of $34.09.
Others achieving significant gains were:
- South Carolina ($2.31)
- New York ($1.83)
- Hawaii ($1.56)
- District of Columbia ($1.42)
- Delaware ($1.34)
- Rhode Island ($1.22)
- Arkansas ($1.13)
- Utah ($1.05)
That brings us to the losers – I’m referring to state’s wages, of course, not the hygienists living there.
As was mentioned, some of the gains were extraordinarily large, thankfully those state’s that actually saw a reduction in pay for hygienists didn’t do so quite as dramatically.
The worst was the state of Washington, which saw it’s hourly average drop by $1.20 per hour. Washington was previously ranked the third-highest paying state, but with the drop has fallen two spots to fifth highest at $42.73 per hour (still well above the national average).
Maine (-$1.12) and Louisiana (-$0.94) saw the next biggest drops and both states (particularly Louisiana) were already well below the national average so that’s not the best news for hygienists living there.
From there, thirteen more states also saw a dip. These include:
- New Hampshire (-$0.42)
- Georgia (-$0.41)
- South Dakota (-$0.26)
- California (-$0.19)
- Missouri (-$0.17)
- West Virginia (-$0.13)
- Kentucky (-$0.08)
- Kansas (-$0.07)
- Nevada (-$0.06)
- Arizona (-$0.05)
- Massachusetts (-$0.05)
- Montana (-$0.04)
- Florida (-$0.01)
Okay, Now What?
Again, salary survey data is interesting to look at, but it’s greatest value is in providing you a starting point for negotiation and or at least for evaluating where you fit in those figures.
Keep in mind, if you are making more than your state average that doesn’t mean you don’t have a great opportunity to request a raise. But it also means that if you are below the average, you aren’t necessarily under-paid as an average is just a middle number – there always have to be some above and below it.
The longer you stay successfully employed in an office and the profession in general, the more you are due for a raise. Experience and skill equal value – even if not every employer sees it that way. So you should continue to document the ways in which you bring value so you can present a compelling case.
If you are seeking a job, the best advice is to hold off on any salary negotiation until you are given an actual job offer. Lots of employers will ask candidates up front what their salary requirements are. It’s good for you to know what your specific requirements are, but for purposes of negotiation never give that exact number out.
Instead, share a wide range and tell them you will need more information about the position (so you aren’t pinned down until you know if the job is yours to accept or reject). To be fair, there a wide variety of factors that go in to deciding to accept a job and salary is only one of them. You need more information about the entire compensation package, office culture and how everything fits within your own needs before you can decide what salary is acceptable for that job.
I wrote quite a bit about salary negotiation tactics last year. Click here to read more about that.
If you would like to receive my annual dental hygiene salary article only, you can click here to subscribe to that yearly report – at most it means getting one or two emails from me per year. Or, if you aren’t already, you can join my weekly tips list and expect to receive this same report each year.
To see where your state ranks, which also includes the total number of hygienists employed (including gains and losses), click here to see my interactive map.