What is a Pay Range?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 04 October 2019
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Pay range typically means high to low or minimum to maximum pay for a certain type of job. Such ranges can be based on a variety of factors that may include type of work, consideration of regional and national average pay for that work, the specific region in which the work is being offered, company finances and other features. Not all salaries fall within any sort of average range, and some companies set their ranges higher or lower than average.

When people look for work, they might research the expected pay range for their work, but this can really depend on the area in which a person lives. Areas with a lower cost of living usually offer jobs at the lower end of an expected pay range. The highest salaries tend to be earned in urban areas where cost of living is high. Someone searching in a suburban area might expect to see salaries in middle pay ranges, but probably couldn’t expect to get the top pay without years of service to a company or employer.

One thing that may guarantee a certain pay range is union work. Since unions negotiate pay with employers, they have set pay ranges which may provide a little more protection for workers than non-union jobs.


An employer isn’t obligated to pay any more than the state or federal minimum wage, or to provide pay raises. Most of them do, but union involvement can guarantee certain protections not only regarding pay rate but when raises must be given.

The majority of employers know they’ll have a hard time attracting workers unless they offer a pay range that is reasonable. It gets progressively more difficult to staff a business when skilled workers are needed. Employers need to make pay range attractive and in line with regional averages to obtain highly skilled workers. Most employers will be very upfront about this range, and exactly how many years of experience they expect workers to have to get paid specific amounts. Companies usually won’t consider paying newly hired employees above the range, though an extremely skilled worker may occasionally negotiate a higher salary.

A pay range isn’t necessarily set on any form of regional average. For unskilled, non-union jobs, employers may simply set their own scale which may or may not be fair, given the work involved. Also, a scale doesn’t necessarily imply that a raise will be given. Although it would seem that worker’s salaries would go up, given a company range, there are many companies that seldom give raises or freeze raises during financially difficult times, maintaining salaries at the bottom of the pay range. Unless there are guaranteed pay increases, employees could remain at the same compensation level for years.


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