Virtue has its own reward, but no box office*

March 1, 2003
This month, every movie buffs eyes are focused on the 75th Academy Awards, and the glitter and glamour that is Hollywood. As one nominee for actress in a leading role, Rene Zelweggers asking price of $5 million per movie probably jumped once she dazzled audiences in Chicago. Until her recent success in Unfaithful, one of Zelweggers competitors Diane Lane commanded a mere $3 million per picture. And it is not always the younger gals with the knock-out looks that make the big bucks: Kathy Bates, made infamous in Misery and current nominee for her performance in About Schmidt, got $50,000 just for the voice-over work she did in The Dragons of The pay scale for the multitalented clinical laboratory professional is, of course, much lower than that of Hollywoods bevy of beauties. The question for each of us is not, How does my salary compare with the superstars? but rather, How do I stack up against my counterparts in other clinical laboratories? We asked many of you, our readers, to share salary and related information with us. A total of 978 responded without even having Oscar as an incentive. These are our findings for 2002.Our clinical laboratory celebrityAccording to our survey respondents, the representative laboratory professional who responded to the survey is a female (65 percent), 48 years of age, in a hospital lab (64.4 percent) in an urban area (48 percent) and works in the northeastern United States (35.2 percent). She has a supervisory position (20 percent) and is a lab manager/administrator (35.5 percent) in a hospital lab (64.4 percent). Her salary in that position is $61,046, although the average yearly salary for a female laboratorian is $56,091, $13,511 less than her male counterpart. (Incidentally, based on her one-time Dragons voice over, Bates got almost as much pay as our lab pro did for the entire year.)Our representative clinical lab pro works for a company with 21-50 employees (25 percent). She is a graduate of a college or university (59.2 percent) and is certified in her field (92 percent). She participates in a continuing education program with more than 10 CE classes yearly (26 percent). She has worked in the clinical laboratory field for more than 20 years (68 percent), and has been with her current employer for all those years (28 percent).We found wide variations in salary among our respondents. No doubt some of the salary differences relate to competency level, business conditions or personality factors, and it is not possible to evaluate these from responses to a questionnaire. However, several easily defined factors seem to contribute to different pay structures. These include education, geographic location, job function and the length of time a person has been in the clinical laboratory profession.Differentiators at the casting callEducation Generally, education is a significant differentiator in the salary structure. The typical employee with a high school diploma makes about $34,346 less than one with a post-graduate college degree
(Figure 1). Even the employee with a bachelors degree is likely to experience a $19,276 shortfall as compared to her post-graduate counterpart. The range between the one physician respondent and the lone phlebotomist respondent was $167,437.
Geographic area When Mae West wrote and starred in Go West, Young Man, she was making $480,000 in 1935, the second highest salary in America at the time (only President Calvin Coolidge was paid more). Today, the clinical lab pro who takes Maes advice to go West is likely to be paid more than her colleagues in other parts of the country
(Figure 2). Those in the Pacific region get the highest salaries ($72,457 average yearly), followed by the Northeast ($62,201), while the ones in the Southeast, Central and Mountain areas of the United States do not fluctuate much ($$57,163 to $58,720). But when the credits roll, Canadian lab pros are at the bottom of the list, earning an average yearly salary of $47,833.
Job function Understandably, a persons primary job function is a significant salary differentiator. As physicians, pathologists are the leading players, with an average salary of $171,033
(Figure 3). They are followed by lab managers/administrators and supervisors at average yearly salaries of $61,046 to $54,155, respectively. Medical technologists, whose supporting roles bring less money, make an average yearly salary of $40,996.
Years in the industry In general, salary increases as you spend more time in the clinical lab profession
(Figure 4). The average pay in the first three years is $54,918, increasing incrementally to $61,218 in the 20+-year time period. The anomaly of the three- to five-year experience at $87,091*, represents a pool of respondents unlike other ranges, who all had either a bachelors or post-graduate degree.
Spotlight on security, satisfaction
and shortages
Our celebrity clinical lab representative says her employer rolls out the red carpet when it comes to benefits. As part of her contract, she is provided with healthcare insurance (98 percent), 401(k) (91 percent), life insurance (90 percent), dental coverage (89 percent), disability insurance (82 percent) but reports that no bonus or incentive was part of her 2002 annual compensation. She expects a salary increase of from 2 percent to 4 percent this year, and believes that her job is very secure (48.4 percent), a job with which she is somewhat satisfied (49 percent).She finds that there is a moderate impact on her laboratory because of the shortage of medical personnel (45 percent), which has so far not made it necessary to outsource (88 percent). Her lab had, however, automated and/or further automated new procedures last year (58 percent), and intends to continue automating in the coming year (63 percent).Accolades go to the healthcare specialists who work behind the scenes on location in labs throughout North America, who will likely never confront paparazzi nor dodge Joan Rivers at a star-studded ceremony anywhere. Their dedication to the clinical laboratory profession brings its own rewards. Mae West knew that when she said, Virtue is its own reward, but no box office.                                                                         
March 2003: Vol. 35, No. 3
© 2003 Nelson Publishing, Inc. All rights reserved.