Write the Docs Salary Survey 2019 Results

Introduction

The first ever Write the Docs Salary Survey aimed to gather data about salaries for documentarians across the world, to help our community members determine what appropriate salary ranges are and to provide a benchmark for future negotiations.

The survey was open from September 12, 2019 until November 7, 2019. 705 documentarians started the survey and 649 finished it - a completion rate of 92%.

The average time taken to complete all questions was 5 minutes and 10 seconds.

For ease of comparison, respondents were asked to convert their salary figures to US dollars. All numbers in this report are US dollars.

Feedback

We’d love your thoughts on this survey, so that we can continue to refine it over the years. You can email us at support@writethedocs.org with your ideas.


Section 1: Employment Parameters

This section asked about the parameters of the respondent’s employment - whether they were employees or self-employed, how many hours they worked, whether they worked solo or as part of a team, and how focused their role was on tasks related to documentation.

Basis of Employment

The vast majority of respondents were employees (94%) rather than independent contractors, freelance operators, or self-employed (6%).

Figure: Basis of Employment

Figure: Basis of Employment


Hours Worked

Respondents were asked to enter the average number of hours they work per week (whole numbers only).

Most survey respondents worked “full time” hours: 97% worked 30 hours per week or above. 69% of respondents worked between 38 and 42 hours each week - what is traditionally considered a “normal” full time working week.

18% reported worked more than 42 hours per week, with 6% working 50 or above.

4 respondents reported working 60 hours per week, the largest number entered.

Figure: Hours Worked

Figure: Hours Worked


Job Title

Note: 3 respondents entered “N/A” or equivalent

With typos removed, capitalization standardized and abbreviations expanded, 207 distinct job titles were entered as responses to this question.

67% of respondents entered a job title that contained the words “Writer” or “Author”. 62% of respondents entered a job title that contained the words “Technical Writer” or “Technical Author”.

25% of respondents had the word “Senior” in their job title. 8% had “Manager”, and 6% had “Lead”. On the other end of the scale, only 0.5% included the word “Junior”.

By clustering job titles into groups, and separating out the writers, editors, documentation and content craftspeople/specialists/consultants and other roles centered around the creation of documentation - the bulk of the respondents - a few other roles stand out.

Other Roles
Role Type Number of Respondents
CEOs, Directors and non-specific Managers/Team Leaders 24
Information Specialists/Analysts/Architects 21
Engineers or Developers (Data Visualization, Artificial Intelligence, Software) 17
Support or User Assistance roles 12
Roles related to Knowledge Management 11
UX-related roles 7
Analyst Roles (Business, Systems, Technical) 6
Roles related to Education and Training 4
Document Controllers 2
Instructional Designers 2
Community Engineer 1
Developer Advocate 1
DevOps 1
Marketing 1
Quality Assurance 1
Figure: Job Title

Figure: Job Title


Type of Role

50% of respondents work as part of a team, while 29% work as a solo documentarian. 17% are in manager or team leader roles and the remaining 4% indicated that they had a more unique split role or were part of a team not made up of other documentarians.

Given that team leaders or managers are actually part of a team, and most of the “other” responses indicated partial team roles, this means that overall less than 30% of respondents work individually.

Figure: Type of Role

Figure: Type of Role


Length of time in current role

9% of respondents indicated they had worked in their current role for less than one full year.

20% indicated one year, and a further 8% indicated more than one year but less than 2 years.

2 years but less than 5 years made up 35%. 5 years but less than 10 years was another 19%.

Veterans of 10 or more years in their current role made up 9%. Of these, 9 individual respondents reported 30 years or more, with one respondent reporting 40 years (the top value entered).

Figure: Time in Current Role

Figure: Time in Current Role


Work Location

56% of respondents work on site at their employer’s office. 17% work completely remotely, and the remaining 27% work partially remotely and partially onsite.

Of the respondents that work completely on site, 55% do so by choice, while for 45% it’s a requirement.

Of those that work entirely remotely, 74% do so by choice, while only 26% have no on site alternative available to them.

Figure: Work Location

Figure: Work Location


Section 2: Salary Information

This section contained questions that addressed the all-important salary figure, additional benefits, level of satisfaction and reasons for dissatisfaction.

Annual Salary

Note: as 97% (632) of respondents reporting working between 30 and 60 hours per week - a “full time” role - the 3% reporting fewer than 30 hours have been omitted from the figures in this section.

The median salary across all regions, before tax and any additional benefits, was $74,500 (meaning half of the respondents earned more, and half earned less).

This figure is not very representative as it does not take into account the socio-economic situation in the countries of the very highest earners (out of the top 10 salary values, 9 were from the US and one from the UK) and the very lowest (the bottom 10 salary values were from  India, Asia, and Eastern Europe).

Figures grouped into regions make a more useful baseline from which to determine what constitutes a “fair” salary.

Median Salary by Region and Country

Median Salary by Region and Country
Region Sub-region No of Respondents (working 30+ hours) Percentage of Total Median Salary
North America   386 61% $90,000
  USA 344 54.4% $93,600
  Canada 42 6.6% $60,273
Europe   164 25.9% $48,700
  EU Member States 112 17.2% $46,104
  UK [1] 36 5.5% $60,269
  Germany 24 3.7% $59,430
  Poland 12 1.8% $21,525
  Russia [2] 9 1.4% $23,200
Oceania   30 4.6% $66,674
Asia [3]   13 2% $24,000
South America   2 0.3% $36,588
Israel   19 2.9% $84,000
No Country Given   18 2.7% $84,500

Footnotes

[1]including Scotland - no respondents were reported from Wales or Northern Ireland
[2]the decision was made to include Russia in Europe due to the percentage of the population living in areas inside the European continent
[3]including South East Asian countries and East Asian countries

USA

The median salary for the entire United States was $93,600 - 25.6% higher than the overall median salary.

Given that the US accounted for such a significant proportion of the data, breaking the data down further, by the most represented states, seems useful as well. Note that 12 of the respondents who indicated that they lived in the USA did not provide a city or state, so those values have been omitted from the following breakdown.

Median Salary by US State
State Median Salary
Washington $126,500
California $120,000
New York $105,000
Pennsylvania $96,350
Texas $92,000
Oregon $89,000
Virginia $78,625
Figure: Median Salary by Region and Country

Figure: Median Salary by Region and Country


Additional Benefits

Health insurance and paid vacation time were the most common benefits reported, with 80% of respondents receiving health insurance and 80% receiving vacation time.

The next most widespread benefits were professional development (including conferences) at 56% and bonus payments at 52%. Childcare (5%) and commission payments (0.6%) were low on the list, and 5% reported that they did not receive any of the listed benefits.

27% of respondents entered additional benefits. The most common included:

Additional Benefits
Benefit Number of Respondents
Pension, retirement fund, superannuation or related benefits (including matching) 54
Stock, stock options, shares or related benefits 52
Meals, meal vouchers or other food-related benefits 26
Gym, fitness, sport or other wellness-related benefits 17
Other types of insurance eg life, accident, income protection etc 13
Parking, transportation or commuting-related benefits 21
Time off or bonuses for community-related activities e.g. volunteering 5
Parental Leave 5
Unlimited PTO (paid/personal time off) 3
Figure: Additional Benefits

Figure: Additional Benefits


Satisfaction

71% of respondents are satisfied with their current salary and benefits package - with 26% of those reporting they were very satisfied.

On the other end of the scale, 13.5% are unsatisfied, with 2% of those (14 respondents) rating themselves as very unsatisfied.

In the middle, 15.5% gave a neutral response - neither satisfied nor unsatisfied.

Figure: Satisfaction

Figure: Satisfaction


Reasons for dissatisfaction

Note: 56% of respondents did not answer this question. Although the wording suggested that only those who indicated that they were unsatisfied should answer this question, 16 of those that rated themselves as “very satisfied” and 104 of those who rated themselves as “satisfied” (around a third of the total “satisfied” respondents) gave reasons for dissatisfaction - showing that there’s always room for improvement.

The top reasons listed for dissatisfaction were:

Top Reasons Listed for Salary Dissatisfaction
Reason Percentage of Dissatisfied Respondents
salary or rate too low 47% (20% overall)
No opportunities for advancement 40%
Insufficient professional development 29%
Too high workload 29%
Too much stress 26%
Unsupportive workplace 22%
Toolset dissatisfaction 22%
Don’t feel respected 19%
Dissatisfaction with management 18%
Work is uninteresting 17%

After the most common reasons for dissatisfaction, the following reasons were identified by smaller numbers of respondents:

Less Common Reasons for Dissatisfaction
Reason Percentage of Dissatisfied Respondents
No remote opportunities 12.7%
Too many hours 9.5%
Gender discrimination 6%
Lack of remote support 5.3%
Age discrimination 4.6%
Low workload 3.9%
Racial discrimination 1.8%
Education discrimination 1.4%
Too few hours 0.7%

38 responses were entered for the “Other” option. After evaluation, some of these responses were merged into the numbers for the areas listed above. The remaining responses were grouped into the following areas:

Other Reasons for Dissatisfaction
Reason Number of Respondents
Missing benefits (pension, parental leave, etc) 9
Discrepancy between salary and cost of living 5
Unfair or inconsistent salary across roles 4
Role undervalued and/or underfunded 4
Responsibilities exceed pay grade 4

4 of the 14 respondents who rated themselves as “very unsatisfied” did not indicate any reason.

Figure: Reasons for Dissatisfaction

Figure: Reasons for Dissatisfaction


Section 3: Organization Demographics

Type of Organization

Large and medium-sized businesses dominated the results, with 41% of respondents indicating they worked for a medium business and 39.5%, a large business. Small business came in at 3rd place with 14% of the responses.

Government, Non-Profit/Community Organization/NGO and Educational Institutions accounted for less than 2% of the respondents.

10 “Other” responses were entered, covering startups, government contractors and independent units within larger organizations.

Figure: Type of Organization

Figure: Type of Organization


Section 4: Respondent Demographics

Note: The questions in this section were optional.

Age

Note: 3 respondents skipped this question

The two largest age groups (26-35 year olds and 36-45 year olds) combined formed 67.5% of the total respondents. Only 4.6% of respondents fell into the youngest age group, and there were no respondents in the 66+ age bracket.

Figure: Age

Figure: Age


Gender Identity

Note: 3 respondents skipped this question, and 1 provided a nonsensical answer which was discarded.

61% of the respondents identified as women, 36% as men, and 3% as non-binary or “other”.

Figure: Gender Identity

Figure: Gender Identity


Highest Education Level Achieved

Note: one respondent skipped this question

95% of respondents had completed a college or university degree or higher. Those completing technical college numbered less than 3%, and those who completed high school only (including those who did some college but did not achieve a formal qualification) accounted for the remaining fraction.

Figure: Highest Education Level Achieved

Figure: Highest Education Level Achieved


Geographical Location

18 respondents left this question blank or provided a non-quantifiable response.

Out of the 594 valid responses:

Most Common Geographical Locations
Location Percentage of Respondents
United States 58%
Canada 7%
UK 6%
Australia 4%
Germany 4%
Israel 3%
Poland 2%

There were fewer than 10 individual respondents from each of the folowing countries:

  • Russia
  • France
  • Ireland
  • The Netherlands
  • Spain
  • India
  • Romania
  • Czech Republic
  • Hungary
  • Denmark
  • Finland
  • Sweden
  • Ukraine
  • Bulgaria
  • New Zealand
  • Portugal
  • Belgium
  • Croatia
  • Estonia
  • Italy
  • Scotland
  • Serbia
  • Slovakia

There was one respondent only from each of the following countries:

  • Argentina
  • Austria
  • Brazil
  • Greece
  • Iceland
  • Japan
  • Malaysia
  • Nepal
  • Norway
  • Philippines
  • Singapore
  • Taiwan
  • Vietnam
Figure: Geographical Location

Figure: Geographical Location