Where Your Kid Ought to Work

If you’ve got enough investable money to be spending time on YCharts, you either already have, or will likely have in the future, college-aged children. And unless you’ve reached a state of Zen unknown to this writer, you will worry about your offspring’s career prospects. Will they be able to support themselves sufficiently so you and your spouse can negligently spend down the 401-K and such?

If your child is unusually focused and has pursued education leading to a fabulous-paying career – say, medical school or electrical engineering – book your flight to Paris and worry not. But if your kid is closing in on a liberal arts degree or even a business degree, well, it’s a crummy job market for youngsters and any suggestions on where to look for work would be welcome, right?

Which brings us to a fabulous list Bloomberg Businessweek just published. The list shows the ratio of CEO pay to average worker pay. The just-ousted Ron Johnson at JC Penney (JCP), for instance, raked in 1,795 times the estimate of what a front-line worker at the retailer makes, or $53.3 million for the CEO vs. $29,700 for the sales clerk.

Go ahead and get all worked up over CEO pay if you must, but to my mind the utility of the list of 100 companies is what they’re paying the rank-and-file. Granted, the worker pay numbers are from government data on entire industries, and you and your kid could hunt those down on the Internet. But these are attached to company names, and that’s far more likely to prompt a discussion about what the company makes or does, where it’s located and what it might be like to work for. A conversation starter, in other words, that’s more helpful than merely asking, “how goes your career planning, Junior?”

US Average Wage Rate Chart

US Average Wage Rate data by YCharts

So, I’d ignore the CEO pay data and instead run my thumb down the worker pay column in the massive chart that accompanies the article: Simon Property Group (SPG) -- $86,000; Oracle (ORCL) -- $74,700; Occidental Petroleum (OXY) -- $70,200; United Technologies (UTX) , Lockheed Martin (LMT) and Boeing (BA) all $87,600. As mentioned above, these are industry numbers from the government, not actual pay data from the companies. They're not entry-level pay, but an average for all non-supervisory workers. And, of course, your kid mightn't be qualified to even push a broom at these joints. But it’s a nice start.

Other lists I’d recommend: Inc. magazine’s annual Inc. 500/5000, which is made up of fast-growing privately-held companies, which are great places to get broad experience and be rewarded for what one actually does; and Fortune’s Best Companies to Work For list, where pay and perks and advancement are considered and some surprising smaller employers are included.

Jeff Bailey, The Editor of YCharts, is a former reporter, editor and columnist at the Wall Street Journal and New York Times. He can be reached at editor@ycharts.com.



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