Before you can set or negotiate an employee’s pay level, you’ll want to compare salaries using compensation data you’ve gathered for similar roles at other companies. The best salary comparison tools provide you access to a wide range of data—from staff wages and bonuses to employee benefits—that cover many job types, skills, and positions across industries and locations. Some are free to use and include both employee- and employer-reported salaries, while others offer paid solutions that provide market pay data sourced from salary benchmarking studies.
Since our last update: LinkedIn Salary is no longer available and therefore no longer appears on our list.
We evaluated a variety of solutions and narrowed the list down to our top six salary comparison tool recommendations.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Best overall salary comparison tool
- Indeed: Best for a blend of employee- and employer-reported and job posting data
- PayLab: Best for education and consultants
- ZipRecruiter: Best for employers needing easy-to-understand salary research reports
- Payscale: Best for employers looking for a compensation scenario builder
- Salary.com: Best for companies that need unique data filters to view salary data
Only need a quick check? If you are only looking for a “sanity check” on a salary, there are simple, searchable databases that let you filter by job and location. These are usually aimed at job seekers, but can provide a good basis for comparison:
Salary Comparison Tools Compared
Paid salary comparison plans*
Includes pay bonuses
Basic benefits information
Robust data points (position title, location, gender, education, and skills)
Only shows the percentage of survey respondents that offer it
Employer and employee
Employer and employee
*Every product on our list offers at least some of its services for free. These include:
- Salary by job and location
- Range of salary
- Reports (most are downloadable)
- Search for a single job by title and location
Bureau of Labor Statistics: Best Overall Salary Comparison Tools
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) salary survey is the largest of its kind. It’s a highly scientific government-run survey that’s free to download. The data is sourced from quarterly nationwide employer surveys and has the most robust filtering and download capabilities. This helps you account for organizational, regional, and other data variations in compensation. However, the quarterly reports are summaries; the job-specific searchable reports are updated each May.
Earning an overall rating of 4.12 out of 5, the BLS scored high in pricing, comparison tools, and reporting given its free salary research reports, nationwide employer-reported data, and multiple filter options. It was rated poorly in ease of use primarily because of its dated-looking website, which makes it difficult to navigate through wage reports.
Indeed: Best for Employee-reported, Employer-reported & Job Posting Data
Indeed is one of the largest job posting sites on the market. It has a robust set of salary data that is a blend of information pulled from past and current job postings on Indeed, including those anonymously reported by employees and employers. It’s completely free to use, and because Indeed captures data from so many companies, it’s a good tool for competitor analysis.
Scoring 4.06 out of 5 in our evaluation, Indeed earned perfect marks in pricing, given its free salary research tools. It scored the lowest in reporting because it doesn’t let you download salary comparison reports. Plus, it doesn’t have robust data filters like Payscale, Salary.com, and the BLS do.
PayLab: Best for Consultant Services & Academia
If your focus is on salary research for academic or consulting purposes, then check out PayLab’s partnership program. It offers you access to all your country’s data in exchange for participation in its research. PayLab is one of the few on our list that provides salary information for countries outside the US. It offers sample salaries of over 700 job positions in over 36 countries in Europe, Africa, and Asia.
PayLab earned 3.94 out of 5 on our rubric. It took a big hit on pricing since its free tool is extremely limited for employers. However, it did very well on comparison tools, reporting, and ease of use, with the second-highest ease of use score after ZipRecruiter.
ZipRecruiter: Best for Employers Needing Easy-to-Understand Salary Comparison Reports
ZipRecruiter is an online talent marketplace and recruitment solution for posting jobs and finding qualified candidates. It also offers a salary comparison tool that contains compensation information from job listings posted on its site and third-party data sources (like ADP). The results of its salary research are easy to understand, plus it has a short yet helpful summary that explains the average annual pay and pay range for the position selected.
It earned an overall score of 3.91 out of 5 in our evaluation. Its ease of use and free-to-use salary comparison tools contributed to its high scores. However, ZipRecruiter’s lack of data filters and downloadable salary research reports prevented it from scoring higher on this list.
Payscale: Best for Businesses Looking to Create Custom Compensation Scenarios
Payscale is an easy-to-use tool that includes robust employee- and employer-reported data (although not job posting data like Indeed). It has a wide range of compensation management and survey tools like Salary.com, although Payscale lets you build your own compensation scenarios in case you need to create new positions or a completely new business. This allows you to get a holistic idea of your staffing costs, more so than the other salary comparison tools in this guide (although PayLab will let you set up cumulative positions for multiple salaries at once). The reports are simple and easy to understand, but the plethora of job titles can make it difficult to get the right title comparison.
It scored 3.72 out of 5 in our evaluation, with perfect marks in comparison tools and ratings of 3 and up in reporting capabilities and ease of use. However, the non-transparent pricing of its paid salary survey solutions and services hurt its overall score.
Salary.com: Best for Businesses Wanting Unique Filters to View Compensation Data
Salary.com is one of the oldest sources of salary data on the web—the company was founded in 1999. It has 100% employer-reported survey data purchased from data collectors and even offers a wide range of compensation management and salary survey products. The information is updated monthly and can be filtered in ways unavailable on other sites, such as salary views based on performance and management level.
Salary.com’s pricing hurt its score the most, bringing it to 3.69 out of 5. It earned a perfect score for its robust comparison tools, with the unique filters making it stand out. Plus, it had high scores for ease of use. It has a free-to-use salary calculator, but you have to pay extra if you want to download the report. We also found the add placement more intrusive than others on our list.
Tips for Using Salary Comparison Tools
Conducting salary research is a critical part of creating your company’s compensation program. It helps ensure that you’re paying employees at par with market rates, enabling you to attract qualified candidates and improve employee retention as well. Regardless of which salary comparison tool you use, here are a few key things you should do.
Understand Job Matching Variables
Salary ranges for any job title can vary greatly based on a number of factors, such as location, education, years of experience, and industry. For example, an engineer in New York City needs to make more than the same engineer in Iowa to have the same standard of living.
In addition, job titles vary greatly, so consider similar job titles when gathering salary data. Filter by as many variables as you can to get data that closely matches the position you are researching.
Balance Job Match Quantity vs Quality
Strive to strike the right balance between the exact job match and a number of data points. The closer you can match a comparison profile with your job profile, the more relevant the comparison data is. However, as you add constraints like experience or region, you’ll reduce the size of your dataset. Reduce it too much, and you won’t have a large enough data set for a reliable comparison.
Calculate Compa Ratio
Because you want to create a competitive salary package, you should not focus on a single number. Calculate a comparison range and a compa ratio. Compa ratio, short for comparison ratio, compares the salary you are paying your employees versus the market midpoint for similar positions at other companies. Decide where on the scale you should fall to be competitive, considering your employer brand and other things you offer your employees, such as benefits, flexible scheduling, and bonus payouts.
How We Chose the Best Salary Comparison Tools
We looked at several salary comparison tools, comparing each solution’s data sources and the types of pay information supplied. We also considered other features like downloadable reports, the amount of data available, and ease of use. And while most have free salary research tools, we checked whether it offers a paid version that’s affordably priced.
Click through the tabs below for a more detailed breakdown of our evaluation criteria.
25% of Overall Score
40% of Overall Score
20% of Overall Score
Salary comparison reports should be downloadable and easy to understand. PayLab took the lead here with 4.44 out of 5.
15% of Overall Score
Regardless of your company size and the type of business you have, you should be using salary comparison tools to determine whether or not your salary package is on par with the market. Having access to up-to-date salary data also helps you create compensation strategies for attracting new hires and retaining current employees. Some even provide insights on HR best practices such as for hiring qualified candidates, onboarding new hires, and more.
We found that the Bureau of Labor Statistics offers the best value for money. It’s free to use with a rich data set that comes from nationwide surveys run by the government. The salary ranges for positions, multiple filters, and different data points included (like salary quartiles, pay by years of work experience, and extensive industry coverage) are also super helpful. You can even download its reports and charts in various file formats—all at no cost.
Get started with the BLS’s salary research tools today.