The fourteenth annual Salary Survey was redesigned for 2013 and new information was collected. The survey focused on salaries for applicators and agronomists this year, but new questions were added to reveal insights as to what influences the base salaries companies offer.
The survey remains informal and is sent to agronomy department managers, agronomy assistant managers, general managers, assistant managers, location managers and operation managers. Respondents change from year to year and no data is kept to identify if a respondent replies from one year to the next. Although data from one year to the next cannot be exactly compared because different respondents are used each year, trends can be gleaned.
Like most years, a majority of the respondents who took the survey indicated they were in Midwestern states. Nearly 69 percent of the respondents said they were located in the states of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin. The largest percentage of respondents (13.8 percent) indicated they were located in Iowa. This year, we had more respondents than ever before.
APPLICATOR SALARY TRENDS
Because not all retail facilities do custom application, we asked respondents to indicate if they employed full-time applicators. A total of 89.9 percent hired full-time applicators. We also asked how many full-time applicators they employed and answers ranged from one to 750, which demonstrates that respondents ranged in size from small, local dealerships to large regional and national dealerships. Because of the wide range in answers, the average number of applicators employed per company was 13.3. However, the largest percentage (64.4 percent) hired only one to six applicators.
In years past, AgProfessional asked respondents to identify the salary of the top applicator. In this year’s survey, we asked respondents to provide the base salary of the company’s entry-level, full-time applicator/machine operator. Only 67.8 percent indicated they provided a base compensation plan for entry-level applicators. From this new questioning, the average entry level, full-time applicator/machine operator earned $34,225.
In 2012, the average salary for the top applicator was $42,312 we didn’t ask for a base salary. In this year’s survey, salaries for a full-time, entry-level applicator ranged from $20,000 to $65,000 compared with $25,000 to $65,000 in the 2012 Salary Survey.
To get a better idea of how much an applicator’s base salary changed, or the average wage increase, in one year, we asked what percentage their salaries had changed. The results showed that 23 percent had no change in salary, but 76.8 percent said they had a raise. And a mere 0.3 percent indicated the base salary had decreased for applicators in the past year. Of those that indicated a pay increase, we found that 36.6 percent indicated an increase of between 1 percent and 3 percent, 25.7 said the salary had increased between 4 percent and 6 percent and 10.7 percent indicated the base salary had increased between 7 percent and 10 percent. Only 3.8 percent indicated that pay increased more than 11 percent in the past year.
In addition to base compensation, we wanted to get an idea what influences may impact how companies set the base salary for applicators. So, we asked how much competitors’ entry level salaries influenced the base salary offered for applicators. Competitors’ salaries had a strong influence for 30.4 percent, but 50.1 percent said it only had a minor influence. Thirteen percent said there was no influence and 6.5 percent said competitors’ salaries were not applicable to setting their base salaries.
In determining what attracts a potential applicator or agronomist candidate to a company, we asked if companies thought the benefit package they offered influenced a candidate’s decision to choose that company to work for. Interestingly, 61.6 percent said they believed the dollar value of the benefits package they offered was a strong influence on a candidate’s decision to work for a company. Only 35.5 percent said it was a minor influence, while 2.9 percent said it was no influence at all.
A high school education remains the top answer for the minimum level of education necessary for an entry level applicator. Sixty-seven percent said a high school degree was necessary to be hired as an entry level applicator. No requirement was necessary for 19.2 percent of respondents. Only 5.1 percent required some college, 5.7 percent required an associate’s or tech degree and 1.1 percent required a bachelor’s degree.
In past surveys, many had indicated that more education equated to a higher salary for an applicator. This year we asked if more education for an entry level applicator equated to a higher salary. Only 38.8 percent said yes, while 55.3 percent said no. For those that indicated more education did bring more pay, we asked how much additional salary more education earned an applicator on average. Answers ranged from $500 to $20,000. The average amount that education increased salary was $4,885. The highest percentage of responses (33 percent) indicated that more education and extra knowledge earned the entry-level applicator $4,000 more.
In previous years, we’ve also asked how experience impacts salaries. This year we asked if more experience equated to a higher salary when companies hired a new applicator. For applicators, 89.8 percent said experience did help increase the entry level salary. Only 7.9 percent said it did not lead to a higher base salary. Experience increased the base salary of applicators between $100 and $42,000. The average amount that experience increased salary was $5,587. The highest percentage of responses, (27 percent) indicated the base salary was increased by $4,500.
Based on these numbers this year, it appears that although employers are willing to pay more for experience and education, they are willing to pay slightly more for experience than education.
This year, we asked respondents to indicate what qualified an entry level applicator for a pay raise. Respondents could pick multiple answers. Here is the list they could choose from and the percent of each answer chosen:
- Earning additional education: 23.3 percent
- Earning a CCA certification: 24.7 percent
- Met bonus goals: 28.6 percent
- Hours worked: 33.9 percent
- Profit/state of the economy: 39.2 percent
- Customer service recognition: 43.1 percent
- Another year of experience: 64.7 percent
- Increased duties/responsibilities: 66.1 percent
- Positive attitude: 71.7 percent
- Manager’s discretion: 77.8 percent
- None of the above: 1.7 percent
In addition to base salary, we asked if companies offered applicators a bonus in 2012. Nearly 72 percent indicated they did offer bonuses. When asked what factor the bonus was based upon, 47.3 percent said it was acres treated, 28.5 percent said company profit, 1.5 percent said hours worked, 21.9 percent said overall job performance/discretionary and 0.8 percent indicated another factor.
AGRONOMIST SALARY TRENDS
Along with applicator base salary trends, we also asked for the base salary of the company’s entry level, full-time sales agronomists. This year, the average base salary for an entry level sales agronomist was $42,362. Last year, the average salary for the top agronomist was $56,927. Again, last year’s number is higher because we asked for the top sales agronomist salary instead of the base salary, which we asked for the 2013 survey. This year, agronomist salaries ranged from $18,000 to $100,000 compared with $32,000 to $150,000 in the 2012 survey.
The same as we asked for applicators, we asked if companies employed full-time agronomists. Of those responding to this year’s survey, 88.5 percent said they hired full-time agronomists. We also asked how many full-time agronomists they employed and answers ranged from one to 700, which again demonstrates that respondents ranged in size from small, local dealerships to large regional and national dealerships. Because of the wide range in answers, the average number of sales agronomists employed per company was 10. However, the largest percentage (56.7 percent) hired only one to three agronomists.
Companies were asked what the minimum level of education was necessary for an entry level sales agronomist. The highest percentage (39.4 percent) indicated a bachelor’s degree was the minimum degree needed. For others, 10.9 percent required a high school diploma, 16.5 percent required some college, 25.1 percent required an associate’s/tech degree, 0.6 required a master’s degree and 5.9 percent had no requirement.
As with applicators, we asked if more education equated to a higher salary for an entry level agronomist. Slightly more than 59 percent indicated it did, while 33 percent said it did not. For those that indicated education did equate to more pay, the average additional amount offered was $6,827. Answers ranged from $3 to $50,000. The majority (32.4 percent) said their company offered an additional $5,000 for more education than required for an entry level sales agronomist.
In addition to education, we asked respondents if experience equated to a higher salary when hiring a new sales agronomist. A whopping 92.5 percent said yes, while only 4.5 percent said it did not. When asked to convert that experience into an additional amount of salary they were willing to offer for more experience, respondents indicated they offered an average of $8,525. Thirty-one percent (the largest percentage) offered $5,000 for additional experience. Companies indicated they offered between $1,000 and $300,000 more for experience.
We also asked what qualified sales agronomists for a raise in the past year. Respondents could pick multiple answers. Here is what they could choose from and the percent that each answer was selected:
- Hours worked: 18.4 percent
- Earning additional education: 37.0 percent
- Customer service recognition: 48.0 percent
- Profit/state of the economy: 52.0 percent
- Met bonus goals: 56.8 percent
- Earning a CCA certification: 57.3 percent
- Another year of experience: 57.9 percent
- Increased duties/responsibilities: 62.4 percent
- Positive attitude: 66.4 percent
- Manager’s discretion: 77.7 percent
- None of the above: 2.0 percent
A majority of agronomists were offered bonuses in 2012 with 85.7 percent of companies offering bonuses, while only 10.9 percent said they did not. When asked what factor determined the sales agronomists’ bonus, respondents said company profit (34 percent), job performance/discretionary (31 percent), department sales (17.3 percent), department profit (15.7 percent) and other (2 percent).