by Nicholas Dobbins

If you’re interested in exploring different career possibilities, you’re probably already familiar with the most popular career search tools and strategies. You’ve been through the information on the ISEEK website, you network, and you’ve likely explored other careers sites, like LinkedIn and You may be curious about some details about jobs those tools can’t always give you, namely how many people work in a given job, or how much a career generally pays. For this type of information, there’s another resource you might find valuable: Minnesota’s Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program.


Often called Minnesota’s Salary Survey, the OES program includes a semi-annual survey designed to measure employment and wage levels for over 800 specific occupations. The OES survey is conducted by every state, in partnership with the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. It’s a survey of employers that’s designed to produce reliable estimates on occupational pay, location, and industry. The survey provides detailed, region-specific estimates on the average wages and employment levels of occupations. It can provide valuable information for students and other career explorers. It is also useful for individuals involved in salary negotiations, or those who are just curious what the average wage is for someone working in their occupation.  


How to Use the Salary Survey Tool 

Let’s say you live in the Twin Cities metro area and are considering pursuing a career as a surveyor. You can just head over to the Minnesota Salary Survey webpage, choose the region you want to view wages for, and search for the “surveyor” occupation.  (A list of categories is provided too, if you wanted to browse occupations.) 


In this case, the results will tell you that the mean, or average, wage for a surveyor in the metro area is $32.63 an hour, over a dollar more than the same occupation pays statewide. You’ll learn that over half of the surveyors in Minnesota work in the metro region. You’ll also be able to view a brief description of the occupation, including some typical work activities. 


Data presented includes the number of people working in an occupation for the region, the 10th, 25th, 75th, and 90th wage percentiles, the most popular industries to find a given occupation, and a list of other related occupations you may be interested in checking out. You can compare data for the entire country and all of Minnesota, by metropolitan area, or other regional breakdowns within the state.  


Here is an example of the Salary Survey results: 


What's Included in the Employment and Wage Estimates?

OES employment estimates include full- and part-time paid workers, plus workers on paid leave and business owners who draw a paycheck. They don’t include contracted workers, owners of unincorporated businesses, unpaid family members, and workers on unpaid leave.


The definition of a “wage” for the OES program is straight-time gross pay, including base pay, incentive pay (like commissions or production bonuses), on-call pay, and tips. Excluded from wages are overtime pay, shift differential, holiday pay, and tuition reimbursements. Benefits are also not included.


If you’re interested in wage information for other regions or states, you can check out the national OES webpage from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for a boader view.


For more information on the role of wages in the job search process, read Money Talksthe first article in this series.


Nick Dobbins ( is a Research Analyst with the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development