Once again we asked our readers a very personal question – “How much do you make?” – and once again, we got a variety of answers. It’s no substitute for a formal compensation analysis, but we think our Pulse Check revealed an evolving compensation trend in the healthcare technology service and support industry. Some go up, others go down, and some jobs took a big step towards maturity.

f01a.jpg (10873 bytes)The trend in total compensation reported by our readers indicated a slight increase this year, just less than 5 percent across the board, but that’s not the real story.

The shortage of entry-level technicians, and increased competition from the fast-spending computer industry, appears to have pushed starting salaries to a point where a young tech out of school has the potential to make as much as a BMET with 10 years of experience.

Salary Average by Employer
Comparison 1991-2000

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The trend becomes most apparent when you look at the compensation reported by hospital-employed technicians.

The average of the annual compensations reported by the newest recruits, those with less than one year on the job, was in the $40,000-45,000 range. Almost new, 1-3 years with the same employer, averaged the same income. Hospital technicians who have been in the same place 4-5 years? On the job 6-10 years?

The average of reported compensation was the same, $40,000-45,000. The average only entered the next segment — $45,000-50,000 — among technicians with over 10 years at the same hospital.

A frustrated young BMET at a large southern healthcare system described his department as “a good diving board … after a couple years, you better jump off.”

Many people who responded to the Pulse Check expressed personal rancor over the riches showered on information systems specialists. A veteran tech estimated, “New hire network techs in the computer industry can make 25 percent more than I do.”

Said another, “The work is easier, less demanding and pays more. It doesn’t take long to weigh the differences and make the move.”

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Hospitals have a problem with titles. One dozen respondents said they had the title “Director,” but that included a biomed tech, fresh out of school with less than two years of experience, who reported getting less then $20,000. Most remaining “Directors” said they made over $70,000.

Far more people used the title “Manager” and their responses were more in line with what you would expect a person with several years of industry experience and the qualifications to lead a technology management program would earn. Their compensation reports were more evenly distributed between the high $30,000s and the top of our scale, with an average between $55,000-60,000.

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People don’t move around much in the hospital sector. Overall, hospital people averaged 10 years with the same employer, out of 10-15 years spent in the field. ISO folks are less settled, reporting an average six-year tenure with the current employer, during a career that corresponds with hospital counterparts — respondents also said they have been in the industry an average of 10-15 years.

ISOs are more likely to differentiate between “technicians” and ”specialists,” which makes compensation trends a little easier to eyeball. Specialists (averaging over 15 years in the field) report an average annual income between $55,000-60,000. Technicians (averaging less than 10 years in the field) say they earn $35,000-40,000 on average.

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Trying to gauge trends at manufacturers is complicated by technician titles — everyone becomes an “engineer” or a “specialist,” no matter how little education or experience they have. Lumping “engineer,” “specialist” and ”technician” together gave us a better look at trends, despite increasing the variability between responses. Together, the 28 responses were far too few for true statistical interpretation, but they give a pretty good idea of what is going on. The average and the median annual income reported was just over $60,000. Responses ranged from the high $20,000s to off the scale at $70,000.

Dipping into statistical methods for just a moment, the standard deviation of this small population was $13,500. That suggests the average income of manufacturers’ field service people may have been underestimated in this study because the $70k pin on our Pulse Check scale was too low.

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One the rise, technology management. We had 32 respondents who said that was their specialty. That’s 9 percent, with a distribution between employers that followed the overall distribution of Pulse Check responses. Compare that with last year, when 15 responses, or 4 percent, said technology management was their bread and butter.

The distribution of benefits stayed the same, with several responses noting that medical and dental insurance is seldom completely covered.

Analysis was limited to states and territories of the United States, and incomplete forms were discarded, leaving 344 usable responses to the Pulse Check this year. Since the population consisted of voluntary responses, and the distribution of employers, titles and location roughly corresponded to the demographics of 24×7’s subscribers, sufficient data existed to reveal trends affecting our readers, which is what the Pulse Check was designed to do. This method is not the same as the procedures used by human resource consultants when they conduct a regional compensation survey to be used in salary negotiations, nor does it replace the legitimate form of compensation calculation — honest negotiation.

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However, just to get a few “warm fuzzies,” we compared the Pulse Check with the most recent results of the U.S. government’s official Occupational Employment Statistics survey, as conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor. Its analysis of a narrowly defined segment of the industry in 1998, a category it called Electromedical and Biomedical Equipment Repairers (occupational code 85908), determined the median salary for what we would call a biomedical technician, before overtime and bonuses, was $34,410 (±1.4 percent.) Our estimate of the average for that year was very close, $32,700, well within a comfortable margin. end.gif (968 bytes)