Earlier this year, the United States' unemployment rate hit 3.8 percent, the lowest it has been in nearly half a century. Incongruously, despite the increasingly competitive job market, salaries aren't increasing at the rate one might expect. In the words of economic reporter Matt O'Brien, "Unemployment is below 4 percent, but wage growth is still lousy." New economic indicators hint at higher wages. A recent report found that record job creation has pushed Americans' compensation up 2.7 percent. And according to EXHIBITOR Magazine's 32nd Annual Salary Survey, the trade show and event industry is tracking with national averages, posting almost identical gains.
As such, it's another year of mixed messages for exhibit and event professionals. On one hand, this year's results are optimistic, as the average base salary has once again reached record-high levels, marking the second consecutive year of salary growth. Seeing as how average salaries regressed as recently as 2016, when a dip of 1.2 percent marked just the fifth decrease in more than three decades, any raise is cause for celebration. But that short-lived celebration is bittersweet given that this year's salary increase of 1.6 percent doesn't even cover the rising cost of living as measured by the Social Security Administration.
Thankfully, the average bonus and additional compensation figure (which includes overtime pay, performance bonuses, etc.) jumped 12 percent compared to 2017. That means exhibit and event professionals are making an average of $2,155 more this year than last, for a total take-home pay increase of 2.6 percent â?" marginally off the aforementioned national average of 2.7 percent. Sadly, that bump is mostly eaten up by this year's estimated 2-percent cost-of-living increase, meaning compensation is just barely keeping up with inflation.
But there are a few silver linings buried in this year's Salary Survey. Nearly seven out of 10 respondents indicated they received a raise in base salary during the past 12 months, with one in 10 reporting raises of 6 percent or more. Furthermore, those with three of the most common job titles saw year-over-year increases of 10 percent or more.
The following pages feature data culled from our annual Salary Survey, along with historical comparisons. Read on to discover whether your annual compensation is on par with industry averages, or if you're being overworked and underpaid compared to your peers.
Salary Data by Title
For in-depth job descriptions, average salaries, and additional-compensation information across ten job titles, view the title-specific breakouts
It's easy to compare your annual salary to the aggregate average of $75,207 reported in this issue. But unless you consider yourself average, you likely want a salary figure that takes all of your unique attributes into account. Our online Salary Calculator determines a customized average salary more finely tuned to reflect your industry experience, level of education, and more. To calculate your personalized average based on 13 different factors, visit www.ExhibitorOnline.com/Salary
The Raise Roundup
The vast majority of exhibit and event professionals reported receiving a raise in the past year, contributing to a 1.6-percent increase in average base salaries. Meanwhile, 30 percent of respondents are making the same amount as they were in 2017, and an unfortunate 2 percent suffered a cut in their base salaries.
What's the Value of Industry Certification?
Respondents with at least one industry certification (such as the Certified Trade Show Marketer designation) have 13 percent higher salaries and make 25 percent more in additional compensation. That places the value of such certification at nearly $12,000 worth of increased earning potential per year.
➤ Average base salaries reached a record high of $74,010, following a 1.2-percent decrease in 2016. This year's average represents a 5.3-percent increase over last year and is more than 4 percent higher than the previous high of $71,092 that was established in 2015.
➤ Job satisfaction has held steady in recent years, with 67 percent of respondents feeling "satisfied" or "very satisfied" with their careers.
➤ More than 88 percent of respondents indicated the size of their exhibit marketing teams has increased or remained the same in the past 12 months, signaling a strong level of job security.
➤ Seventy-three percent of respondents received a raise in the last year, while an additional 26 percent maintained 2016 salary levels. That means only 1 percent of respondents are making less in 2017 than they were last year.
➤ Corporate support for exhibit marketing reached a 14-year high, with 86 percent of respondents reporting "average" or "strong" support.
➤ While salaries are up 5.3 percent, additional compensation is down 23 percent compared to last year, meaning the average increase in take-home pay amounts to just $1,414.
➤ Even though average trade show budgets are up compared to last year ($912,558 versus $800,182), they are still far below the peak of $1.5 million established in 2015.
➤ The gender gap has narrowed by 3 percentage points since last year, but it is still evident when it comes to exhibit and event professionals' compensation. On average, women make 84 cents for every dollar earned by men.
➤ Thirty percent of respondents work 50 hours or more per week, with 7 percent reporting they put in 60-hour workweeks.
➤ Despite this year's record-setting average base salary, nearly half of respondents believe their compensation is low, considering their workload.
➤ The average base salary for respondents who hold the title of marketing communications specialist is 1.3 percent less than in 2016.
On the Road Again
According to the data, the amount of time spent traveling to trade shows and events has a direct correlation to the amount of money earned. Respondents who travel more than 20 weeks out of the year have 56 percent higher salaries than those who never leave the home office.
Average Salary by Title
Dollars and Cents
Base salaries have followed a relatively slow and steady march upward for the past 32 years, save setbacks in 1988, 1992, 1996, 2011, and 2016. But the only thing predictable about bonuses and additional-compensation averages is their unpredictability, ranging from a low of $2,981 in 1991 to highs of more than $16,000 in 2000, 2006, and 2011.
Nine out of 10 respondents receive at least one form of additional compensation, the value of which has increased from $7,963 in 2017 to $8,921 in 2018. The charts above indicate what percent of respondents receive each perk tracked via the survey.
Most survey respondents are paid fixed annual salaries. But if those salaries were translated into hourly wages, what would 60 minutes of work be worth? Based on our calculations (with an average 48-hour workweek and two to three weeks of vacation per year), exhibit and event professionals' average wage works out to roughly $31.50 per hour.
EXHIBITOR Magazine's 2018 Salary Survey was conducted by TriMax Direct Marketing Research. The survey achieves a +/- 3.5-percent margin of error at a 95-percent confidence interval.