Salaries have, in many cases, gone down in the past year. According to survey respondents, median salaries for all job titles at all levels have gone from $72,500 in 2005 to $65,000 in 2006. Source: PUBLIC WORKS
Work-life balance is the biggest attraction to working in the public sector. The vast majority of respondents receive benefits that private-industry employees rarely enjoy. Source: PUBLIC WORKS
The big picture

Dozens of factors determine how much public infrastructure managers are paid. Even though you can look up similar job titles in this article or on the Bureau of Labor Statistics Web site, you won't get an exact snapshot of the many things you do.

One respondent making about $62,500 working for a Midwest municipality as a building maintenance superintendent, has this to say: “In addition to buildings and grounds, I am responsible for fleet maintenance, street lighting, and traffic control signal maintenance. I don't know if this survey has a comparable job classification.”

He's right—there is no job description for the multitasking that public works managers often perform. (For an example of how diverse jobs are in the public sector, see the classified ads beginning on page 70 of this issue).

So how do you get ahead? First off, get more education. As in any field, the more you know, the more you're worth. Survey respondents (35%) with a professional engineer's license earn nearly $12,000 more than their non-licensed counterparts.

Also in demand are employees with special certifications or licenses. According to PMSJ Resources Inc.—an architecture, engineering, and consulting training and education firm based in Newton, Mass.—licensed water and wastewater treatment plant operators will be in huge demand in the near future.

A second way to make more money is to move to a larger city. A larger tax base means more resources for public works. Though many small-town directors say they do everything themselves in their town, big-city managers make more because they're often more specialized. So even though small-town managers conceivably have greater overall responsibility, they're not compensated as highly as their big-city counterparts.

Want more money? Move west

Median salaries for all job titles and all municipality sizes vary from one part of the United States to another.

  • East: $62,500
  • Midwest: $72,500
  • Southeast: $57,500
  • Southwest: $60,000
  • West: $82,500

  • Bigger is better

    Median salaries for those in larger cities are higher.

  • Population: 500,000 to 1 million
  • Location:Midwest or Southeast
  • Median wages: $87,500
  • Population: 5000 to 10,000
  • Location: East or Midwest
  • Median wages: $52,500
  • Data are for all job titles in the locations shown. Source: PUBLIC WORKS

    Back to school

    Median wages for degreed professionals are higher.

  • $62,500: high school degree
  • $75,000: bachelor's degree
  • $87,500: master's degree
  • Eight of 10 survey respondents have an associate's degree or higher.
    Data are for all job titles. Source: PUBLIC WORKS