Happy New Year.
Back in August of last year I created a list of topics to cover. I have now written about each one except salaries. I hate to leave anything hanging, so now I'll post about that. This topic is only tangentially related to test engineering, since a major point I'll make applies to other careers as well.
Test and Measurement World publishes a yearly salary survey for the field. It's a good piece of information for comparing compensations - at least for those of you who live in the US - but it completely leaves out a crucial component: location. For example, when I worked at HP/Agilent out in California there were three different scale grades for engineers. Silicon Valley (Palo Alto, San Jose, etc) was at the top of the list, followed by Sonoma County (CA) and Boston (MA) on the second level, and then everywhere else. There was a 5-10% salary difference between each level - some places just costs more to live there.
If you want to look at pay levels and include geography, use Salary.com's calculator. Also, there are several cost of living calculators out there you can use. For example, according to Salary.com's calculator, it costs about 7% more to live north of Boston than it does in Austin, TX.
I should also point out that the T&MW salary survey includes some interesting tidbits in the Job responsibilities and career satisfaction section. In particular, 67% of those polled would recommend test engineering to their kids or a friend. That makes me feel pretty good about my profession.