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You Can Make Six Figures in SEM (If You Pay Your Dues)

SEMPO, the Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization, has released the results of its in-house SEM salary survey, taken late last year. The good news: you can make six figures in in-house SEM. The not-as-good news: it’ll take you 5 to 7 years to get there. (Yeah, I know, I was hoping not to have to work my way up, too.)

With 656 respondents, the survey looks at not only salaries but also experience levels, job titles and online spending budgets.

Some pretty graphs Salary information, by job title and experience level:
salaries for those with 0 to 3 years experience, from SEMPO

salaries for those with 5 to 7 years experience, from SEMPO

Other key findings:

  • Some 64% of the respondents have five years or less SEM experience
  • To make in the mid-to-high $100s to the $200K range, “you are usually going to have to invest five to seven years to get there.”
  • “One third of the respondents are managing monthly budgets at the $200,000 level, at the
    opposite end of the spectrum, 26.6% are managing budgets of up to only $25,000/month.”
  • “39.4% of respondents managing monthly SEM budgets in excess of $200,000 report having 3 years of experience or less. 34.2% have between 3 and 5 years experience, and those with 5+ years of experience totaled 26.4%.”
  • 26% of those surveyed were managers, “whose compensation clustered in the $60,000 to $90,000. Despite the manager’s title, SEMPO found that almost half did not directly manage people.”

Side note: I don’t find that last point surprising, since what they’re probably managing is the actual marketing and not other people. When I worked for an SEO company, our “account managers” were the lowest people on the totem pole (though they probably thought we Web Content Specialists were ;) ), but they were the ones that did a lot of day-to-day PPC managing and performance monitoring.

So what do you think? Do these numbers align with your in-house SEM experience, or do you know pity/envy/disdain in-house SEMs?