Staff Compensation Philosophy

In support of the University’s mission and strategic objectives, Penn State seeks to recruit and retain a highly qualified, talented, and diverse staff. The core objective of Penn State’s compensation philosophy is to provide a program to compensate staff members fairly and competitively based on work performed, individual contributions, and goals and priorities of their respective units, colleges, campuses, and the University at large.

Rewards Alignment

To attract, retain, and reward the very best staff talent, Penn State offers market-competitive reward opportunities.

  • Base Salary: Salary provides a competitive foundation for pay and reflects individuals’ roles, unique skills and abilities, experience, and performance.
  • Benefits: Staff are provided with retirement, health, and welfare benefits that are competitive within higher education, including:
    • A complete package of health and retirement benefits.
    • Tuition reimbursement to promote continuous learning for our employees and their dependents.
    • Generous time off and income protection programs.
  • Professional Growth and Development: Staff are encouraged to take advantage of professional development and growth opportunities. More information on programs that are available can be found on the Learning and Performance page of the HR website.
  • Discount Programs: Penn State collaborates with local businesses to provide savings for our staff. Discounts currently available to Penn State staff can be found on the HR website.
  • Other Intangible Benefits: Penn State provides its staff with a collegial work environment, community atmosphere, and flexible work arrangements.   
Seven smiling staff members pose with their arms crossed.

Compensation Markets for Staff Talent

Penn State compares staff jobs against both higher education and general industry markets. Comparisons are drawn from multiple higher education groups with similar talent profiles, as well as general industry organizations such as corporate or non-profit companies. Market data comes from credible, reliable, and relevant published compensation survey sources, and comparison markets are reviewed and refined on a regular basis to ensure their appropriateness.

Geography and Cost of Labor

Penn State regularly analyzes the cost of labor using an external survey data source to determine the impact on market pricing and/or salary structures. To account for differences in the various talent markets that exist at the Commonwealth Campuses, as well as other implications of operating in various locations, adjustments may be made to the national general industry market data and/or the higher education markets. 

Map of the United States drawn in shades of light blue with green pins spread across the states

Staff Compensation Program

The staff compensation program is designed to balance external competitiveness with internal equity, with consideration for the University’s talent needs, regulatory guidelines, and financial resources. Penn State built a salary structure that is informed by competitive market data at both the national and regional levels.

Jobs are evaluated based on job content (including responsibilities, scope, and experience/education requirements), not title, and are assigned to a salary grade informed primarily by the job’s market rate. Other factors such as the progression of levels within a job and other similar jobs across the University are also used to determine appropriate grade placement. 

While assigning a salary grade to a job is based on job content, an individual’s position in that grade can reflect their skills, capabilities, knowledge, experience, and performance against job expectations. Additional factors that may affect pay decisions include the criticality of the role to the University, individual sustained contributions and career potential, competencies and behaviors, and the availability of talent in the market.

Program Maintenance

Penn State’s staff compensation programs are maintained through regular evaluation and monitoring, including:

  • Comprehensive and current job documentation
  • Assessment of market pay trends and practices
  • Periodic evaluation and adjustments, as needed, of comparison markets
  • Regular review and adjustment to the salary grades and overall structure as necessary
  • Regular review of salary administration guidelines
  • Review of internal equity as needed