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Compensation FAQs

Please note the responses below pertain to staff compensation only. For information on faculty compensation, please contact the Provost’s Office.

Pay Grades

How are salaries at Swarthmore determined?

Position salaries are determined considering a number of factors, including but not limited to: the education, experience, complexity of skills, and supervisory responsibilities expected of the position, and the organizational impact of that role within the College. A position’s pay grade and salary range are determined in the context of these factors.

What is Swarthmore’s pay structure?

Swarthmore has many staff positions that require a wide range of skills and responsibilities. We use a fairly typical evaluation system to analyze positions and to organize them into position classifications. Positions are evaluated considering a number of factors that may be required for success, including but not limited to: education, experience, complexity of skills, supervisory responsibilities, and organizational impact at the College. In the context of these factors, positions classified similarly are then grouped together into a pay grade.

Our position classification system helps establish consistency and fairness when compensating widely varying positions. Since the College has some unique positions not readily found in the labor market, our system also helps place those positions in context and determine appropriate compensation.


What is a staff pay grade?

A pay grade is the range of pay determined as appropriate compensation for staff positions that have been grouped together due to a similar classification. Specific salary ranges within each staff pay grade are determined by the market rates for the positions that fall within the pay grade.The College reviews higher education and other local and national salary data to adjust staff pay grades as needed to offer competitive compensation.

Does a staff position’s pay grade represent its salary range?

While various different staff positions are grouped together in a pay grade, each individual position has a unique salary range that falls within—but may not be as large as—the full pay grade range. In other words, because the salary range for an individual position is aligned with the market pay range for that type of role, it may represent a smaller range than the pay grade the position falls within.

How often are staff pay grades updated?

There is no guarantee that grade ranges will change from year to year, but they are updated regularly, depending on factors like the market change for positions and inflation.


Can a position can be reclassified to a different pay grade?

When there is a significant change in the responsibilities within a position, a supervisor may request a review of that position. If this review determines that the position has significantly changed in terms of the required responsibilities, knowledge, skills, and decision-making complexity, it may be reclassified. A reclassification may lead to a salary adjustment, whether the position is placed within a higher grade or maintained within the same grade. Determinations of a position’s classification also consider other factors, including internal equity position comparisons and external market data.

There are, on occasion, circumstances in which a reclassification may not lead to a salary increase, such as when a staff member’s salary is already above the marketplace for their position. In limited circumstances, a position reclassification may also lead to the position being placed in a lower salary grade. This may occur because of a wider reorganization of a department, or because of a College-wide reorganization. In the event of a staff position being reclassified into a lower grade, the determination of an appropriate salary will be resolved on a case-by-case basis.

If I transfer to a position within a lower pay grade, how will my salary be affected?

If a staff member voluntarily transfers to a vacant position classified within a lower pay grade, that may result in a lesser salary. In such situations, the determination of an appropriate salary will be resolved on a case-by-case basis.

What survey data does Human Resources use to measure salaries for positions?

In order to remain current with the labor market, the College participates in numerous surveys that gather data from both within and outside higher education. Higher education surveys include CUPA (College University Professional Association), which has data on 1,400 participating institutions and over 300 positions. Local and national surveys outside of higher education include EduComp, Economic Research Institute, Kenexa, and Sullivan-Cotter. These surveys present an informed picture of broader labor markets for staff positions, and allow the College to continue providing a competitive rate of pay.  

Pay Increases

Is there an annual pay increase?

Decisions about compensation increases are based on economic conditions, market conditions, organizational needs, and staff member performance, all of which may change in a given year. Swarthmore’s practice has typically been to offer staff members an annual increase at the start of the fiscal year; however, these increases have never been guaranteed. Staff members who have been in their positions for a short period of time (less than six months) may not be eligible for an increase at the start of the fiscal year.


What is the typical pay increase with a promotion?

There is no typical increase for a promotion. A pay increase can be influenced by many factors, including the staff member’s current salary level, their overall professional experience, market data for comparable positions, and internal equity.

Will I remain eligible for an annual increase if my position has been reclassified?

If a position has been reclassified, the staff member may remain eligible for an annual increase. However, the College can never guarantee an annual increase, as decisions about compensation levels are based on economic and market conditions, organizational needs, and performance.


Is there a pay increase with a lateral transfer?

Generally, compensation is not increased in cases of a lateral transfer. However, in some instances an adjustment may be considered, when for example a staff member’s compensation has been lower than the market rate or than for positions with the same classification as their new position. In these cases, an increase in compensation will be considered.

Pay Grade Maximums

What happens when my compensation reaches the pay grade maximum for my position?

As compensation for long-time staff members continues to grow, it may eventually reach the pay grade maximum for their position. Even after the pay grade maximum has been reached, staff members remain eligible for pay increases. However, in these cases staff members will receive their increase in a lump sum payment at the start of the fiscal year. This policy has been in place for over a decade at the College, and is considered a standard compensation practice.

As retirement contributions by the College are based on an employee's total earnings, they will include any lump sum increases that staff member may have received.  

How is the lump sum increase calculated?  

The amount of a given lump sum increase reflects the percentage increase that would ordinarily be added to an staff member’s base salary, multiplied by the total number of hours that staff member worked that year (1,820 or 2,080 total hours for full time employees, depending on whether they work 35 or 40 hours a week).

Exempt and Non-Exempt Positions

What is the difference between exempt and non-exempt positions?

Employees in exempt positions are salaried and not eligible to receive overtime pay. Staff members in non-exempt positions are compensated on an hourly basis for their work and are therefore eligible to receive overtime pay.