A Salary Survey Success Story

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UPAA Blog 2022-23 #18 - 4/27/23 (text by Mark Carriveau)

Mark Carriveau is the photographer at Elgin Community College. The 2023 Salary Survey is open as of this article's publication. It's available on UPAA members' dashboard. -Ed.


UPAA has conducted a salary survey since 2008. Though the name says "salary," it also includes items such as budgets and working conditions. The purpose of this survey is to collect data on our jobs that can be useful to members when they need to ask their administration for a raise, equipment, etc. When it comes to higher ed photography, there is no better place to see reliable data and long-term trends.

The value of this information can best be illustrated by how it is applied at our own institutions. I use the data from these surveys often. Our college had some lean years with equipment budgets. In 2018 the situation made its way to upper management. Our annual equipment budget was $2,800 to be shared with myself and the full-time videographer. I was asked if I had access to any data that would show what kind of equipment budget other colleges have. Using the UPAA salary survey I was able to show that two-person teams in higher ed averaged between $10,000 to $15,000 for yearly equipment purchases. Once this news hit the president’s office, our equipment budget went from $2,500 to $15,000. In percentage terms our equipment budget went up 600%. 

Thanks to the salary survey.


The survey data was crucial again in 2021 when I was working with my supervisor to revise my job description. One of the changes we requested was to require a bachelor degree rather than an associate degree. Our HR department believed that photographers do not generally have that much education, and by listing a bachelor degree as a minimum requirement they would never be able to fill the job if I left the college. My supervisor used the 2018 UPAA Salary Survey to show HR that over 76% of college institutions across the United States required at least a bachelor’s degree for their photographer positions. HR was not able to refute the data we had given them. Not only was the change made, it resulted in a 10% raise in salary as well.


Again, I saw a 600% increase in our equipment budget and a 10% salary increase because of the data in the UPAA Salary Survey.

These are just two examples of how the survey data worked for me. I have heard similar stories from members about how it has helped them. For that reason, I encourage all of my colleagues to complete the survey. The more people participate, the more reliable the data will be. Someday it might help you too.


"You don't need a parachute to go skydiving. You need one to go skydiving twice." Thanks for reading the blog. Articles & suggestions are always welcome. Email editor Matt Cashore, mcashore@nd.edu. And, as always, if you haven't already, follow UPAA on Instagram!