Is A Salaried Job Really Better Than An Hourly Job?

The following is a staff writer post from Libby Balke. She’s an amazing writer, work-at-home mother of two, and has been married almost 8 years. Please leave any questions or comments below for either Libby or Crystal.

It seemed like the pinnacle of professional success: a salaried job that paid me one flat amount, no matter how much I worked. Of course, that salaried job would come with a slew of other great benefits, like more flexible time off, an enhanced 401(k), and, of course, a corner office.

But you know that saying, The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence? Turns out, it’s true, or at least in my case, it’s partly true. And here’s why.

Working the “Nightmare” Job

When I was still working in the news industry, I had an hourly job as a news producer. To many of my friends – who, admittedly didn’t know jack squat about the industry – it was glamorous work. Heck, several local “celebrities” (aka, the chief meteorologist on our station and two of the morning news anchors) came to my baby shower; if that wasn’t a sign that I’d “made it” in my career, what was?

But I hated the job. More specifically, I hated the hours. Sometimes I worked weekends, sometimes I didn’t; sometimes I worked second or third shift, sometimes I didn’t; sometimes I worked holidays, sometimes I didn’t. The variability in my schedule – a schedule I didn’t have any control over – was making it nearly impossible to find that always desirable, rarely attainable “work/life balance.” My daughter found it confusing that some nights I’d be there to tuck her in to bed, but wouldn’t be there to get her up the next morning; then the next day, my schedule would flip-flip and I’d miss bedtime but would be there for breakfast.

At the same time, I watched my managers and felt horribly, insanely, overwhelmingly jealous. Unlike me, their job was salaried, not hourly. So they’d saunter into the office an hour after me, leave an hour before me, and never, ever set foot in the building on a weekend or holiday. If they had to go to a doctor’s appointment in the middle of the day, they didn’t have to use personal time to do it. If they left work a few hours early because they weren’t feeling well, they didn’t have to blow a minimum of four hours of sick time (a company policy that irked me to no end). From my position on the other side of the fence, their lives looked far more balanced; their grass was far greener.

Landing the Dream Job

A career change and a couple of years later, I found myself signing on the dotted line for a contract for a new job that made me a salaried worker, too. Although it didn’t come with a posh corner office – by this time, I was telecommuting from home, so my office was my bedroom, my kitchen table, and sometimes a lounge chair in the backyard) – it did come with all the intangible benefits I’d yearned for while I was working at my hourly job. “I’ve made it,” I said to myself (and a few close friends), and settled in on my new career path.

My first week, I worked 47 hours. I got paid for 40.

My fourth week, I worked 52 hours. I got paid for 40.

My sixth week, I worked 61 hours. I still got paid for – you guessed it – 40.

While I absolutely love the flexibility of working from home and having a salaried job, I’ve quickly realized that there’s one major thing I miss about my old hourly job: overtime. I suppose I never realized it while I was jealously eyeing my superiors’ schedules at my old job, but they never got paid overtime. In fact, they rarely got comp time, either.

Back when I was working that hourly job, one of my colleagues was offered an in-house promotion that would have made her salaried. I was aghast, and told her as much. “It just wouldn’t be worth it,” she told me. I could tell there was more to the story – she was definitely hinting at something – but I couldn’t figure out what she meant. How could it not be worth it? Now that I’m on the other side of the fence with my salaried job, I know exactly what she was alluding to: the money. She realized what I couldn’t at the time: that going from her hourly job to a salaried position would have cost her a lot of overtime, and made it impossible for her to make as much money, even with a nice raise.

Now, this doesn’t mean I don’t love my new job. I do; it leaves me feeling challenged and fulfilled in a way I’ve never experienced before in a professional setting. I’m thrilled to say I’ve finally found my calling. But I will say that simply being salaried isn’t the golden ring I thought it would be.

Are you salaried or hourly at work? Would it be a factor in your decision to accept a new job? Why or why not?

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2 Comments
  1. I’m self-employed now, but I spent many years as a salaried retail manager and restaurant manager.

    There were many, many weeks when I worked so much unpaid overtime that my employees were actually making more per hour than I was. The chaotic schedule put a major strain on my family and partner, and the lack of work/life balance ultimately was the main reason I left that position.

    I would be willing at some point to accept a salaried position again, but I would want to talk to people already in the position during the interview process to see what their workweeks REALLY looked like first.
    Jenn @ Spend Less, Shop More recently posted..Project ChildSafe: Free Gun Lock And Child Safety KitMy Profile

  2. As soon as I went on salary, I actually got paid less… but not having to “clock out” when going to appts. or leaving early evened things out.

    Nice post!
    Tortoise Banker recently posted..I’ve Joined the Yakezie Challenge!My Profile

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