Professional Staff Compensation Guidelines

Guiding Plan Statement and Background 

Western Washington University is committed to creating a fair and reasonable process for determining professional staff compensation to ensure an intentional compensation strategy that encompasses the mission, vision, and values of the university and supports our on-going success. Due to observed short comings in the previous compensation plan, such as market alignment and salary placement and progression, a new plan and process was developed by using informed conversations and feedback from the Professional Staff Organization Salary and Benefits Committee (SBC), Human Resources personnel, and university leadership. Coordination and work on a revised plan began in May 2021 and continued until late fall of 2022 when a new plan was approved by the Vice Presidents & President’s Cabinet with a phased in implementation and approach. The SBC, HR personnel, and university leadership will continue to meet to discuss the plans’ implementation to answer procedural questions and questions that arise through constituent feedback, plan execution, and insights that are gained through the process of enacting the plan.  

Market rates were determined utilizing three data sources (College and University Professional Association for Human Resources, PayFactors, and Economic Research Institute).  Subsets were determined from these sources for a total of 12 data splits to compare for the market rate.  Salaries from both higher education and other industry sectors, public and private, were compared from Bellingham, Washington, the Pacific Northwest Region, and comparable universities and colleges across the United States. 

From these market rates, all professional staff positions were placed into salary ranges. Each salary range has 16 progression steps beyond the minimum rate for the range. The midpoint of each of these grades aligns with the midpoint of market using the data sources identified in the paragraph above. These progression steps provide an opportunity for 30% salary growth within a position and recognize longevity within WWU. 

Per the review of university leadership, no professional staff employee will be paid under the minimum of their identified salary range. In addition, all will be at least at 90% of their identified progression placement within their salary range. This placement within the range was determined by combining 100% of time within an employee’s current position and 50% of time within prior WWU permanent positions. 

Phase 1:  All professional staff employees will be at least at the minimum (first step) of their newly determined salary range. – COMPLETED on December 31, 2022. 

Phase 2:  All professional staff employees will be at least at 90% of their market identified progression placement within their salary range effective 07/01/2023.  – IN PROCESS 

Phase 3 and Beyond:  The commitment is to continue to move forward and have professional staff employees be at 100% of the identified progression step within their salary range. In 2023 and subsequent years, Western will review factors such as general, across the board increases, state funding, and internal funding to determine how much of the gap can be narrowed and closed. Every effort will be made to make progress towards 100% of market each year. 

Across-the-board increases will increase the salary ranges by across-the-board percentages and the employee’s salary grade prior to step increases.   

To be eligible for across-the-board increases, permanent professional staff need to be hired into their current position no later than June 30 of the current year for the July 1 effective date. All eligible staff will receive their across-the-board increases regardless of current placement in the compensation program. 

Step Movement Increases: An annual increase from one step to the next within the salary range will occur for an employee’s current position. Each step increase is 2% greater than the previous step. Step increase movement will occur annually on July 1.  

To be eligible for the step movement increases, permanent professional staff need be hired into their current position no later than March 31 of the current year for the July 1 effective date. 

The setting of a salary for new hires into a permanent position is a collaborative process. Human Resources will provide policy, practice and informational guidance to hiring managers and supervisors who are in a position to determine the rate of pay. Throughout the process, attention will be paid to the pay rates of existing employees to promote internal equity and divisional/departmental alignment.  

With the above advisement from HR and collaborative conversations between hiring managers and supervisors, new hires should be brought in below midpoint, in alignment with the current adjustment to market and with consideration of relevant prior experience outside of WWU. Placement of new hires within a range should mirror current practice for existing Western Professional Staff employees.  In no case should an offer be below the minimum of the salary range. Rare exceptions to new hire guidance will require approval by the Provost or appropriate Vice President. 
Positions should be hired in alignment with the steps outlined in the PSO Compensation Plan for accurate Banner entry and tracking and future step increase calculations. 

Any Professional Staff employee may request a review of their position. The position review process is intended for positions that have materially and substantially expanded scope and responsibility which significantly impacts the job description knowledge, skills, and abilities.  The request for review should always begin with a discussion with the employee’s immediate supervisor. 

If the reason for the review stems from an organizational change such as employee vacancy or reorganization that was not contemplated as part of the annual planning process/long-term goal setting, then the employee and supervisor should review whether the organizational change is substantial enough in the position decision-making, scope of responsibility, and impact of the outcomes.   

Discussed and warranted reviews should be submitted through the PageUp system with substantial changes and appropriate reasons documented. Submitted reviews will route through the Provost or appropriate divisional Vice President for approval. If the Provost/VP agrees, then the request will be forwarded to Human Resources for review.   

Title change requests will be reviewed and discussed with the hiring authority/supervisor to ensure titling reflects accurately across divisions.  This review with possible title change is intended to promote internal equity and fairness. A change in title does not indicate a change in position description, salary range, or step. An intent to change position description, salary range, or step should be submitted through the appropriate position review/recruitment process.  

Title change review will seek to identify common criteria for position titles to ensure that the use of descriptors such as “Senior”, “Manager”, “Director”, and other such terms are applied consistently. 

To recognize a temporary increase in the scope of responsibilities and to promote consistency, a reassignment to a position with a higher salary range should be made considering the following guidelines.   

Grade Increase Salary Increase
1 grade 5% or minimum of grade process placement 
2 grades  7.5% or minimum of grade process placement 
>2 grades  10% or minimum of grade process placement 

A reassignment or movement to a position with a lower salary range may occur. When this occurs, there is no guarantee or requirement that the salary remains the same.  HR recommends an employee be placed into a new range using the same process for identifying any other placement within a salary range. 

A transfer is movement to a position with the same salary range as the employee’s previous position. HR recommends the salary and current service credit remain the same. 

Partial interim appointment duties must account for a substantial increase in responsibility.   

Full interim appointment duties would be assuming full role/scope of a different position. 

Temporary pay increases (TPIs) are provided for when an employee engages in significant duties and responsibilities outside the scope of their permanent position. Duties must last longer than two weeks. 

Grade Level  Partial  Full
same level 5.0% 10.0% or minimum of grade 
1 grade  5.0% 10.0% or minimum of grade 
2 grades  7.5% 15.0% or minimum of grade 
>2 grades  10.0% 20.0% or minimum of grade 


Supervisor salary grades should be at least 1 grade higher than subordinates (direct reports). Since there is 30% growth within a salary range and each grade is 5% higher than the one immediately below it, it is possible that a supervisor may be paid at a lower rate than an employee they supervise. Therefore, there cannot be an expectation/requirement that a supervisor’s salary be higher than their direct report(s). The progression placement within a salary range recognizes the employee’s longevity in the position and with Western. 

Definition of supervisor follows the Fair Labor Standards Act guidelines: 

  • Supervision of two or more employees and be a regular part of the employee’s job. 

  • Supervision of non-employees/student workers does not meet the guidelines. 

The 16 progression steps of the salary ranges will stay static until a new market review has been completed or there is an across-the-board update to the ranges. 

Benchmarked positions will be reviewed yearly; full market review will take place at a minimum of once every five years. 

Exceptions to the 90% placement should not be approved where the primary request is due to budgetary availability or self-sustaining designation.   
Any exception request will be reviewed and approved by the Provost or appropriate Vice President. The Provost or Vice President will utilize available data to ensure an equitable exception decision with the understanding that decisions will affect more than your division. A request to change any fundamental piece of the current process will require review by the President’s Cabinet.