Public Works Compensation Report and Salary Calculator Showcases Trends in Public Works Compensation Packages

American Public Works Association 2018 study reveals results on work-life benefits, insurance, and more.

May 23, 2019 | BLOG POST

by David Dancy, director of marketing and web services, American Public Works Association

The American Public Works Association boasts a proud tradition of excellence and serves as a fantastic resource for public works education and information. But one thing APWA has been missing for years is a compensation study of the public works profession. Not since the 1989 Profile of Local Service Organizations and Managers, or as some would call it the APWA Special Report 57, has APWA completed a full compensation study of its members.

The 2018 APWA Public Works Compensation Report, released in the fall of 2018, is the result of a study conducted by Industry Insights, Inc, an independent professional survey research firm located in Dublin, Ohio. The survey was sent to more than 20,000 public works professionals in both the United States and Canada and received over 2,600 respondents and a 13% response rate from all levels of people working within public works. These groups included administrative, operations, supervisory and senior management as well as public works directors throughout the U.S. and Canada.

The study revealed some very important information about public works compensation. Starting at the top, Directors of Public Works in most areas are averaging six figure incomes. Directors on the Pacific Coast tend to be the highest paid, and those in the East-South-Central region tend to be the lowest. In Canada, Public Works Directors average $153,000, significantly higher than their U.S. counterparts.

The study shows that level of education directly corresponds with levels of salary:

  • Directors with graduate degrees earned an average of $10K more than Directors with bachelor’s degrees
  • Directors with bachelor’s degrees earned on average $40K more per year than Directors without a college degree

However, a person without a college degree can rise to the level of Director and can still earn a comparable salary. Ten percent of respondents at the Director level did not have a college degree. And, many respondents without a college degree have risen to the level of Superintendent or Assistant Director and are making salaries above $70,000 per year.

Work-Life Benefits

The 2018 study reveals that many agencies are offering a full benefits package with several work-life balance options such as the ability to work from home and flextime. While public works may not be a profession that lends itself well to working from home, employers appear to be getting away from the strict 8:00-5:00 routine and being more flexible in their approach.

Responses Percentage
Ability to work from home 13.7%
Flextime or flexible work hours 46.5%
Employer-provided smart phone 63.8%
Car allowance/mileage reimbursement 30.9%
Laptop, iPad or Tablet 55.7%
Tuition Reimbursement 46.1%

With only a few exceptions, the higher the level of the employee, the higher the response was for each benefit with Directors receiving the highest level of benefit.

Wellness programs and Employee Assistance programs are also very popular benefits that contribute to work-life balance. Nearly 95% of employers now offer full or partially paid Employee Assistance and nearly 90% offer Wellness programs.

Across the board at all levels, employees receive a minimum of three weeks of vacation and a minimum of 10 sick days per year.


Nearly all respondents receive some type of medical, life, and dental insurance benefits from their agency. In the United States, one-third of respondents said their medical insurance and dental insurance are fully paid and nearly two-thirds of the respondents receive partially paid medical and dental insurance benefits. Nearly half of the respondents receive fully paid life insurance benefits. In Canada, the fully paid percentages are much higher with two-thirds medical insurance fully paid and one-third partially paid and other insurances were 50-60% fully paid.

Currently, many employers are now offering some form of payment for mental health insurance, something that was not seen in the 1989 survey.

Responses Fully Paid Partially Paid Not Provided
Medical Insurance 33.4% 66.3% .3%
Life 48.5% 45.9% 5.6%
Dental 34.2% 61.0% 4.8%
Mental Health Insurance 25.7% 52.7% 21.6%
Vision Insurance 29.4% 60.9% 9.7%

An exciting feature of the compensation report is an online interactive salary calculator that uses the data from the survey. Individuals, managers, human resource directors and employers can use the calculator to filter salaries by title, region, public works sector, years of experience and much more. The complete 2018 APWA Public Works Compensation report is available at for $99 for members and $249 for nonmembers.

David Dancy can be reached at (816) 595-5250 or


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