Skip to main content

Frequently Asked Questions

The Compensation & Organizational Effectiveness team, with the partnership of the Compensation Framework Advisory Committee, university leadership, and business and unit leaders have analyzed and worked towards implementing a structured compensation, classification, and career framework that categorizes jobs in a logical and meaningful way to support career paths, transparency, and market competitiveness. The goals for this project are to create:

  1. A defined compensation philosophy, which will serve as the guiding principles for how pay will be determined, managed, and communicated at VU.
  2. A career framework, reflecting the variety of positions and responsibilities among VU that recognizes job value and highlights opportunities for career advancement.
  3. A competitive, centralized, market-driven compensation system that is fair, equitable, and financially sustainable in order to help us attract and retain talent.

All regular, temporary, and term, salaried, and hourly staff. The following employees are excluded: faculty and those in positions covered under collective bargaining agreements.

In order to position Vanderbilt as an employer of choice and to support the career value propositions of our employees, it is necessary to establish a classification and compensation system that is competitive with the market, transparent to staff, attracts and retains talent and creates opportunities for career growth and advancement. 

This project began based on feedback from employees, campus leaders, advisory groups, and listening sessions co-hosted by the Offices of EDI and HR. The People & Engagement group in HR initiated an effort last fall to develop –in partnership with a cross-functional advisory group and campus stakeholders –a new career and compensation framework.

With changes, there are always concerns about negative impacts and effects. This project is a positive change and will not have any negative impacts on staff.

 This project will not:

  • Reduce employee pay
  • Change position duties
  • Change the organizational structure
  • Eliminate positions or cause layoffs

The new framework allows hiring managers to make informed decisions regarding the pay of new hires and the promotion and/or transfer of current employees across the organization. This data-rich system provides salary ranges that accommodate a variety of criteria when considering pay including an employee’s knowledge, skills, abilities, responsibilities, and education.

The new framework presents transparency, provides organizational clarity, and supports our intention to create a level playing field. By way of modeling other Universities’ best practices, VU seeks to provide a map for employees to build, grow, and foster their careers.

Employees will have the resources they need to better understand the opportunities to grow their careers, subject to their own choice and organizational need. Employees who are unsure of their current status within a compensation range will understand how they can progress over time dependent on organizational needs and budgetary conditions.

The purpose of a compensation philosophy is to serve as an organizational anchor for how compensation is determined for employees.

The philosophy allows VU to strategically design and maintain the compensation, classification, and career framework. It also ensures that the entire workforce understands the systems and processes in place for determining employee compensation and how to best prepare for future career opportunities.

Over the past 10 years, many universities have developed and adopted professional, market-based compensation methodologies. Universities have made this transition in an effort to remain competitive with respect to their local communities, other regional institutions, and across national industries. Universities that have moved towards a market-based compensation program include, but are not limited to Harvard, Cornell, Princeton, Notre Dame, Texas A&M, Colorado, Stanford, etc.

Regardless of funding source, employees should be paid fairly and equitably for their work.

Per Federal regulations: “(b) Reasonableness. Compensation for employees engaged in work on Federal awards will be considered reasonable to the extent that it is consistent with that paid for similar work in other activities of the non-Federal entity. In cases where the kinds of employees required for Federal awards are not found in the other activities of the non-Federal entity, compensation will be considered reasonable to the extent that it is comparable to that paid for similar work in the labor market in which the non-Federal entity competes for the kind of employees involved.” Source: U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued the 2 CFR 200 “Uniform Guidance”

Positions were reviewed for their duties, responsibilities, scope, and authority level. This information was gathered in multiple ways, including reviewing position descriptions, examining the organizational structure, and conducting discussions with university and unit leadership. Once this information was gathered, we were able to place positions in the most accurate job title and level.

For more information about job titles and leveling, please see leveling guides (link).

The mapping of positions to new job titles and levels intentionally included multiple methods of gathering information regarding positions. These methods included reviewing position descriptions, examining the organizational structure, and conducting discussions with university and unit leadership.


We are confident that accurate information was gathered and careful, thoughtful decisions regarding placement were made. However, if you still disagree with the job title/level please review your position description to ensure that it fairly states duties and requirements for your job and escalates the issue to your manager. From there we can help you better understand your title and level or, if needed, conduct a job evaluation. 

Official job titles are board and are used to distinguish a grouping of similar positions across a variety of settings, a working title is specific to an actual position in an identifiable work unit. Working titles are encouraged as they can add clarity job area or function. Please see, working title guidelines (link).

Job duties serve as the root of any position. Job duties consider the position, not the person —that is, the objective responsibilities, not the person assigned to perform them. Factors that influence the classification of a position include:

  • scope and level of responsibilities and duties;
  • decision-making authority and its relationship to other jobs; and
  • independent judgment and discretion in the work performed.
  • nature of impact

Market represents the pay rate for employees doing similar work in similar industries. 

A “job family” is a meaningful grouping of jobs commonly clustered within a career emphasis. A list of VU job families can be found here (link)

It is important to keep in mind the following:

  • some job families include more jobs than others, and those with many jobs may have specialty areas;
  • in all cases, a job can only reside in one job family. However, jobs in a job family may not be unique to just one school, center, department, lab, etc.;
  • assigning jobs to job families will not in any way, affect the pay of individuals.

The job family concept helps VU organize related jobs across all areas of the university. Job families are particularly useful in helping employees determine, evaluate, and develop future career plans—(i.e., career paths).

Knowledge of job families can be used by leaders, staff, and Human Resources to:

  • define career development opportunities for staff within a current or another job family;
  • facilitate career planning discussions, clarify the need for specific training, and assist staff members who are considering and career advancement;
  • comply with mandated affirmative action reporting, job applicant tracking, and associated data analysis; and
  • allow Compensation and Organization Effectiveness to use job family information to assist department leaders with questions regarding internal equity and/or external competitiveness.

A salary range is a market-based compensation range with a minimum, midpoint, and maximum salary.

The salary grades were determined based upon a blended salary structure model with the midpoints set at the market median. The market median was identified through benchmarking current positions to positions in salary surveys with similar duties, responsibilities, and scope of practice.

There are several objectives for a salary structure:

  • External competitiveness – we have defined the respective market for each job title and aligned the salary ranges with the market
  • Internal equity – by aligning positions of common value in the same salary grade we are better able to analyze fair pay practices
  • It enables the creation of a hierarchy of jobs in the organization for entry-level positions through the Chancellor’s position
  • It serves as a basis for communicating to employees how salary is determined, a path for career development, and a process for increases

The salary structure is assessed biennially. The ranges were not made to be stagnant, but rather ever-changing. Ranges will be adjusted as market changes. This is to ensure VU continues to stay competitive in the market. Range adjustments may or may not affect employee pay, depending on the financial ability of the university. 

The goal, over time, is to pay all VU staff within the salary range. Compensation and Organizational Effectiveness will partner with departmental leaders to establish effective approaches to ensure all employees are paid within the assigned pay range over a reasonable period of time. 

Some staff may see a change in their organizational job title. This new title helps better group positions that are doing similar duties together. This change does not reflect any changes in duties. Working titles are encouraged as they can add clarity to the job area or function. Please see, working title guidelines (link).

The process of moving a job from the current classification/job title into a new job title that is part of a designated job family and function is referred to as “mapping.” The Compensation & Organizational Effectiveness team, with the partnership of the Compensation Framework Advisory Committee, university leadership, and business and unit leaders have “mapped” positions to the new job structure.

The major duties of a given job determined where they were mapped. Multifunctional positions were mapped to the job function that constitutes more than 50 percent of the job. If no one component of the job was 50 percent or more, the job function that has the greatest percentage of duties, or the function that is most emphasized was used.