A weekly column profiling companies and personalities. This week: PayScale.

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Who: PayScale

What: The Seattle-based company compiles compensation data worldwide by surveying visitors to its Web site. Visitors can also see what salary and benefits are typical for their position and experience. Reports are sold to both employees or companies.

How it’s different: Some companies get salary information by surveying a wide range of employers. PayScale gets specific. “A product manager at Microsoft means something different than at Amazon,” said Mike Metzger, PayScale’s chief executive.

Mass movement: Metzger said 47 million people do job-related searching every month on the Internet in the U.S., with PayScale’s database of profiles in the millions. More than 500,000 unique visitors go to the site every month.

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Methodology: PayScale starts with surveys run by third parties, including the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau. It then adds to that data entered by users.

Findings: In the Seattle-area, registered nurses with two to nine years of experience make an average hourly wage of $27.50, according to data collected by PayScale over the last year.

A local area software engineer, who has one to four years experience makes about $61,300 a year, compared with a typical Bay Area software engineer who makes $67,800 a year.

Water cooler: Joe Giordano, founder, chairman and vice president of product development, said he thought of the idea in 2000, and saw a way to use the Internet to anonymously compare hiring trends. He calls it the water-cooler effect.

History: The company officially launched in January 2002. It has grown to 20 employees and raised $3.2 million in venture capital.

Meat and potatoes: Users can get three types of reports. The basic provides an expected range for a salary; the premium runs a detailed analysis and gives free access to the research center; the gold membership runs unlimited premium reports for a year and gives the users unlimited access to the research center and alerts of new updated compensation information.

The bucks: The basic report is free; the premium report, at about 20 pages, is $14.95. The gold membership is $29.95.

Tricia Duryee: 206-464-3283 or tduryee@seattletimes.com