A pay scale is a document which outlines the salary that an employee will receive in the course of his employment with a company. The pay scale is usually laid out in a document in table form. Information such as the length of employment and the corresponding salary is included in the document. Many companies have a pay scale that they show potential employees prior to hiring. The potential employee can use this information in making a decision as to whether or not accept a position.
The main advantage of having a pay scale is that structure is enforced. The parties involved know exactly where they stand at any given time, in particular with regard to salary. There are several points that are taken into consideration when coming up with a pay scale. For example, a pay scale will show that an employee will receive a certain amount upon hiring. After a year, the employee might receive a higher amount dependent on things such as achievement of goals and amount of training received.
If you are in the market for a job, however, it is important to understand that not all companies have a pay scale. Some companies absolutely do not have a pay scale. The prerogative for pay raises and bonuses may be totally up to the management, without any formal structure. On the other hand, some companies may not have a formal pay scale written out, but they may have a loose structure in place. If you are not shown a pay scale on the get go, then you may have to ask if the company has one.