"My boss earns more than your boss!"

That might be the rallying cry in some Washington area business offices this morning, following publication of the first comprehensive survey of executive pay at top companies in the District, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia.

Compiled from public documents by the management consulting firm of Towers, Perrin, Forster & Crosby, the survey shows that total cash compensation (salary plus bonus) of 100 mayor firms averaged $158.650 last year for chief executive officers.

For its study, Towers, Perrin selected 100 of the regions' major companies with publicly traded stock, which regularly publish data on executive pay in documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission or in proxy statements for annual meetings. Figures, in the survey are for the most recent fiscal year - calendar 1977 in most cases.

Not included in the survey are such large privately held companies as Mars Inc., of Northern Virginia, a major candy manufacturer with sales estimated at more than $1.5 billion. Also excluded are such financial institutions as large savings and loan associations. Most large area S&Ls are mutual thrift institutions, owned by depositors, and they are not required to file SEC or proxy reports on executive salaries.

According to the survey of 100 companies, seven regional firms paid their top executives $300,000 or more in the most recent year. Of the seven, three were railroad companies.

John Fishwick, president of the Norfolk Western Railway of Roanoke, led the region with total compensation of $366,252. The second-highest and third-highest compensations also were received by heads of rail firms: Chessie System Inc. Chairman Hays T. Watkins at $331,670 (his firm owns the Baltimore Ohio, Chesapeak & Ohio and Western Maryland lines and splits its headquarters operations between Baltimore and Cleveland) and former Seaboard Coast Line Chairman W. Thomas Rice, at $316,485. Rice has since retired as chairman of the Richmond company.

Other executives earning $300,000 or more were J. Donald Rauth, Chairman of Martin Marietta Corp. of Bethesda, $308,333; Floyd D. Gottwald Jr., Chairman of Ethyl Corp. of Richmond, $306,300; David P. Reynolds Chairman of Reynolds Metals Co. of Richmond, $302,700; and Katharine Graham, Chairman of The Washington Post Co., $300,000.

One local business executive with a publicly traded firm Chairman George Olmsted of International Bank, earned more than $300,000 last year but his company does not show up in the survey.

William Jaffe, a principal in the Washington office of Towers, Perrin, said yesterday that IB was excluded because its ties to various subsidiaries (some wholly owned, some not) made it difficult to ascertain executive compensation levels.

For example, the 1978 annual meeting proxy statement for the Washington merchant banking firm shows that IB paid Olmsted only $2,000 last year. But he also received $354,457 of remuneration from subsidiary companies.Moreover, as the Towers, perrin data indicates, Olmsted received $145,410 as a director of Financial General Bankshares Corp. last year.

Ties between Olmsted and Financial General now have been severed by a Federal Reserve Board order and new owners of the bank holding company, Financial General, currently are fighting a takeover bid from Arab investors. It could not be determined by an IB spokesman yesterday if the director's payment from the banking firm (the highest pay it offered last year) is included in the $354,457 of subsidiary income listed for Olmsted in the proxy statement of IB.

Of the 100 corporations included in the survey, L.S. Good & Co. of Wheeling, W.Va., paid its top executives the least. W.B. Robinson, vice president of the retail company, earned $54,167 while chairman and president S. S. Good Jr. earned $46,200. Good previously owned the non-defunct Kann's department stores in Washington.

Among utilities, which traditionally have had lower top salaries because of review of expenses by state regulatory agencies, Potomac Electric Power Co. had the highest compensation in 1977 - $174,395 to Chairman and President W. Reid Thompson.

One unusual showing in the survey is Hechinger Co., the retail hardware chain based in Prince George's County. Neither President John Hechinger nor Chairman Richard England show up in the data (they each earned $54,167 in the latest year) because two vice president receive higher compensation.

However, in the case of Hechinger's, separate hechinger-England family firms own many properties leased to the retail firm and they earn substantial rental income from these separate arrangements.

The Towers, Perrin data cover the highest paid three or four officers for each of the 100 firms. Total cash compensation for the second and highest paid executives in 1977 averaged $113,585 and $95,206, respectively, in the Washington region.

Based in New York, Towers, Perrin has been conducting surveys of executive pay at 100 top national industrial corporations since the mid-1960s. Data from the 1977 national survey show average annual compensation to chief executives of $488,000 - considerably higher than in the Washington region.

However, there are few large industrial firms in this region and the economy is dominated by finance, insurance, real estate, retail and wholesale trading businesses, with pay patterns historically lower than in heavy industry.

The 100 companies in the survey include 28 in finance, insurance and real estate; 22 in retail or wholesale trade; 18 in nondurable goods manufacture; 14 in transportation, communications and utilities; 13 in durable goods manufacture and 5 in services. Of the total, 37 are based in metropolitan Washington, 18 in the Richmond area and 13 around Baltimore.

Jaffe said that among regional firms, the highest paid chief executives were in teh transportation, communications and utility sector ($190,222 average). In general, the data show that higher top salaries are paid by firms with larger sales volumes or number of employes.

One of the most significant findings of the study was evidence that area companies are not keeping pace with large national industrial firms in terms of incentives. The study showed 59 area firms with short-term incentives (current or deferred cash and stock) compared with 96 of the top 100 industrials and that 69 area firms offered long-term compensation (stock options, performance awards) compared with 93 in in the national study. More than 20 regional firms had no incentive awards.

Towers, Perrin, Forster & Crosby has been in the consulting business since 1917 and one of its specializations is executive compensation, salary administration and employe benefits. The firm employs some 650 professionals in 22 offices around the globe, 13 of them in the U.S. The new survey will be mailed to clients this week, Jaffe said.

he following is a list of the 100 companies in the survey, the names and titles of the two highest paid executives, base pay, bonus and total compensation for the most recent fiscal year: CAPTION: Picture 1, Executives or regional companies who earned $300,000 or more in most recent year, John Fishwick; Picture 2, J. Donald Rauth; Picture 3, W. Thomas Rice; Picture 4, Katharine Graham; Picture 5, Floyd Gottwald Jr.; Picture 6, Hays Watkins; Picture 7, George Olmstead; Picture 8, David Reynolds.