Why negotiate your salary? For one thing, negotiation works. Showing the skills and value you bring to the table and knowing what you’re worth can result in more money. Whether you’re weighing a job offer or due for a raise, negotiation is key.
But first, it’s good to know what you’re worth.
Salary research can give you a better idea of just the right number to shoot for, and of what increases you can expect as you advance in your career. The best salary research websites will help you do your homework in any field. (And most are free to use!)
Best salary information websites
The most popular salary-specific job site, Salary.com lists every position in a field with free salary info. Their collection of data includes cost-of-living calculators, comparison tools, and lists of benefits, as well as negotiation tips.
Salary.com doubles as a career site, providing job listings and advice for those on the lookout. Overall, this is probably the best site for salary info.
Glassdoor is known for its extensive company reviews and employee feedback. A salary search provides data for specific jobs at specific companies, rather than a general estimation.
Employees share info on salaries, benefits, interview questions, and more — a great insider resource if you’re starting out at a new company.
A good resource for new grads, PayScale offers a free salary report based on experience, education, and other factors. Students should check out its “College Salary Report” for the lowdown on what various majors can expect to earn (and some negotiation tips). The career research section includes a Career Goal Tracker with salary data for the jobs you want.
The well-known job site aggregator has a salary search tool. Indeed lets you use keywords to search, in addition to job titles. Since Indeed users can access over 50 million job postings from unique sources, there’s a ton of salary data here.
All the data on SalaryList comes from official reporting by companies or the U.S. Department of Labor, so you know you’re getting accurate information. The site provides salary data records for existing jobs by title, company, and state.
With data updated daily, Salary Expert offers not only free salary reports but also cost of living analysis and career salary potential. You can also search for jobs by salary, which can be a great tool if you’re thinking about switching fields.
Bureau of Labor Statistics
The most recent “Occupational Outlook Handbook” from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (available online or in print) provides salary data for thousands of jobs, searchable by field.
It’s also a good idea to investigate any sites specific to your field or career for salary data. These sites may have more info on industry norms, particularly if your field’s a rarer one.
What should you consider?
Sites will often allow you to search based on job title, education, level of experience, and location. But how does each factor affect the compensation you should ask for?
Titles reflect responsibility and experience. While some companies allow you a little latitude in naming your job, others won’t be so flexible. Make sure you’re clear on the responsibilities of the title offered (or the title you want.)
Depending on the profit ratio of your industry, the same title can come with a different salary. Sales representatives, for instance, can work in multiple fields. But sales reps in high-demand fields, like pharmaceuticals, may be able to ask for more than those in other industries.
If you live in a location where housing, transit, food, and other essentials cost more than the national average — like a large city, a coastal city, or a tourist destination — you should earn more.
A Cost of Living Analysis (COLA) comparison, offered on many of the sites above, lets you know what to expect in your region.
Work experience in your field can increase your value and your salary. Internships may count in your favor, depending on your responsibilities there.
Having a degree, period — an associate’s, a bachelor’s, or an advanced degree — should boost your salary expectations. Having a degree in your field is even better.
Where you went to college can sometimes make a difference, too. PayScale has a “College ROI Report” (ROI stands for return on investment) that analyzes how degrees from different colleges can affect your salary.
If you didn’t go to the Ivy League or a “top” school, don’t count yourself out! Education’s one of many factors that employers consider when setting compensation, and the more experience you get, the less it typically matters.
Whether it’s a software program, a type of design, or a foreign language, special skills can be lucrative in the job market. Try doing a keyword search for a unique skill, and see which employers are willing to pay more for it.
The key is supply and demand. Workers in more in-demand fields, like nursing or computer science, tend to have more negotiating room.
But, as you can see, there are plenty of factors that determine the “right” compensation for your job. And there are variables you can’t control. Racial and gender wage gaps, for instance, still persist. Industries in decline, or going through a temporary financial slump, may not have as much money to offer.
Tips for a successful salary negotiation
Have a range in mind, rather than a number. This gives you and the company more flexibility, and you’re likely to end up within the middle to high end of the range.
Know the lowest salary number you can live with. It’s better to have a floor than a ceiling.
Request benefits such as employer-paid health insurance, retirement contributions, and achievement-based bonuses — if your company’s less willing to negotiate on salary. Benefits may end up saving you more in the long run.
It’s normal to feel squeamish talking about money — especially with your boss. Throw in the possibility of confrontation and contention, and negotiating for a salary increase can be completely nerve-wracking.
But being prepared — knowing what you can expect, and what others in your same position are making — can help calm your nerves.