There’s the salary you desire and the salary your employer is willing to pay. And while the two may be quite similar, that’s not always the case. Though some of what determines your pay rate is out of your hands, there are some steps you can take to help you understand your value to an employer to help you get paid what you’re worth.
What Should My Salary Be?
Your salary is a reflection of many things, like your education, experience, and the unique skill set you bring to the role. However, your salary is also a reflection of:
- What the employer thinks your skills and abilities are worth
- What the employer believes the role or the work is worth
- The value of the industry
- The value of a specific job within an industry
- What the company can (and cannot) pay you
These metrics measure different things, and sometimes they compete with each other. For example, your skill set may be rare, making you a valuable employee. In many industries, you could probably count on being paid a high salary that reflects this. However, if you’re working for a nonprofit or a startup that doesn’t have outside funding, you may be worth more salary, but the company can’t pay it.
This is precisely what makes finding the salary you deserve a challenge. It’s a mix of factors that are in and out of your control.
How to Research Salary
Fortunately, you can take back some control by researching salary ranges for specific job titles and industries. This can help you get an idea of what your skills are worth and understand what employers across industries are willing to pay.
Review Job Postings
More and more companies include a salary range as part of the job posting. Seek out the postings for your job title that have salary information and compare them across industries to see what employers think a specific position is worth. Make sure to look at the location, job duties, and education requirements to ensure you’re comparing apples to apples (as much as possible).
In addition to giving you an idea of the salary range for a role, comparing job postings also gives you an idea of whether you’d be at the low, middle, or high end of the salary range. And it provides clues about how you can ensure you’re offered the salary you desire (like obtaining a certification, for example).
Check Outside Sources
Since not all companies include salary information on their job postings, you can turn to third-party sources for more information. The Bureau of Labor Statistics posts salary range information for different job titles, and a site like Salary.com lets you research salaries and cost of living.
Glassdoor is also a good site to research salary ranges for roles. What’s more, Glassdoor also provides self-reported salary data so you can get a general idea of what a company pays employees for specific job titles. And you can also get a sense of whether or not this company pays staff the salary you’re willing to accept.
Keep Location in Mind
As you research salary ranges, where you live makes a difference. Many employers adjust pay rates for the cost of living by location, resulting in very different salary ranges for the same job title.
For example, the salary for an entry-level role in a high cost-of-living area like San Francisco, California, is likely to be a lot higher than the salary for a job with the same duties, responsibilities, and requirements in a lower cost-of-living area, like Des Moine, Iowa.
However, not all companies adjust for the cost of living. Particularly in fully distributed companies, there may be one salary range for the role, and it does not adjust no matter where you live.
Consider Your Experience Level
As you research salary ranges, you’ll find, well, a lot of range! And this is because salary ranges often include a wide range of experience levels.
For example, “mid-career” covers a lot of experience levels. Someone with five to seven years of experience may be considered mid-career just as much as someone with seven to 10 years. The person with less experience is likely paid less, but you won’t necessarily see this reflected in pay ranges and may instead see a pay range that includes all mid-career workers.
Keep this in mind as you research and remember that if you have less experience, you’re more likely to be paid at the lower end of the salary range.
Talk to People in Your Field
Finally, one of the best ways to find the salary you deserve is to talk about it!
Like including salary range in a job posting, the taboo around discussing salary is starting to fade. So, if you want to find out the salary for people in your field who do what you do, set up some informational interviews with your network and ask people what salary they started at, what they earn now, and what they did to get there.
And while it’s important to speak to people who are the same gender as you, make sure you talk to people who aren’t. This can help you understand where there may be pay disparities in your field and help you prepare to overcome them.
One other thing to consider when it comes to the salary you deserve is everything your employer provides outside the salary. Extensive employee benefits and compensation packages (the fringe benefits) can greatly increase the overall value of working for a company beyond your paycheck.
For example, you may start at a low salary but receive a bonus every three months for your performance. Likewise, you may take home less pay, but the company pays for 100% of your health insurance premium for you and your dependents. Though your paycheck is less than what you might like, the overall value of what you receive from your employer is worth more.
To learn more, read Salary and Compensation: A Comprehensive Guide to Your Paycheck.
The salary you want and the salary you receive are often two (sometimes very!) different things. However, doing the homework for your role, experience level, and industry can help you get a solid understanding of the general salary range for your job. This way, when you receive an offer or want to negotiate a raise, you’ll know exactly where you are and what you can do to get the salary you deserve.
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