Research to Determine Your Salary Value

Employee counting $100 bills as their salary

Michael M Schwab / Getty Images

Unless you're a philanthropist who doesn’t have to work for a living, chances are your number one reason for working is to make money. Your salary, including bonuses and commissions, are what make you show up for work every day and it’s important to know how much you’re worth. It’s important to know how much you’re worth and how your salary compares with those in your area and even in other parts of the country.

Negotiating a Salary Offer or a Raise

When you're job hunting, the tricky part is knowing if that great sounding job a hiring manager just offered you include the appropriate salary for your position and geographic area. This is important for your job satisfaction – you don’t want to make less money than you should, for no good reason. But even if you're not job hunting, you should be knowledgeable about your current salary and whether or not it compares favorably to the market rate or not.

To successfully negotiate a salary offer from a hiring manager, or get that raise you deserve, you will need to do your homework. It may be time-consuming, but if you do some research you'll equip yourself with the information you'll need to successfully negotiate the salary you want or get the raise you deserve.

Do Your Homework

In advance of starting your job search, take the time to research salaries and average raises for the career field you've chosen as well as appropriate salaries where you live or where you intend to move to. For example, you can't just research salaries for say, a digital and social media publicist and only look at salaries in New York state. If you live in New York City, the salary will be much higher than if you lived in upstate New York, in a rural area like Rochester.

It's important to spend some time doing this research because you need to be prepared when a prospective employer asks you about your salary expectations or makes you an offer. You could easily miss out on a job offer if you ask for too much or end up being underpaid if you ask for too little. Even if you are contentedly employed, it makes sense to know what you should (or could) be earning.

Review Salary Surveys

Start your one-person salary research project by reviewing salary survey information. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is an excellent place to start. The Occupational Outlook Handbook includes national and state wage projections as well as data for seven major occupational divisions. The divisions literally include hundreds of occupations. In addition, you can also find a list of the fastest-growing occupations and another list of the occupations that are expected to have the newest jobs.

You can also use salary surveys and calculators which delineate salaries by industry and job function. Be sure to be thorough and review several surveys in order to get an overall perspective of salary ranges in the career field you're interested in. You can use the sites to get an idea if your current salary is good or to evaluate a new job offer.

Or maybe you’re just thinking about changing jobs or you’re a college student and haven’t started your career yet. In that case, you can research various jobs you may be interested in applying for or that are a good match for your college degree.

If your city is one of those listed on the "" website, you'll be able to use their Salary Calculator to get data on a thousand different jobs. And, because it's almost as important to know what you need to make in order to pay your bills every month as it is to know how your current (or potential) salary stacks up, this salary calculator's cost-of-living feature does the analysis for you and has other compensation tools to help you determine how much an offer is actually worth. 

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