What is a Salary Range?

Salary Range Explained

Financial chart on chalkboard representing salary ranges for a position.
Photo: eternalcreative / Getty Images

What's a salary range? For an employee, a salary range is your target compensation, from the low end (the least you can accept) to the high end (the most you feel you can hope for). For a company, it's the amount that the organization has available to pay a new employee, and what current employees can expect to earn in a specific position.

Review what's included in a salary range, salary range information for job applicants and employers, and the factors that impact a salary range.

What's Included in a Salary Range

A salary range includes a low, mid-point, and maximum salary. For example:

  • $40,000 (bottom of the range)
  • $45,000 (median)
  • $50,000 (maximum)
  • Range: $40,000 - $50,000

Job Applicant Salary Ranges

From a job seeker perspective, a salary range is the amount of compensation a candidate would accept for a position. Candidates can often provide a salary range, rather than a flat amount, when a company asks for salary requirements. For example, if a job posting asks for salary requirements, a candidate could say in the $45,000 - $55,000 range.

Giving a range provides for flexibility both in being considered for the job and in negotiating salary. When you set a salary range, be sure that the lowest end of the spectrum will cover all your expenses. You don’t want to accept a job at the very low end of your salary range only to discover that you can’t pay your bills.


Be sure that the salary is a match for the type of job you're seeking. You don't want to price yourself out of the job market or undersell yourself and get paid too little.

Know What You are Worth

To evaluate salary offers and to decide if an organization's salary ranges are appropriate for your experience, it is important to research salary in your field thoroughly:

  • Utilize salary calculators like Payscale.com, Salary.com, and Indeed Salary Search to gain further insight.
  • Ask colleagues in your field what salary range they think is suitable for your background.
  • Review government publications like the Occupational Outlook Handbook, which contains salary figures for various areas of employment.
  • College students should check in with their school's career office, which can furnish information provided by the National Association of Colleges and Employers regarding entry-level salaries for college graduates.
  • Consult your professional organization to inquire about salary surveys conducted in your field.


Consider regional differences in base salary and the cost of living as you determine an appropriate salary range for your location. Most online salary calculators will let you enter your location, so that you can see data that’s targeted to your area.

Employer Salary Ranges

From an employer perspective, the salary range is the amount of compensation paid for a specific position. For example, if the starting pay for a job is $30,000 and the maximum salary for the position, after merit increases and tenure on the job, is $40,000, the salary range for the job is $30,000 to $40,000.

Employers typically have some flexibility in hiring. A super qualified candidate can expect a job offer that's at the higher end of the salary range than a candidate with the minimum qualifications.

Factors Impacting Where You Fit Into a Salary Range

Your place in a salary range depends on factors like:

  • Experience: The length of time which you have worked in a related functional area and industry will normally influence whether an employer will make an offer at the lower, middle, or higher end of a salary range.
  • Results: Candidates who can show that they added a great deal of value at previous employers will often receive higher offers. Identify the bottom line in your previous employment situations. Was it sales, quality control, safety, cost control, customer satisfaction, the volume of work, etc.? Be prepared to reference how you have impacted the bottom line in your previous jobs above and beyond normal expectations.
  • The job market: If there is a relative scarcity of qualified workers in your field, you are more likely to receive offers in the upper level of a salary range.
  • Employment situation: Passive job seekers who are wooed by recruiters and are seemingly satisfied with their current job situation often have more leverage and are more likely to be placed higher in a salary range.
  • Industry: Some sectors like government and education may have strict salary ladders or steps based on previous teaching or administrative experience that supersede other factors.
  • Reputation: Candidates who come highly recommended by previous employers are often viewed as more worthy of placement into the upper end of a salary range.
  • Skillset: Job seekers with cutting-edge skills or certifications will often be in higher demand and receive offers higher up in the salary range.
  • Size of the company: Larger organizations with more formal Human Resources policies are more likely to have set salary ranges, while small organizations might have more flexibility in making salary offers outside normal ranges.
Was this page helpful?
Related Articles