How Much Should You Be Getting Paid?

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What motivates you at work? Chances are that you said, “Money.” Survey after survey shows that while other factors influence workers’ performance, salary is among the top motivators for most people. Specifically, feeling that you’re paid fairly influences your productivity, job satisfaction, and intent to stay.

But how do you know what constitutes fair pay for you? Understanding the market will help you determine your salary value based on your skills, education and training, work experience, and geographic location. Once you know the landscape, you’ll have a sense of how and when to negotiate a job offer, promotion, or raise. 

Key Takeaways

  • Your salary value depends on your job title, location, education, training, skill set, and work experience.
  • Most hiring managers expect candidates to negotiate starting salaries, so it's often wise to ask for more at this stage.
  • Before you negotiate a job offer or raise, do research using free salary calculators and surveys. 

Why Research Salaries?

Conducting salary research before starting a job search or negotiating a raise ensures that your request is in line with the market. You won’t get that from asking your friends about their salary or basing your salary expectations on your current pay. The danger of not knowing your real salary value is that you might ask for too much or too little. This can mean missing out on job opportunities or locking yourself into a lower salary, potentially for years to come. 

Accurate salary research is based on your skill set, education and training, and prior work experience. Your salary range will also depend on your geographic location. For example, you can't just research salaries for say, a social media manager 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 live in upstate New York, in a rural area like Plattsburgh.


You can use free salary surveys and calculators to get an accurate picture of your fair salary value. 

How To Use Salary Surveys

Start your one-person salary research project by reviewing salary data. 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 include hundreds of occupations. In addition, you can also find a list of the fastest-growing occupations and another list of occupations that are expected to have the newest jobs.

Other free salary surveys and tools include: 

  • Indeed: Search salaries by job title, skill, certification, or other keywords and get results for your metro area. 
  • LinkedIn Salary: See salaries for job titles and employers in various locations or scroll through popular job titles for comparison. 
  • Payscale: Get a free salary report based on your job title, skills, education, and location. 
  • Offering another free salary report, also lets you browse jobs by industry, income, and other factors. 
  • Glassdoor: Use this calculator to see your potential salary range by job title, location, and employer.  

Should You Negotiate a Salary Offer?

More than half of professionals fail to negotiate job offers, according to a CareerBuilder survey. The main reason for not counteroffering? Fear. Fifty-one percent of those who don’t ask for more money say that they’re not comfortable asking, while 47% say that they’re afraid that employers won’t hire them if they attempt to negotiate. 

But because raises are calculated as a percentage of your current salary, not negotiating a salary offer can cost you over $1 million in lost wages over the course of your career. Further, you may have less to lose than you think. Over half of employers told CareerBuilder that they offered less to prospective hires than they were willing to pay—26% said that their initial offer was $5,000 less than their maximum offer. 


Knowing an appropriate salary for your position and geographic area can help you get a sense of whether to make a counteroffer.

When To Negotiate a Raise

It’s often trickier to know when it’s a good idea to negotiate a raise. But you can keep a few guidelines in mind:

  • In most cases, it’s best to wait until you’ve worked at the company for at least a year before you ask for a raise.
  • The best time to negotiate is after you’ve achieved a goal, such as completing a major project ahead of schedule and budget or landing a big client. 
  • Make your request in advance of performance review time. This will give your manager time to talk to the higher-ups and make your case. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

When shouldn’t you negotiate starting salary?

Although most employers expect candidates to negotiate starting salaries, there are times when it makes sense to accept the offer. You might decide not to ask for a higher salary if your research indicates that your industry or the company culture frowns on negotiating, for example. If you’re desperate for work and looking for a stop-gap job until you figure out a long-term career plan, you might also decide to take the employer’s first offer. 

Can I negotiate benefits as well as salary?

You can often negotiate some perks and benefits as well as (or instead of) a higher salary. In general, it’s easier to negotiate benefits that aren’t negotiated at scale, which means that you may not be able to advocate for a better health insurance package. But perks like a flexible schedule, more paid time off, or a sooner performance review may be easier to achieve. 

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The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. ASPE. "Predictors of Job Satisfaction and Intent to Leave among Home Health Workers: An Analysis of the National Home Health Aide Survey." 

  2. Paychex. "Measuring Productivity in the Workplace."

  3. Cision PR Newswire. "More Than Half of Workers Do Not Negotiate Job Offers, According to New CareerBuilder Survey."

  4. Harvard Business Review. "The Costs of Not Negotiating." 

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