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How to Benchmark Your Salary and Negotiate a Raise

Updated on September 5, 2015
Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Ms. Inglish is a successful Employment & Training pro setting Midwest regional records with tens of thousands placed to gainful employment.


How Much Should You Be Paid?

It is important in preparing for an employment interview not only to research the company to which you are applying, but also to determine the specific salary range that is usual and customary in your geographic location for the job you want. This is also vital information to find before asking for a raise after you are on the job.

During the first interview, unless you are a mid-career employee or an executive, salary may not be discussed.

For entry level and even some mid-career transfers, salary is often not discussed until the second interview. However, this is not always the case and the interviewer may state a salary range to you. Do not be surprised by that range - get to know it before the interview!

Do not be surprised by a salary range in place. Get to know it before the interview!

Negotiation is a strategy.
Negotiation is a strategy. | Source

Avoid Looking Shocked

If you hear the figure and look shocked or surprised, or worse - make a face of some sort - you will appear naïve, possibly immature, and perhaps not the type of person this company wants to hire and place into a responsible position. It is best to be informed ahead of time to be armed with the correct information.

If a salary range is announced that seems much to low, wait a few seconds before responding.

Sometimes, quoting an applicant "too low" a range is a test. Regardless, find out what you should be making in the position you have or want. Then, if and when a lo-ball figure is offered to you, take a deep breath slowly and state calmly and professionally that you have researched the salary range in this locale and know it to be different.

You can research the proper salary range by using the Internet site of the United States Department of Labor (DOL) or one of the salary research sites online, such as Salary.Com. Salary.Com has substantial amounts of work related information aside from salaries and wages.

If the company that is interviewing you insists on underpaying you, you might want to look elsewhere for employment for a number of reasons, all having to do with the lack of robustness of this company's finances and Employee Development Program.

Pay Rate Calculators and Websites Make Salary Research Easy

Salary.Com can help you find out exactly what range of pay you should be expecting in the region in which you live. In the days before the Internet was available, job seekers went to the publkic library to try to look up these salary ranges and often met with little success. Many companies did not publish the ranges used within their companies, either. The Internet and Equal Pay laws have made all this research more accessible.

On the Home Page of Salary.Com, a Salary Wizard appears:

  • Select "Individual", your career field, and your zip code or your state and the largest city near your hometown.
  • Another menu with additional choices will appear.
  • Choose the Job Title that most closely approaches your own and then choose Base Salary Range.

For Example, A Curriculum Specialist in Education in downtown Columbus, Ohio can expect to earn an income in the range of $40,000.00 - $86,000.00 in yearly salary, plus other benefits.

Going back and clicking on the link "For Employers", we produce the same results.

Considering this information, a Curriculum Specialist that was just starting out in his or her first position in the job title could expect to earn between about $40,000 - 49,000, depending on education level attained and previous work experience (see graph below). Further:

  • A person having a Masters degree in education would often start at higher wages than someone with a BA or BS degree.
  • Someone with 5-15 years experience would earn nearer the mid-point of the salary range, and a specialist with 20-30 years experience might earn in the top 25% of the salary range.
  • However, a worker with 20-30 years experience would likely have been promoted out of this position into one at a higher salary range with greater responsibilities.
  • A specialist with a PhD and 15-18 years of experience may earn at the top of the range and be encouraged to seek a higher level of employment.

Using Salary.Com Personal Identifiers

On Salary.Com, you can access the PERSONAL SALARY REPORT on Salary.Com and enter your own unique Identifiers to come up with the Specific Salary Range that is usual and customer in your locale for your type of work and occupational title.

  • Location
  • Job Category
  • Job Title
  • Job Description (pre-scripted)


Select your home state the large city listed that is nearest to your hometown. You may need to consult a map to be sure.


Choose the career field that most closely matches the work that you do,


A list of associated Job titles within your Job Category will be provided. Select the one that most closely matches your job duties.

Actual Responsibilities are or will be Greater Equal Lesser

Choose the level that fits your job duties.

Personal Salary Report

Enter Your Locale and Job Specifics

For example, choosing Columbus OH, Non-Profit and Social Services, Education Director resulted in the following job duties:

"Designs and implements educational programs directed at members of the organization or the public. Develops curriculum or content for classes, lectures, conferences, or other educational materials. May oversee the operations of certification or credentialing programs. Ensures that all activities and requirements regarding an organization's education/ certification programs are met. Requires a bachelor's degree with at least 10 years of experience in the field or a related area. Familiar with a variety of the field's concepts, practices, and procedures. Relies on extensive experience and judgment to plan and accomplish goals. Performs a variety of tasks. Leads and directs the work of others. A wide degree of creativity and latitude is expected. Typically reports to top management."



Choosing Greater for responsibility level results in:

A screen requesting your Education Level and a payment of $49.95. However, you may not want to pay that amount. The higher the level of status and pay that your Job Title and Job Duties warrant, the more expensive will be this Personal Salary Report. The CEO of this organization would need to pay $79.95.

The personalized reports take into account your specific employers, by Company Name, the date of your last employment evaluation and/or raise in pay, and many other factors. It may or may not be worth the price of the report to you.

To executives seeking greater opportunities, such a report could be well worth the price.


US Department of Labor at DOL.GOV

The United States Department of Labor (DOL) offers the capability of determining your salary range on a government website.

Using this extensive website, you can look up job titles and job categories and fine a page provided for each one. This page will provide a summary of usual daily duities for a particular job, salary ranges, related jobs, education requirements, and other important information.

In addition to this and other infomration on the website, you can learn about wages and salaries in the following topics areas and how they relate to the nation's labor laws:

Back Pay


Educational Level & Pay


Government Contracts

Hazard Pay

Holiday Pay

Industrial Homework/Piecework

Last Paycheck

Merit Pay

Minimum Wage

Overtime Pay

Recordkeeping & Reporting

Severance Pay

Subminimum Wage


The goernment labor site provides a Search capability and numerous links on the DOL website can help you navigate the information and find what you need. An A-Z Index in located at the upper right corner of the home page.

Negotiating Salaries and Raises

The first step in this process is to

  • Document your Ongoing Qualifications -

including education, previous employment, award certificates, licenses, and accomplishments on each one of your jobs and in your courrent position.

  • Keep this all together neatly in a Work Portfolio.

  • Review the portfolio Every Month -

and be familiar with it so that you can discuss these things off the top of your head without floundering.

  • Take the portfolio with you to each Employee Evaluation and place your copy of your reviews in it.

  • Use the positive information in your portfolio to leverage high wages. If you consistently produce higher results than others in your department, you should likely be paid more. See the link below in order to learn more.

How to Participate in a Work Performance Review

Negotiation During the Job Interview

© 2008 Patty Inglish MS

Share Your Experiences

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    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      11 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      What I really need is high speed Internet access, like T-9 (too expensive) at home and three computers with large flat-screens video cam access. Then writing would be a breeze and I could have conference calls to Africa, England etc.

      solarshingles - my work is welliorganized, with a bit of room for emergencies, and I know when to say no. However, it does take more than 40 hours a week.:)

    • solarshingles profile image


      11 years ago from london

      Patty, that is a very cruel, but amazing story about too much work. I am a workaholic, as well. 100 hours per week is quite normal for me, but I am not talking about bad, static, boring work, but very interesting, very challenging and constantly changing work, when you never count working hours, because you are doing it for your pleasure/yourself. Internet is so incredible tool, which allows brand new experiences and brand new professions/jobs, which haven't been existed even a few years ago.

      Patty, could you tell us, how you personally control your work load, please?

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      11 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Organic growth is very good, imo.

      I had a student that worked two full-time minimum wage jobs to help his mother and seven young simblings. At age 17, he worked full-time at McDonald's during the day, and at night and on weekends, he worked for White Castle another 40 hours. He could not attend his GED classes and we lost him from the education system. That's not a good life, to work 80 hours a week.

      Then, there was a middle aged gentleman here in the 1970s (I think) that was an expert in his manufacturing industry. He worked his way up in the company and then worked double shits in the roller bearing plant (16 hours/day, 7 days/week) for several years as a hands-on supervisor. He retired on a Sunday night with a big party and died during the night in his sleep. He left his wife a lot of money. He'd lived through the Great Depression and was afraid of another one. I think they might be a lot of fear among all age groups right now about making a living in America.

    • solarshingles profile image


      11 years ago from london

      Patty, you are so right. Straight out of college you simply lack any real business experiences and without a very good and strong mentor a young person could ruin the business, if placed on a high managerial position. I think, it is all about 'organic' growth.

      There is also one danger of minimal wage. Minimal wage is directly creating a true 'LOWER CLASS' of the society, which is not good for anyone. People who belong to this class could work very hard, yet they cannot live the regular life, due to lack of income. (Some Scandinavian countries have been dealt very good about that matter, but that's the other story.)

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      11 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      solarshingles, you have read my mind.

      I agree with you, because I was twice in a position in which I was taken advantage of professionally as you describe. Never again. I think we can give young professionals good advise in this realm -- We should not expect to make the high esnd of the salary range straight out of college, but we should not be offered minimum wage after a 5-year Enginneering degree, either.

      My opinion would seem to be firmly in place with yours.

    • solarshingles profile image


      11 years ago from london

      This will maybe not sound nice, but I am going to write it anyway.

      You can hire a cheap 'robot' to do whatever you like and to obey you, but you can not hire a cheap creative employee, who is going to look and care at your own business as its own, if you do not want to pay well.

      (that is my firm opinion on this matter)

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      11 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      That is an eye-opening experience, solarshingles!

      I keep saying no to low wages. I graduted from college and employment firms offered to find me minimum wage jobs. I graduated form grad school and received the same offer. [???] About 2-3 weeks after that graduation, a former grad advisor called me to come back and work 40+ hrs a week for free. I just refused all of this. How cheap!

    • solarshingles profile image


      11 years ago from london

      My younger brother (who is much more intelligent than me) explained this case to me with following correlation:

      Which car do you value more a Mercedes or a Fiat? Normally my answer was: 'Mercedes, because it is better and more respected.' Why?', he asked me again. 'Because it is more widely respected by people', I said. 'Why?', he asked me gain. I was speechless...I didn't know what to answer. 'Because it is more expensive.'

      I haven't seen many people in my entire life, who were/are so good in negotiating for their payment as him. Yet, it took many years for me to learn, because our characters are very different.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      11 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Andy Xie - thanks for posting these good comments that add good value to the Hub. I chose the chess board the reasons you mention. I like your advice about setting and workplace cultures as well. Thank you!

    • Andy Xie profile image

      Andy Xie 

      11 years ago from Toronto, Ontario, Canada

      I just reread this hub again and I still think it's fantastic, great job Patty. The first image, of the chess board, depicts the raise negotiation really well, because it's all about the moves you make. I think that sometimes it can be possible to negotiate for better benefits (vacation, sick days, insurance, etc.) instead of traditionally, the salary. I'd also like to add that the negotiation steps can vary depending on the job, how formal/casual the workplace setting is. My wife works for the city and she says that it's hard to get a raise because everything is so standardized. On the other hand, a plus to that is that her boss isn't paying out of his own pocket and might be more lenient. It really depends on the situation.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      11 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      I agree that a lot of people have been trained to NOT talk unless requested to do so by an adult and it is a real hindrance for some indidivuals later in adult life.

      The private business aspect rings a note with me very clearly. When I began teaching and coaching martial arts, some young students' parents told me I should not be paid at all because I am a woman [WHAT!?!?!]. Now I advise some Olympic Teams. LOL

    • solarshingles profile image


      11 years ago from london

      Patty, exactly as you'd said it! There is also a problem to speak up, if one is grown up in a very parents obeying style of being quiet until asked and permitted to speak (sorry, but it is still happening and I personally know how that looks like in my case).

      You simply need to be well informed about the salary trends in your profession and about your real value as an employee. It is much easier, if you are constantly delivering the best possible value to your employer - to do the job as good as possible.

      It is also applicable to private business. I'd started my business at the lowest prices among the competition. Ten years after, I'd reached the top as the most expensive among the competition.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      11 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Thanks for all the comments.

      Solarshingles! - - When I first began to work, I thought you just had to work hard and do a good job. Well, I was wrong - if we don't speak up, sometimes the admin. just leave us in the same position. This happened twice before I learned my lesson well enough. One place had paid me only about 35% of the going rate of pay in the region - I wish I'd had the Internet then! :)

      Andy! - Hi, thanks for reading! You are right about timing. I watched while an employee asked for a raise immediately after the CEO told us all that the company was closing. Not a good move.

      Chef Jeff - I am glad you liked this Hub. I need to practice negotiation skills myself. :)

    • Chef Jeff profile image

      Chef Jeff 

      11 years ago from Universe, Milky Way, Outer Arm, Sol, Earth, Western Hemisphere, North America, Illinois, Chicago.

      Very informative - I have learned a few important things today! Thanks!!!

    • Andy Xie profile image

      Andy Xie 

      11 years ago from Toronto, Ontario, Canada

      Thanks Patty for this very thorough hub! I agree with solarshingles, negotiating a raise is a very challenging task. Timing is also very important, the last thing you want when asking for a raise is for your boss to be in a bad mood.

    • solarshingles profile image


      11 years ago from london

      Very challenging task to ask for a pay rise, but nobody is going to respect you, if you are not going to do so.


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