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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 in 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


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