12 tips for how to negotiate how much you’re paid in your first job

12 tips for how to negotiate how much you’re paid in your first job was originally published on College Recruiter.

Many (most?) candidates do not negotiate how much they’ll be paid for the work they do. That’s a shame, because employers are often able and willing to pay more, sometimes in terms of wages and other times by providing more benefits like more paid days off.

And some employers who expect to extend a job offer to a candidate change their minds and don’t if the candidate just accepts what the employer is offered. To these employers, the candidate has demonstrated an inability or unwillingness to advocate for themselves. These employers might infer that if the candidate won’t advocate for themselves, it is even less likely that they’ll advocate for the employer, the employer’s clients, or other stakeholders.

Yet negotiating is not a skill that many schools teach and so few people early in their careers know how to negotiate something like how much they’ll be paid by their first employer. To help these candidates, we asked a dozen thought leaders to share the salary ranges someone should expect when looking for their first job within different industries, as well as some tips for how to ensure that you get paid what you’re worth and not a penny less.

  • Expect Tech Entry-Level Salary Range
  • Marketing Beginners’ Salary Expectations
  • Higher Education Entry-Level Salary
  • Contractor Field Salary Insights
  • Legal Industry Salary Variations
  • Environmental Science Salary Guide
  • Interior Design Salary Potential
  • Software Engineering Salary Advice
  • AI Industry Salary Outlook
  • Legal Field Starting Salary Guide
  • Finance Career Salary Range
  • Software Engineer Salary Negotiation Tips

Expect Tech Entry-Level Salary Range

In the technology industry, particularly for entry-level positions in software development, candidates can typically expect a salary range of $60,000 to $80,000 annually, depending on factors like location, education, and skills. Entry-level software developers often receive competitive compensation packages that may include benefits such as health insurance, bonuses, and stock options.

It’s important for candidates to research industry standards and salary trends in their specific location to negotiate effectively. Entry-level salaries can vary based on the demand for specific skills in the tech market, with certain programming languages or specialties commanding higher pay. As a Chief Human Resources Officer, my advice to candidates is to leverage online salary surveys, industry reports, and networking conversations to ensure they are well-informed about the prevailing salary expectations in their chosen field and location.

Steven Mostyn, Chief Human Resources Officer, Management.org

Marketing Beginners’ Salary Expectations

Typically, entry-level marketing positions vary based on factors such as location, company size, and specific roles. On average, entry-level marketing professionals can expect a salary range of between $35,000 and $50,000 per year.

However, this can vary significantly based on factors such as geographic location, industry, and level of experience. It is crucial for job seekers to research the market rates for entry-level marketing roles in their desired location and industry to ensure they negotiate a fair salary.

New hires must also remember the value of gaining experience and building a strong foundation in the field for long-term career growth.

Daniel Florido, Chief Web Development & Director, Pixelstorm

Higher Education Entry-Level Salary

For early-career professionals going into higher education positions, they should expect hiring ranges from $40,000 to $60,000, depending on the role and location. Typically, these positions would be program coordinators or academic advisors, working directly with students.

Kelli Anderson, Career Coach, Texas General Insurance

Contractor Field Salary Insights

When entering the contractor field for the first time, salary expectations can vary depending on factors like location, experience, and specific industry. Generally, entry-level contractor positions may offer salaries ranging from $40,000 to $60,000 annually. However, specialized skills or certifications can command higher pay.

In regions with a high demand for contractors, salaries might exceed this range. It’s crucial for individuals to research market trends and negotiate effectively to secure a fair compensation package reflective of their qualifications and contributions.

Michael Branover, Business Development Director, Branover Contractors Inc

Legal Industry Salary Variations

In the legal industry, the salary range for someone looking for their first job can vary widely depending on the location, size of the firm, and the specific field of law. For entry-level positions in small to medium-sized law firms, new graduates can expect a starting salary range from $50,000 to $70,000 annually. However, larger firms in metropolitan areas may offer salaries from $80,000 to $160,000, reflecting the competitive nature and higher cost of living. Additionally, public sector and non-profit legal positions often start on the lower end of this spectrum due to budget constraints but may offer other forms of compensation, such as loan forgiveness programs or work-life balance benefits. It’s crucial for new job seekers to research salaries within their desired geographical area and sector to set realistic expectations and negotiate effectively.

Mike Schafer, Louisville Personal Injury Lawyer, The Schafer Law Office

Environmental Science Salary Guide

Salaries for entry-level environmental science jobs, such as environmental technicians or analysts, can vary from $35,000 to $50,000 per year, depending on factors including the sector (public, nonprofit, or private) and region.

Helping a graduate land a $45,000 position with a nonprofit by highlighting their sustainable development capstone project and volunteer work was the highlight of my career-coaching adventure. This case study illustrates how important it is to have both theoretical knowledge and practical experience working on environmental issues.

As a newcomer to the field of environmental science, you should highlight your commitment to sustainability and any activities in which you have participated. You may be more desirable to employers, which could result in higher starting pay and more satisfying jobs, if you have relevant work experience in addition to the appropriate academic credentials.

John Butterworth, Founder and CEO, 10kschools

Interior Design Salary Potential

If you’re considering a career as an interior designer or entering the home-improvement industry, it’s good to know that interior designers in the United States typically earn a median annual salary of $60,340, or about $29.01 per hour.

In many professions, higher experience often leads to higher pay, but one of the advantages of being an interior designer is that experience doesn’t impact your salary as much. Of course, experience is important, and you’ll likely start at the lower end of the pay scale, but reaching the higher end is more achievable in this field. When clients hire interior designers, they usually focus on your portfolio, not so much on how long you’ve been in the profession.

From my observation, some interior designers in their second or third year can earn more than those who have been in the industry for 20 years. Interior design is certainly a profession where creativity and the ability to meet exactly what the client wants can lead to significantly higher earnings.

Henry Brook, Founder, The Page

Software Engineering Salary Advice

For ambitious graduates pursuing their first jobs in software engineering, the salary range nationally falls between $65,000 and $97,000 base. However, keyed to the local cost of living, compensation at tech hubs like SF or NYC can start from $95,000, while smaller markets average around $70,000. Certainly, aim high in negotiations—you bring specialized coding skills currently in intense demand. But also recognize that most firms budget based on experience level. Early on, I pressed to land rock-star developers by overspending on compensation. Quickly, I had to course-correct—sliding margins and cultural imbalance threatened stability. Now, I advise technologists new to the industry: anchor your salary expectations to meet reality, then sell your candidacy through potential upside, positioning your skills as scalable assets poised to rapidly expand in impact and, therefore, value as they mesh with the organization’s needs. Sustainable careers bloom from mutual investment between professional growth and corporate success—signal your commitment to excelling within realistic parameters, and any sensible tech leader will prize you as primed for future leadership.

Lou Reverchuk, Co-Founder and CEO, EchoGlobal

AI Industry Salary Outlook

If you’re a newcomer to the AI industry, you should know that the job market for AI roles, even those at the entry level, is really promising. Those starting their careers in artificial intelligence can expect salaries that are higher than average, thanks to the high demand for their skills. The exact amount you’ll make can vary based on the job, but it’s usually more than the median annual salary in the U.S., which was $46,310 as of May 2022, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Your salary will depend on factors like your previous work experience and where you live. For instance, the average salary for different AI roles varies: an AI engineer makes about $127,986; an AI researcher earns around $108,932; a machine learning engineer gets about $126,397; a robotics engineer earns around $96,013; a software engineer makes approximately $118,761; and a data scientist earns about $129,640.

Lucas Ochoa, Founder & CEO, Automat

Legal Field Starting Salary Guide

In the legal industry, entry-level positions, such as paralegals or legal assistants, typically command a starting salary in the range of $40,000 to $60,000 annually.

Various factors influence the specific figure, including geographic location, the size and prestige of the law firm, as well as the candidate’s educational background and prior experience.

For instance, during my tenure as a career coach, I worked closely with a recent law school graduate who secured a position as a junior associate in a mid-sized law firm in New York City. This individual received a starting salary of $65,000.

It’s important to note that while the initial salaries in the legal field may appear modest compared to some other industries, opportunities for career progression and salary growth abound as professionals accumulate experience and specialize in specific legal domains.

Job seekers are advised to consider the holistic compensation package, which includes benefits, opportunities for professional development, and the overall work-life balance provided by prospective employers, when evaluating job offers within the legal sector.

Aseem Jha, Founder & Head of Customer Delivery, Legal Consulting Pro

Finance Career Salary Range

In the U.S., a career in finance can be quite profitable, with salaries for finance majors ranging broadly from $19,509 to $515,794, and the median salary sitting at around $93,664. The salary for someone in a finance career can change depending on various factors like their qualifications, experience, and where they’re working. Since finance majors can find jobs in many different industries, their pay can vary a lot depending on the specific job they have.

Choosing to major in finance is a good idea because there are so many different types of jobs and responsibilities in the field, and the salaries are generally high, which can bring a sense of personal and social satisfaction. Finance professionals might work in roles such as financial analysts, investment bankers, personal financial advisors, or portfolio managers. Their jobs involve managing money, analyzing financial data, looking at investment opportunities, and giving financial advice to people and organizations. Finance is considered one of the majors that pays well, with the average salary being about $76,570, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Eric Croak, CFP, President, Croak Capital

Software Engineer Salary Negotiation Tips

For entry-level software engineers, the general range of annual salary is $45,000 to $100,000. However, it’s essential to note that salaries can differ significantly based on experience, skills, and the specific company you join. 

Currently, one recommended skill for software engineers is the programming language Scala, which can lead to a ~20% higher salary. An additional relevant degree can help, such as Engineering Management, which can result in a 78% increase in salary. It’s also good to be aware that artificial intelligence (AI) is significantly impacting the field of software engineering. An entry-level software engineer at eBay might start at a salary of $150,000. 

Focus on your fair market value rather than pushing for the highest amount. Be mindful of the company’s stability during negotiations. Make Yourself Indispensable: To guard against layoffs, master your role, build relationships, learn new skills, volunteer for special projects, and quantify your impact.

Ryan Yip, Career Consultant | Career Coach, LHH

By College Recruiter
College Recruiter believes that every student and recent grad deserves a great career.