How to Negotiate Your Salary in College

by Genevieve Carlton

Updated August 25, 2022 is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Are you ready to discover your college program?

One of the most important things you can do for your future career success is to ensure you are appropriately compensated.

You have perfected your resume and read job interview tips. Now, you're probably wondering how to negotiate a job offer to get a higher starting salary, more paid time off, and better perks.

This guide explains how to negotiate salary and other benefits. It also discusses why you should negotiate and what to ask for during the negotiation. Don't walk away from easy money; instead, set yourself up for success by negotiating.

Steps to Negotiate Your Job Offer Successfully

  • Get the job offer

    While you might feel tempted to negotiate during the interview process, do not start negotiating until you receive a job offer. It is okay to ask about the salary range, but leave the detailed negotiations for after you receive an offer.
  • Ask for time to consider the offer

    Hiring managers do not expect you to review and negotiate an offer on the spot. It's normal to consider the offer for a few days first. Some employers want to wrap up the hiring process quickly, but it is always reasonable to ask for a few days. In some cases, employers might be willing to give you several weeks.
  • Review the offer

    The initial offer will include information on your starting salary, benefits, and job responsibilities. For example, it should list the number of days of paid time off (PTO), health insurance benefits, and any other job benefits. After reading through the offer, start thinking about your counter-offer. Research salary ranges for similar positions in your area, paid time off in your field, and health insurance plans. Make notes about anything in your offer letter that is unclear.
  • Follow up on any questions you have

    Make note of any questions that come up while reviewing your offer. For example, you might need more information about what the health insurance plan covers or whether your PTO includes sick time. You might also want clarification on job responsibilities. Follow up with the hiring manager to get answers to those questions before suggesting a counter-offer.
  • Suggest a counter offer

    Your counter offer should start by asking for an increase in salary. For example, you could ask for 10% more than the starting salary because you have several years of experience in the role, or you might ask for $10,000 more if the role has more supervisory responsibilities. Your counter offer can also negotiate benefits and perks. It is common to ask for more PTO. If you need to relocate for the job, you can also ask for moving expenses.
  • Justify your offer

    Your counter offer should not read like a list of demands. Instead, offer justifications for why you want a higher salary or increased benefits. You can reference salary rates for your field or cite someone else at the company who has your experience.
  • Accept the offer

    It may take several rounds of negotiation to reach an agreement with the employer, but once you are satisfied with the starting salary, PTO, and other benefits, sign the new offer letter. Congratulations! You have successfully completed your job offer negotiation.

Why Negotiate Your Job Offer?

A successful salary negotiation can shape your career for years. Consider this: raises are often based on your current salary. Even if you change companies, your salary history affects your earning potential. In this way, your starting salary can impact your income for your entire career.

Many employers expect a negotiation, and the initial offer is their opening bid. In fact, most companies expect to pay more than the initial salary offer. If you accept without a counter offer, you could be leaving easy money on the table.

What Should You Ask for?

This is one of the hardest questions when deciding how to negotiate a job offer. However, doing some research can help you figure out what to request.

When it comes to salary, research your market worth and current economic trends. Learning about salary ranges for similar job titles in your geographic area helps you determine a reasonable amount for your starting salary. Typically, candidates who successfully negotiate their salaries ask for 5-15% more than the starting offer.

When negotiating, think strategically. Assume that you will settle in the middle between the employer's first offer and your counter offer, and pick a higher number than what you actually want. For example, if you would be happy with $5,000 more than the starting offer, ask for $10,000. That way, whether they accept the higher number or negotiate you down, you will walk away happy.

Finally, do not limit your negotiations to salary alone. Some employers cannot increase your salary offer by much, but they can offer more PTO or other benefits.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can You Lose a Job Offer by Negotiating Salary?

Most employers expect potential hires to negotiate their starting salary and benefits. Thus, it is uncommon for a company to withdraw a job offer because a candidate negotiated about salary. Keep in mind, however, that some companies have little latitude when it comes to raising their starting salary offers, so you may have to settle for the initial offer.

Should You Always Negotiate a Job Offer?

In most cases, candidates should negotiate a job offer. By negotiating a salary increase, new hires often increase their earnings for years, since many companies grant raises as a percentage of salary.

Should You Negotiate Salary Before or After a Job Offer?

It is a good rule not to negotiate salary until you receive a job offer. The first offer should provide detailed information on the starting salary and benefits. However, you can ask about the salary range for the job during the hiring process to make sure it lines up with your expected salary.

Is It Okay to Negotiate Salary Over Email?

Yes, it is okay to negotiate salary over email. It is also a good idea to ask the hiring manager for time to review the initial offer, whether you plan to negotiate via email, by phone, or in person. Negotiating over email gives candidates time to formulate a response and creates a written record of the negotiations. However, some employers prefer to negotiate on the phone or in person.

Header Image Credit: SDI Productions | Getty Images

Learn more, do more.

More topic-relevant resources to expand your knowledge.

Popular with our students.

Highly informative resources to keep your education journey on track.

Take the next step toward your future with online learning.

Discover schools with the programs and courses you’re interested in, and start learning today.

woman in an office