How to Figure Out Salary Expectations

Whether you’re asked about what kind of salary you expect from a position during an interview, or whether you just want to know what is reasonable to be making at a current job, we have you covered. Here are a few things that you can do to figure out salary expectations for a particular role or position.

  • Use resources and conduct industry analyses. 

Websites like Glassdoor and Indeed have inputs of real salaries and hourly wages for almost any company with various positions in specific locations. These resources have done the heavy lifting for you. Different metrics, such as working out of an office based in a big city versus rural area, definitely change salary expectations, so make sure to use filtration tools on these websites. Don’t forget, some companies are doing really well and others are still finding footing during the pandemic, so doing an industry analysis is a good idea, as well as understanding that you might not be able to estimate the exact number or that things might change in the future.

  • Ask friends or colleagues (as appropriate).

If you know anybody who is going through the same situation, such as struggling to figure out salary expectations for an internship or a first full-time job, you should establish a line of communication! A close friend or a peer who you’ve worked with in the past might be totally happy to share their own salary or salary expectations with you. Alumni now in full-time positions that you are particularly close to, either through clubs or academic, may also be willing to shed some light on the subject. Even if somebody isn’t comfortable with giving you an exact number, which is to be expected because money can be a difficult conversation, every individual has some insight, whether that’s negotiation tactics, resources that they used to figure out a proper number, or some other resource. It never hurts to ask, and in the unlikely case that somebody doesn’t want to help you with this at all, just say thank you and move on. Everybody’s comfort level is different and being pushy with something like finding out how much someone makes will likely not get you anywhere.

  • Meet with a Career Coach. (Log into Handshake, press “Career Center” and then “Appointments,” from where you’ll be able to schedule an appointment.)

If you’re uncomfortable with talking to your friends about this or aren’t used to researching salaries using resources, meet with a Career Coach to ask about the range of salaries for your position or industry. Career Coaches are professionals who have helped many students get jobs and have raw data on how much you can expect to be making. In fact, they may be able to tell you historical averages or ranges for a particular position. Become comfortable with utilizing a Career Coach, they’re here to help!

  • Be honest and reasonable.

As mentioned earlier, a company’s internship program may have suffered as a result of COVID-19 and that might change what your salary expectations should be for that role. Be reasonable and understanding of the times, but also be honest with yourself. If in your research, you’re finding salaries or hourly wages that are too low for you to even consider that work experience, then you have an answer to how low you will go. Salary expectations, when asked for, should generally be given as a range, prior to any kind of negotiation. So if you’re looking around and are not happy with the results, you can set a relatively high range. Just remember that there’s no guarantee that an employer will agree with you, but it’s important to not sell yourself short. If work experience is worth something to you, other than monetary compensation, it’s smart to set your salary expectations somewhere reasonable with figures that you’ve seen in research. Using the upper-level of your range for negotiation is often recommended for full-time jobs, but for internships, where negotiation is undoubtedly harder and a less-used tactic, it might make more sense to lock the offer down before blurting out a high number.

For other resources regarding figuring out how to be honest with yourself and the interviewer, check out this for general guidelines and what was covered above and this for a little bit more direction with negotiation.

  • Utilize previous experiences.

Leverage your previous work experiences! Figure out what kinds of value you’ve added for the amount of compensation you’ve gotten, and make sure to use this as a backup or explanation of why your salary expectation is set the way that it is. It’s not necessarily right to say that you should 100% make more every time you get a new job. In fact, a lot of people switch positions and career paths for more opportunities, growth, better management, change in interests, or just general happiness. From past experiences, though, you can see how much you were paid for your previous work opportunities and convert that to a reasonable estimate that will help you transition jobs and live comfortably.


By Alina Minkova
Alina Minkova Creative Blog Curator Alina Minkova