During the job search, the salary question can come up in many forms, it can be part of an online application process, or the employer can ask that you include it in your cover letter or resume, or it can be asked during the interview process. In any case, it is good for you to know what your number is before going into any salary negotiation.
Salary Input Factors
So how do you determine what your starting salary should be? You need to take into account the following input factors:
- Your level of experience (0-3 years)
- Industry (Public or Private Sector)
- Work setting (Small firm, Medium firm, In-house, Government Agency, Public Interest, etc.)
- Geographic area (rural area, big city)
These factors all contribute to what your salary should be, for example an entry level attorney in a small private practice law firm in a town in western Massachusetts will not be paid the same amount as an entry level attorney in a small private practice law firm in downtown Boston.
Online Salary Research
Now that you know what factors go into determining a salary you can go online to research estimated salaries in your area. Here is a list of some of the best websites for salary research:
A search for “entry level attorney” in “Boston, MA” on salary.com or indeed.com reveals that the median salary is in the range of $68K-$89K. However this does not take into account the industry or office setting, meaning we don’t if they are talking about law firms or government agencies. According to NALP’s starting salary research for the class of 2011, small firm salaries ranged from $50K-$70K nationwide. Robert Half Legal’s 2015 Salary guide shows that First Year Associates in a small firm in Boston made between $71K-$100K. As you can see the range goes from as low as $50K to as high as $100K which is big range. When answering the salary question for an entry level position give a range of about $10K; for example, $50K-$60K or $70K-$80K. It is important to note that while these searches provide a general range it is necessary to do further research based on our industry or specific office setting in order to get a more accurate number.
Know Your Floor
Once you get an idea of the range of salaries that you can expect for the position that you are applying to, you should determine your floor, which is the least amount you could be paid and still be happy with. If and when an employer asks for your salary range, you will make sure not to go below your floor when giving a range.
Ideally it is best to observe the golden rule of salary negotiations and get the employer to give you their number first but if that is not possible then at least you know how to ask for a fair salary by doing the proper research.