First Job Out of Grad School? Be Savvy About the Compensation Package Before you take the job, advocate for—and get in writing—the salary, raise schedule and benefits you seek. Make It Work
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Make It Work  |   October 01, 2018
First Job Out of Grad School? Be Savvy About the Compensation Package
Author Notes
  • Michelle B. Garmizo, MA, CCC-SLP, is a bilingual speech-language pathologist from Miami, with experience in acute care and inpatient rehabilitation settings. michellebgarmizo@gmail.com
    Michelle B. Garmizo, MA, CCC-SLP, is a bilingual speech-language pathologist from Miami, with experience in acute care and inpatient rehabilitation settings. michellebgarmizo@gmail.com×
  • Janet McNichol, ASHA’s human resources director, also contributed to this article.
    Janet McNichol, ASHA’s human resources director, also contributed to this article.×
Article Information
School-Based Settings / Professional Issues & Training / Make It Work
Make It Work   |   October 01, 2018
First Job Out of Grad School? Be Savvy About the Compensation Package
The ASHA Leader, October 2018, Vol. 23, 34-36. doi:10.1044/leader.MIW.23102018.34
The ASHA Leader, October 2018, Vol. 23, 34-36. doi:10.1044/leader.MIW.23102018.34
In 2014, I found myself in an unusual situation. I had just finished my clinical fellowship year, and, while I was excited to have my certification, I was also eager for the raise that management and human resources had promised. However, it never came.
As I went up the chain of command, I discovered that Human Resources had erroneously hired me at the certified rate, rather than the clinical fellowship rate. Therefore, I was not eligible for the raise I had been promised. I wasn’t happy with this response and felt that their error should not negate a previously negotiated raise. However, upon reviewing my offer letter, I realized I had made a rookie mistake: I had nothing about the post-CCC raise in writing. It had all been discussed verbally.
Nonetheless, I wrote a letter to the company’s vice president of human resources. Fortunately, the issue was resolved and I received a raise. Since then, I have learned a few other lessons in the art of negotiation.
Get it in writing
This is the first and most important tip. It is standard practice to get offers and compensation packages in writing upon hiring. However, this document may not include the raise to follow upon earning certification or other negotiated modifications. Make sure to get this information in writing, either as an addendum to the package, via email or in a separate letter.

I had made a rookie mistake: I had nothing about the raise in writing. It had all been discussed verbally.

Know your worth
Is your offer fair? To negotiate the best deal possible, you need to know the market value of the prospective job. Several resources can help answer that question. ASHA’s biannual salary and wage survey is organized by profession and work setting, and is broken down into years of experience and geographic region. Use this information as a starting point. (If you have been working in the same setting for several years without a raise, you can also use this data to justify a request for increased compensation.)
You should also use your network. Discuss your offers with friends, colleagues, mentors and former professors. It may be uncomfortable to talk about specific dollar amounts, but this information allows you to advocate for yourself and your professional value.
If you are relocating, keep in mind that salaries fluctuate in different areas of the country. An offer considered competitive in one state may not measure up as well in a different state with a higher cost of living. You can use online cost of living calculators through CNN Money or Salary.com to determine if a rate offered in one city is comparable to another offer in another city. The cost of living includes several factors, including the price of groceries, housing, utilities, transportation and health care.
Also factor in costs specific to the particular job: The location and hours of the job may affect your transportation and child care costs, for example.

The highest salary may not be the best offer when you factor in the value of benefits and other nonmonetary perks.

Negotiating benefits
Sometimes, you’ll come across a position where negotiating your salary or hourly rate is difficult (see “Pointers on Negotiating Salary and Benefits” sidebar below). Maybe the compensation rate is set on a scale based on years of experience. However, there are other benefits you can negotiate. Keep in mind that the highest salary may not be the best offer when you factor in the value of benefits and other nonmonetary perks.
Generate options to present: You may be willing to accept a lower salary if the employer pays for ASHA dues and expenses related to attending the ASHA Convention. Or if you have school-age children, you may want to request flexible hours in lieu of a higher salary, so you can avoid after-school child-care expenses.
Or perhaps you can request more vacation time. Three weeks of paid time off may be standard, but negotiate for more. It might not feel like additional income, but that extra week spent at the beach is worth thousands.
You could ask for an increased percentage to be matched in your 401k. If you ask for a sign-on bonus or compensation for relocation, ask for this amount to be increased to compensate for taxes so you get the full amount. Also, consider asking for an annual allowance for professional development—to cover, for example, the cost of continuing education, certifications, state license, and ASHA dues or ASHA Special Interest Group membership. It will show that you are committed to your professional growth and will help you finance further advancement of your skill set.
If you are looking for a position that is challenging and increases your professional experience, you may want to request cross-training. For example, if the position you’ve been hired for is in a hospital’s acute care setting, but you are also interested in outpatient care, you might consider asking for opportunities to cross-train and flex between settings. This arrangement would provide you an additional set of skills and increase your marketability for future positions.
Also remember that the prospective employer may be working with constraints and may not be able to give you what you want or need. The employer may have strict business hours, or be coping with increased overhead costs, or need someone who can work from a satellite office 20 miles away. The more you find out about the employer’s needs, the more persuasive you will become in the negotiations.
The process may be uncomfortable and difficult, but negotiating is expected and crucial to your professional success. So, decide which benefits are most important to you, be confident, hammer out a deal and come to an agreement that celebrates your value. And get it in writing!
Pointers on Negotiating Salary and Benefits

You’ve had a successful interview, and now you’re meeting with human resources about the job specifics. If you’ve done your research, you’ll be prepared to negotiate! Here are some general guidelines to follow:

  • Establish a positive human connection.

  • Find out the other side’s needs.

  • Try to discover what standards the company uses to evaluate employees.

  • Match your skills explicitly to their needs.

  • Phrase requests as questionsand not demands.

Try some of these suggested responses to difficult answers.

What are your salary requirements?

“I expect to receive a salary that is competitive for the market and commensurate with my years of experience in the field.” However, if you are pressed to name a dollar amount, provide a range.

“I expect to receive an hourly rate between X and Y, which—based on my research—is on par with the market in this area.” Another approach might be: “That’s an interesting question, but I can’t answer it specifically without first knowing the standards you use to set salary and bonuses.”

What is your current salary?

In some states, it’s not legal to ask this—if that’s the case in your state, you can reference the law. In other states, you might try something like, “I’d feel more comfortable giving you a range once I better understand your needs and how I might contribute.”

If you are pressed further, you could say, “My current salary is below market value at X. Based on my experience, qualifications and knowledge of the market, an adequate salary would be between X and Y.”

The salary is lower than you anticipated:

“I am excited about this offer and am certain I will be a great asset to this team, but your salary offer is lower than I expected. What standards were you thinking about when you developed the salary offer? Have you negotiated salary with candidates in the past?”

The salary is non-negotiable:

“If the salary is non-negotiable, I would like to discuss the possibility of X.” (Your negotiating points could include whatever is important to you: four-day work week, additional paid time off, coverage of professional dues, certification and continuing education, or other considerations.)

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FROM THIS ISSUE
October 2018
Volume 23, Issue 10