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How Do I Know What I Should Be Paid?

By The ZipRecruiter Editors

Whether you're actively checking the job boards or you've reached the negotiating stage of the hiring process, you need to know what you should be paid. The modern workforce tends to be pretty transparent when it comes to salary. In most cases, the salary range is listed right on the job description. 

You should get comfortable assessing and advocating for a paycheck that accurately reflects the job. However, determining your salary range fluctuates, depending on several variables—there's no one-size-fits-all equation. The following steps and considerations can help you ascertain an appropriate salary range for your job opportunity.

Compare Similar Jobs

When you need a general baseline for your potential salary range, start online. There is plenty of reliable data available via resources like the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). You can easily filter data by occupation and research the average salary range by profession. These resources provide a starting point when you're just beginning your job search (there are many other variables to weigh).

If you already know the ballpark figure and want to take your research a step further, comb through job postings similar to the one you are currently pursuing. Use online job boards to search for positions that share the same title and/or responsibilities. As mentioned before, many organizations are moving toward a more transparent hiring process, so you should be able to find some concrete salary data pretty easily.

Assess the Area

Different regions can have vastly disparate costs of living, and salary ranges in the area will reflect the unique geographical factors. To give you an example, according to 2022 BLS data, the average wage for a preschool teacher in Ohio is $31,830. In California, that same position pays $48,410.

For the most part, companies based in populated, urban areas should pay significantly higher salaries than organizations in more rural settings. If you need to relocate for the position, evaluate the average rent or home prices for the area. The salary range should support the expenses that the relocation demands.

On the whole, online job search engines allow users to filter the results by zip code or city. Leverage these tools to help you get a sense of the region's average salaries for your profession. If possible, leverage your professional networks to speak with possible mentors who live in the area you're considering. Their personal experience will be invaluable to assessing a fair compensation package based on the job and its location.

Evaluate Your Education

When assessing a position's salary range, you should take your educational investment into account. If the job only requires a bachelor's degree but you have completed a relevant master's degree, the pay range should reflect your supplemental education. Or perhaps you're considering obtaining an advanced degree while working full-time. Is that investment worth it?

Ask your potential employer how their pay scale accommodates supplemental education. In some cases, a master's degree counts as additional professional experience, which should then increase your starting salary.

Appraise Your Expertise

If you are just starting out professionally, your employer will likely pay you on the lower end of the salary range. Many job postings will include language like, "Salary is commensurate with experience." This suggests that your employer will determine your pay according to hiring criteria. More often than not, years of experience related to your role play a major factor in these considerations.

If you are a skilled professional in your field or you can bring several years of relevant experience from another occupation, you want to make sure it's valued appropriately. For example, if you have excellent managerial experience or possess top-notch customer service skills, you want to highlight those in your salary discussions, even if those competencies aren't directly related to your job responsibilities.

Factor in Your Accolades

Are you a top-tier employee? Can you boast about professional or educational awards that highlight your work ethic? Your salary should reflect your effort and the contributions you can make to the organization. Your accolades should count. An above-average employee should make an above-average paycheck.

When considering your pay range, consider any relevant accomplishments. Were you "Employee of the Month" at your last job? Did you consistently exceed sales goals? Were you selected to represent your organization at a prestigious conference? List these accolades on your resume, and be sure to revisit them when it's time to discuss your salary.

Prepare to Negotiate

If your potential employer does not post the salary information or the pay range does not accurately account for everything you're bringing to the table, get ready to negotiate. We know that negotiating your salary can be nerve-wracking, but you must receive a fair paycheck. Otherwise, there's a strong likelihood that you'll leave for a better-paying job or just be unsatisfied at work—neither scenario benefits your employer. So be transparent about your pay expectations before seriously considering a position.

Be Informed

Make sure you have the data to back up your salary pitch. Become familiar with industry salary trends and the average pay for your area and your expertise. Do you possess particularly in-demand skills? Your employer might be willing to negotiate your salary to account for upcoming industry needs.

Highlight Your Strengths

Don't simply trust that the hiring manager knows your resume back and forth. Bring your accomplishments to the forefront of your salary discussion.

Stay Flexible

There may be real, practical limits to what your employer can pay you, even if you've got the expertise and education to back up a higher paycheck. Be flexible. Are there other perks that might make you consider the position? Salary negotiations can include more than the number on your paycheck. Would a flexible schedule, work-from-home options, or extra vacation days sweeten the deal? Consider the healthcare coverage, retirement package, professional development opportunities, and other non-financial benefits when negotiating.


Run through your negotiation with a friend. Bring note cards. Be as prepared as possible for the conversation. Practicing will help you remain confident during the discussion.

Knowing what you should be paid will not only assist you with your job search and pay negotiations, but it will also help you get a better sense of the value of your work and improve your job satisfaction. You deserve to get a paycheck that reflects your experience, educational investment, and cost of living.

The ZipRecruiter Editors

At ZipRecruiter, our mission is to connect employers and job seekers with their next great opportunity. On the ZipRecruiter blog, we use insider experience and data derived from our AI-driven jobs marketplace to provide advice and insights on topics such as the job search process, interviewing, and labor market trends. Start your job search or post a job today and connect with us on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn!

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