How Do You Know When a Salary Offer Is Good?
Dear Career Coach
: I am a new graduate and will be starting my job search soon. I am wondering how to know what salary I can expect? How can I evaluate whether or not the offer is fair? I don't want to be taken advantage of because I am new. I don't feel comfortable asking colleagues or preceptors about their pay rate.
Dear Job Seeker: I am asked this by both new and seasoned clinicians. It has been especially difficult to gauge an offer this past couple of years because the economy and wages have been in such transition. Thankfully, this has slowed down and things are beginning to stabilize.
Salary surveys are helpful tools for determining your wage requirements. Look at as many as you can find. I would start by reviewing the survey that ADVANCE for NPs & PAs published every February. It's nicely broken down by specialty and practice locations. See if you can also find any surveys done locally. Many state chapters of your professional organizations do salary surveys. You may have to pay a couple bucks to get some of them, but it will be worth it. Surveys do have some limitations; they are retrospective in nature and the respondents are self-selected. This doesn't mean you shouldn't use them, it just means they shouldn't be your only method of obtaining wage information.
Reviewing current job ads will tell help you determine if there have been any significant changes in the market since the survey was done. Most employers post the pay scale in their ads. This will also help you get a more local view of salaries.
When you evaluate an offer, you should look at it as a package. If you add in the value of CME, insurance, malpractice, vacation, etc., you will get a more accurate picture. This is important because an employer sets the value of an offer on the entire compensation package while the employee tends to look only at the wage. Evaluating the offer as a whole will help you speak the same language as the employer. You should also be aware that in some healthcare organizations, the employer may be very constrained in the hourly wage it can offer but may have considerably more leeway in adding other benefits to compensate.
Don't hang up on recruiters. They are wonderful sources of current wage trends. Subscribe to as many email lists as you can find, and study their job listings. You will not only find wages but also other emerging trends in NP and PA job openings.