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Negotiating Salary and Benefits

Salary and Benefits

Salary refers to the wage you will earn and may be offered at a base rate, at an hourly rate, as commission-based or as a combination.

Benefits refer to various non-wage compensations. These might include:

  • group insurance (health, dental, life)
  • retirement benefit plans (pension, 401(k), 403(b))
  • group-term life and long-term care insurance plans
  • health and dependent care flexible spending accounts
  • disability income protection
  • vacation (paid and non-paid)
  • sick leave
  • tuition reimbursement
  • profit sharing
  • relocation assistance
  • child care or daycare benefits
  • adoption assistance
  • legal assistance plans
  • transportation benefits
  • housing (employer-provided or employer-paid)
  • onsite gym or recreational facilities
  • miscellaneous employee discounts (e.g., movies and theme park tickets, wellness programs, discounted shopping, hotels and resorts)

Negotiating Process

Salary negotiation should be done to receive fair market value for your work, not just for the sake of negotiating. Before you begin negotiating you should have a formal offer, preferably in writing. You may then decide to negotiate, but do so only after you have evaluated the entire salary and benefits package based on your research of the market.

Negotiation should establish a positive relationship between you and the organization. It’s not just about money; both parties should be happy with the outcome.

As with all steps in the job and internship search process, preparation is key.


  • Determine if the organization negotiates salary with entering employees.
  • Gather as much factual information as you can to back up your case.
  • Establish the market value for your profession in the geographic region.
  • Consider how you will respond to counter-offers and what alternatives you have.
  • Establish your bottom line and be prepared to walk away.
  • Know exactly what you want.
  • Know the difference between assertiveness and aggressiveness before you start to negotiate.


Rehearse your presentation in advance. Practice your delivery with someone to get feedback on how you come across.


  • Try to avoid negotiating over the telephone. In person you can try to pick up on and respond to the non-verbal signals that the employer is sending and receiving.
  • Begin by expressing genuine interest in the position and organization. Emphasize areas of agreement but allow "wiggle room" to compromise.
  • Emphasize the similarities between your position and the employer's.
  • Approach each session with trust and a willingness to compromise.
  • Be open to "changing the shape of money" (i.e., exchanging a salary increase for another kind of benefit).
  • Use firm, confident repetition ("I understand, but the market indicates ..." Avoid saying, "You're wrong").
  • Recognize that this is a process. Trade-offs and compromise occur over a period of time.
  • Know when to stop. Recognize the critical moment.


  • Don't be antagonistic.
  • Don't interrogate the employer.
  • Don't stop listening and don't interrupt.
  • Don't emphasize your problems or needs (your employer is aware of housing and utility costs and may even have had his or her own student loans to repay). Your employer won't be sympathetic. Needs or wants are not useful in negotiations.
  • Don't discuss an item if you are not prepared. Defer your decision, if possible. If you do not understand an issue, ask for clarification.
  • Don't enter the bargaining process with a chip on your shoulder. Avoid being discourteous or arrogant. Know the difference between assertiveness and aggressiveness before you start to negotiate.
  • Don't underestimate your power. Higher expectations reap higher rewards. Do your research; know your market value. Be informed and confident.