Early Career Group Psychologist Column: Tips for Salary Negotiation

Leann Diederich, Ph.D.
Leann Diederich, Ph.D.

On May 28, 2015 the Early Career Psychologist Task Force hosted a free conference call on negotiating salaries. We had over 40 participants on the call and featured guest Dr. Andy King, the Director of the University of North Florida. Thank you Dr. King!

The following tips were sharing during the call:

  • Don’t bring up the discussion of the salary too early in the interview process. The best case one can expect is your potential employer will bring it up. You do not want them to think you are only in it for the money.
  • Even during the phone interview is too early. Typically the job description will list a range, but if it doesn’t, you can call the Human Resources department to find out.
  • If a salary is listed as “negotiable”, then it’s typically only in a 2% to 5% range.
  • Consider other professional benefits beyond just a salary. Include: retirement benefits, health insurance, access to exercise facilities, loan forgiveness possibilities, funding to attend conferences or professional development opportunities, and even state income taxes (i.e., they vary across states).
  • If you are offered a salary that is too low for you, but the employer says they can’t raise it, you can reply, “That could be acceptable, if some other arrangements could be made.” Then you can consider some of the other benefits besides salary listed above.
  • If you need supervision to get licensed, consider whether the agency will pay for that directly, or will it need to come out of your salary (and you’d have to pay taxes on it first).
  • If you have to ask about the salary, consider framing it in terms of “In ballpark figures, what can one expect, generally speaking from this type of position?” or “What would someone need to earn to live comfortably in this community?”
  • Ultimately, you are in a much better negotiating position if you are the agency or center’s top choice. Thus, focus on this throughout the interview process.
  • If you are already in a position and want to work on getting a raise, there are a couple of considerations. First, consider taking on more responsibilities or a coordinator role. This can help you advocate for a higher salary increase by demonstrating how you are committed to the agency and to the mission. Second, if you are aware of new hires that have less experience than you, but are being paid a higher rate, work with your Director or even the Human Resource department who can work on avoiding “salary compression”. Finally, your Director or employer can advocate for a “special pay increase” if all psychologists at an agency are underpaid compared to national or state norms.

For additional tips, check out the free article, Women at the Bargaining Table: Pitfalls and Prospects (