Navigating salary negotiations: Making sure you are compensated competitively

Money may not be the first concern on the minds of new nurse practitioner and physician assistant graduates, but salary is an important consideration when evaluating any job. Thanks to a host of websites, NPs and PAs are able to research salaries by region — in some cases by city — to learn average salaries for the profession in a given area. This information is invaluable when negotiating for a desired salary.

There is always room for negotiation, even if it's just a little room, according to Mike Erwin, a senior career advisor at CareerBuilder.com. “You need to go in there with very reasonable expectations — you can't go in and ask for $10,000 more,” he said. “It's the most uncomfortable, too. Nobody wants to say to a new employer, ‘Hey, I want more money.'”

That's where research and preparation come into play.

“There's less room for negotiation for a novice than for someone with experience,” said Sharon Juillet, the nurse recruitment manager at Detroit Medical Center Manager in Michigan. “I suppose you would have to pump up whatever experience you have that you think warrants a higher salary.”

Experience for entry-level NPs and PAs includes projects and research completed in school, as well as internships and other on-the-job training. “The more information you can bring and present your case, the better,” added Erwin.

NPs and PAs can begin their search by visiting one of the many online salary calculators and entering job title to see the median salary. The average national salary for an NP is $95,213, according to CareerBuilder.com (http://www.cbsalary.com/).

The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), CareerOne Stop and Salary.com are just a few of the many organizations that offer tools for salary research.

The NACE Career Calculator Center prompts candidates to enter a number of factors, including region, grade point average and years of experience. For example, an entry-level NP in Columbus, Ohio, graduating from Ohio State University with a GPA of 3.0 to 3.4, will likely be offered “an annual salary of approximately $93,000,” the site calculates. In addition, the site also offers base salary, median salary and salary for “top earners.”

CareerOne Stop's salary calculator asks the user to select an occupation. The resulting bar graph displays national wage information. The user can then select a location. Our fictitious NP from the previous example is projected to earn a median salary of $75,900, according to CareerOne Stop.

Salary.com's Salary Wizard asks for the job seeker's occupation and location. Using the same sample NP above, Salary.com projects a median salary of $86,564.

Even armed with research, it is important for job seekers to remember not to bring up salary in the interview, Erwin and Juillet say. Erwin suggested beginning salary negotiations after the job is offered.

Stacy M. Kess is a registered nurse and a freelance health and news writer based in Columbus, Ohio.

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