You’ve crafted a beautiful resume, written a compelling cover letter, nailed the interview, and hopefully received an offer for your dream nursing job! But before you sign on the dotted line, you’ll want to consider it carefully. Negotiating a nursing salary will ensure you’re getting paid what you’re worth as a highly skilled healthcare professional.
Why? Most people leave money on the table, which adds up over time. A recent study from Harvard Law School showed that a young employee who successfully negotiates a $5,000 increase in salary for a new role will earn hundreds of thousands of dollars more over the course of her lifetime than another employee who didn’t get the same initial increase.
Many people feel uncomfortable talking about money, but most employers expect negotiation to be part of the hiring process. It’s not uncommon for an initial offer to leave space for the bargaining that is likely to occur.
You already got the offer, and that means they want to hire you. You’re just working out the specifics.
Convinced? Great! Here’s how to go about negotiating a nurse salary that you’re comfortable with.
Understand the pay structure
Do you know how the hospital or organization pays? Some institutions are unionized. The union sets the salaries in this situation, not the person or department you are interviewing with.
Many organizations have a tiered pay structure based on years of experience, years with the institution, certifications, education, and more. An employer calculates an employee’s salary based on their position within that tiered structure.
If you’re not sure about an employer’s pay structure, it’s ok to ask the hiring manager for the details at the offer stage.
Do your market research
Nurses in different regions or with certain specialties may command higher salaries thanks to differences in demand, cost of living, and other variables. Understanding these factors can help you determine a reasonable pay range before you begin negotiating.
Current data from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that RNs make approximately $73,000 a year on average, but it varies quite a lot by state, city, and specialty. Research salaries for your particular role and employer so you can come to the negotiating table armed with hard data on what other nurses in similar positions are getting paid.
Incredible Health offers a free salary estimator for nurses to make this research quick and painless. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is also a great resource with salary information across many industries and geographic locations.
Know your market value
See what nurses like you are getting paid in your area.
Put your credentials to work for you
Have you done research, received awards, earned advanced certifications, or have professional affiliations? These can all give you a leg up when it comes to asking for a larger salary.
Make a list of your best examples of these nursing credentials. Then use this list as proof that you’re an exceptional candidate, worth every penny you’re asking for.
Determine your range in advance
Go into the negotiation knowing what salary range you’re comfortable with, and what you’re willing – and not willing – to compromise on.
Say the numbers out loud.
“I’m asking for at least $X.”
Try saying them without any justification or explanation. A successful negotiation starts with a strong mindset and clarity on your wants and needs.
If you don’t make a clear decision in advance, you may find yourself agreeing to a number you don’t like, just to avoid the conflict.
Work with the employer
A negotiation doesn’t have to be adversarial. You’re working towards a shared goal: getting hired and starting your new role. They’ve already invested a lot in just trying to find you, so ask for their help in coming to a fair offer. Your work is valuable, and the right hospital for you will want to compensate you fairly.
Negotiating a nurse salary doesn’t have to stress you out. You can satisfy your needs and make your employer happy at the same time.
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