How to Negotiate Salary. Nursing Job 101

IMG_5762How to Negotiate Salary: Nursing Job 101.

As nurses, we tend NOT to negotiate salary – much to our detriment.  You always need to negotiate salary, never accept the first offer, value your experience and know what you are worth.  You are most valuable (ie. greatest opportunities to increase your salary) when 1. you change jobs or 2. when you change Title/Position at your employer. Otherwise, your nursing salary on average will maintain around a 3% increase annually – which over 20 years amounts to something, but in the short term is less than the average increase in cost of living on an annual basis.

My personal story and example: After 9 months of teaching nursing part-time, I was offered my first full-time tenured track position as a Nursing Professor at a College.  I was aware of the pay scale in which they were paying faculty and I was offered the position on the very lowest end of the scale.   In my mind, I rationalized that since I had only 9 months of prior teaching experience at a different College, I assumed the offer was fair and didn’t negotiate my salary.

This was a mistake – 7 years later I was barely making much more than I had when I started (due to salary freezes and State Budget cuts there had been little increase in my salary) and learned that new hires were starting near the exact pay rate I was making as a Tenured Professor.  Although I now had significant job security, it was in a position that I was being paid significantly less than if I had negotiated from day one.  Here is my mistakes in my thinking, followed what I should have done and what you should do in the future.

Like many nurses, when the offer came in, I assumed the employer knew better than I about what I was worth and accepted the salary without question.  Nursing had been a second career choice for me, I assumed I did not have as many years of experience as other nurses so I rationalized I should take less than other faculty.  I accepted the salary without question, having basically done all the arguing in my head for the employer, as to why I should accept the lowest end of the pay scale.  However, the basis for my rationalization was entirely false – let me explain.

At the time that I accepted the position, I was a practicing Adult Nurse Practitioner, in addition to having my MSN.  I came to learn that of faculty at the College, I was one of 2 other NPs on faculty – all others had their MSN in Nursing Education or had let their NP license lapse. The fact that I was a practicing Nurse Practitioner should have increased my value to the College, and nursing salary, and would have if I had cared to point out this fact.  In addition, I should have recognized that I had years of work experience both nursing and non-nursing that made me not a novice to working – and ultimately should have factored that in to my salary.  Instead, I took a position as Nursing Faculty similar in pay to what I had been making as a Floor Nurse and was never able to make up for that lost income.  I don’t want other nurses to make the same mistake, so here is how to negotiate salary.

First: Determine what your worth is currently (a quick guide take your current position and add on 20%).  However, to be fair, you should research this and look at your years of experience, specialties, credentials and volunteer/organizational work you have done in your career to determine your overall value.

Second: Research the salaries at the company and similarly posted companies.  Come in with an idea and always aim to settle at the top 50% of the pay scale for the position.

Third: Always negotiate the offer – never accept the first offer (there are times the first offer is their best offer on salary – but then you should negotiate other items beyond salary, like vacation time, schedule, ext).

Last: Don’t under value yourself as a nurse – the truth is, healthcare is changing, the nursing shortage is real – you are valuable and you deserve to be paid for it.  I learned this the hardway and went on to found so this would never happen to another nurse.  Create your profile on On average, Nurses on have received pay at 20% higher starting salaries than what was originally advertised with the position, as the employer was able to reference the profiles of nurses with similar experience and the salary they wanted – in addition to seeing the salary their primary candidate wanted.  When Nurses come together in one place to define their own career – they ultimately increase the salaries of all nurses in their profession.

How to Negotiate Salary: Nursing Job 101

Written by,

Rebecca Love RN, MSN, ANP-BC



How to Negotiate Salary: Nursing Job 101





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