Exercise Weekend

So you made it through your interview, and your prospective employer has brought up what your salary will be. Congratulations! Negotiating a salary can be a bit terrifying, though, so here are some tips to help you out.

Epicodus grads working in Portland have typically made mid-$30k to mid-$50k. If your technical skills are on the weaker side, you're interviewing for a job with tools or languages you haven't used before, and/or you don't have much professional experience, you'll probably make on the lower end of this spectrum; if you are very strong technically and have at least a few years of professional experience, you'll probably make on the higher end of this. Epicodus grads who left Portland for jobs in other cities tend to make more, typically mid-$50k to mid-$60k. You can use these numbers as a starting point, and even share them with prospective employers as appropriate.

But these numbers are not absolutes, by any means! Some students who were middle of the pack in their technical skills and with only a bit of professional experience have ended up on the high end of these figures because they really hit it off with a manager at a company. Other students who were very strong technically but had weaker interview skills have started out with salaries on the lower end of this range.

In the long run, though, your first salary really isn't that important. Within a year or two of working as a developer, you'll almost certainly make at least $20k more than wherever you start. The most important thing is to get a job, and if you have options, to take a job where you're more excited about the work you'll be doing.

Back to the salary negotiating. Your first salary might not be that important, but all else equal, it's worth your time to learn how to get a higher offer. In negotiation, you need to know who has more to lose. If you're charming and technically very strong, you have little to lose - you can walk away and probably get another offer somewhere else. If your interview skills aren't great and your technical skills are weaker, the employer has the upper hand.

When the employer has the upper hand, try to get more information from them. If they ask you for your desired salary, tell them "I haven't worked in this field before, so I'm not completely sure what to expect. What have you paid people in this position before?" Work that angle hard before putting any numbers out of your own. Then, feel free to share the salary ranges above.

If you have the upper hand, you might consider opening with a high salary requirement to set the expectation high. For example, you might say "I made $65k in my last job, so I'm looking for something in that range," and expect to settle somewhere around $60k. If you let them open the negotiation with an offer of $50k, you might have a hard time getting it above $55k. But make sure your expectations are realistic - you are coming in as an entry-level developer, and you will likely be an investment for anybody who hires you. If you have a lot of career experience, you very well may start out making less until you get at least a few months of experience working.

Most importantly, ask Epicodus' career coach for help and guidance! Negotiating can be tough to do on your own, so we're here to support you through that process.