Career Center


Do your research before a first interview


What data are available?

Check for salary and benefit information for that position at that company in that location. If that information is not available, search for similar positions and companies in that area, cross-referencing with LinkedIn for more details on what particular titles mean. Use the Cost of Living Wizard on to compare the buying power of salaries in different cities. Have a look at the Duke Career Center Salary and Offer Information.

Ask people you meet about their experiences at various organizations, including what hiring salary range you might expect, benefits, and other elements that are negotiable. Consider asking them, "Is there anything that you wish you had negotiated for but didn't?" Also, check with professional associations in your field or in careers of interest to see if they have salary survey data.

What might be negotiable?

Many variables go into a job offer besides salary. Many will be fixed or not part of your position, but the rest can be part of your negotiation.

All Positions

  • Base salary
  • Annual bonus (how is it determined?)
  • Stock options/equity
  • Moving expenses (flat rate or itemized? funds to visit to find a home?)
  • Vacation days per year
  • Sick days per year
  • Retirement benefits
  • Health, dental, and vision insurance
  • Start date
  • Housing allowance
  • Technology allowance (phone, computer, etc.)
  • Expense accounts
  • Professional memberships
  • Licensure renewal fees
  • Conference travel
  • Professional development opportunities
  • Telecommuting days per week
  • Intellectual property rights
  • Deadline to decide on the offer

Non-faculty Positions

  • Signing bonus
  • Time to first performance (potential for a raise)
  • Company stock or options
  • Tuition reimbursement
  • Car allowance
  • Downside protection (guarantee of severance)
  • Non-compete policies
  • Responsibilities/projects included in the job description

Faculty Positions

  • Research budget and timeline to spend
  • Time to tenure review
  • Teaching load (number of courses or preparations)
  • Administrative duties/service to the department
  • Availability of research assistants
  • Assistance searching for jobs for a significant other

Define your targets and minimums

After you have found salary and benefit information, you should consider what you believe you should receive based on your education and experience. Define the minimum salary and other elements that you'd need to see in an offer to consider accepting. It will be great when offers exceed these minimums, and it can give you cutoffs so you know if you should turn an offer down.

Having the Conversation

Ask for time to review the offer

Once you receive an offer, it is very common to ask for time to consider it and make a decision. You can ask for a date and time they would like your answer and to whom you can direct further questions. Make sure to ask questions and start negotiating with enough time so that you don't exceed the deadline (at least a few days).

Phone is better than email

While email may feel less confrontational, a phone call is the best way to keep the conversation grounded. In an email, tone is difficult to convey, and you may come across as demanding. On the phone, you’re one human talking with another.

Lead with questions

From the above ideas, you may be wondering what the organization’s standard policies are and what’s negotiable. Turn these into a list of questions to ask at the beginning of the conversation. For example, “I was wondering how bonus amounts are determined, and during what times of year are they are given.” For questions about basic benefits policies, ask human resources, especially for personal topics such as family leave.

Show your excitement

Whenever needed to keep the conversation positive, emphasize that you are excited for the position or other points, such as working with the people you met in the interviews.

Make It about problem solving

Engage the employer in brainstorming options to help you get an offer that suits your needs and qualifications. Resist making demands or threats in the process (these are your future co-workers, after all).

Explain your thought process

Make sure they understand that you’re negotiating using evidence.

“Based on my background and the salary figures I’ve found for that area, I’m looking to earn $X. Would you be able to meet that?”

“My children get out of school early on Fridays, so it would be helpful if I could work from home on those days. Is that possible?”

“From the quotes we’ve received, moving will cost us $5,000. Will the company be able to cover that expense?”

“In talking with some of your employees, I heard that the company covers the cost of attending industry conferences. Would you also be willing to pay for a professional membership for my first year with the company?”

Additional Resources

Faculty salaries are published by the Chronicle of Higher Education and state university salaries are publicly available.

Careers in Bloom, "Answering the Question, What Is Your Current Salary?"

Coursera course on negotiation Negotiation Guide


Handling Early Salary Questions

Companies may ask about salary in different ways well before they're ready to offer you a position or negotiate. We recommend skipping these questions when possible, but here are some other tactics to try for different types of questions.

What is your salary history?

If you are in a graduate program, share your current stipend level or an average of previous employment and current income.

If you have no long-term work history, try putting "N/A" if it is a form.

What are you currently earning?

For many students, current earnings are unrelated to what you expect to earn at your next job.

Emphasize that your current income does not compare to your anticipated salary.

"For this type of position, I'd anticipate a salary in the range of..."

What are your salary requirements?

See if you can avoid the question: "I'd like to know more about the position and specific goals for the selected candidate in order to give you a better answer."

If that does not work, start with a salary range based on your research (no more than $10,000 between the low and high numbers).

If they want a single number, provide a salary figure that's in the middle of your range.

You can provide the caveat, "Based on my current understanding of the position, I would expect to earn $X, but we can revisit that as we talk more about what your organization is looking for."