Sometimes, people who entering a “caring” profession, like nursing, love helping people. So while the money they make is important, it often takes a backseat to what they’re doing as a profession. But nurses need to look out for themselves, too. We asked Dina Neilsen, PhD, Senior Manager of Learner, Career, and Alumni Services as well as the Emergency Committee Co-Chair at Nightingale College to offer nurses tips for negotiating a better salary when applying for a new job.

What is the first thing nurses should do when they find out they have a job interview? Should they immediately prepare and do research so that they will be ready to discuss salary? Or should they wait to see if they’re called back for another interview? Should the research be on the place where they’re interviewing? On the type of job? Both? Where can they find out what salary they should be asking for?

Yes, preparing for an interview is always a good plan. Understand what the specific job description is and also spend time on the organization’s website to get a sense of its culture, history, etc.

Visit sites like Glassdoor to review salary ranges for the position you seek; also review other organizations with similar job descriptions to understand the market range for your position.

What other aspects should they take into consideration? Geography? Years of experience? Education? Certifications? Please explain.  

There are locations in the U.S. where the nursing shortage is quite dire, so geography does play a role. This collection of data can help you to factor in geography if needed.

It is likely your education, experience, and certifications are already in the hands of the organization seeking an interview with you. You should feel free, though, to reiterate all of those things and to make a case of how you bring added value.

Suppose they are asked what they want to make? Should they give a number?   

We generally believe it’s better to “get” a number than “give” a number because then you won’t have locked yourself into a starting salary that might be lower than what would have been offered.

Talking about money is uncomfortable for some people. How can they prepare while calming their fears?

If you’ve gathered the data from sites like Glassdoor, you are operating from a place of knowledge which should help to calm any fears.

If it’s not brought up on a second or third interview, should the nurses bring up the topic of salary? Why or why not?

It’s perfectly reasonable, especially in places where nursing shortages exist, to politely ask the salary range.

Should they say that money isn’t the most important aspect of the job? Or will this lead to them getting shortchanged?   

Everyone expects to—and should be—paid what they are worth. Minimizing the salary question doesn’t help anyone on either side of the equation.

Suppose they are offered their dream job, but the salary isn’t what they wanted/needed? What should they do? Are there other factors they should ask about—hours, vacation, health care, etc.?

Perhaps the best way to deal with this situation is to ask for a six-month salary review. That way, you can take the dream job for a minimal period of time before being reviewed for a salary increase.

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