Negotiate Your Nursing Salary: 4 Considerations to Land the Best Offer

nurse negotiating

You’ve spent the past few years at nursing school, achieved stellar results, and are all set to start your first nursing job. You’ve nailed your nursing interview, and received a job offer – but wait! Before you sign on the dotted line, ask yourself if this is the best possible offer when it comes to your nursing salary. Yes, that’s right! You can (and should) negotiate your nurse job offer before you accept it.

Surprised? In this article, we’re sharing why negotiation is an important part of the process of getting hired, tips for new nurses on how to negotiate nurse salaries, and four things to consider to ensure you land the best possible offer in your new job.

Nurse Salary Negotiation – Get What You’re Worth

An aging population in the US and the COVID-19 pandemic in the last two years has pushed demand for nurses up, and this is projected to grow 9% in the next decade. This surge in demand is good news for nurses because it makes salary negotiation a possibility and allows you to get what you deserve for the work that you do.

Negotiating your nursing salary will ensure that you are paid well and avoid leaving money on the table. Indeed, salary negotiation is an important part of any hiring process and can have long-term impacts on an employee’s lifetime earnings throughout their career. Simply negotiating a job offer up for $5,000 more annually could have overall gains of more than $600,000 over the course of a 40-year career!

Additionally, consider that men in the nursing industry make an average of $7,297 more than women annually. The gender pay gap may be part of the reason, but this could also be because only 34% of female nursing professionals negotiate their salary, compared to 46% of male nursing professionals. Engaging in salary negotiations can help close this wage gap and ensure that you are being paid fairly compared to your counterparts.

New Nurses Salary Negotiation Tips

As a new nurse, you may be hesitant to negotiate on an offer you receive, especially if it’s from your dream organization. Yet, negotiation is an important skill that will serve you well, both in your first job and further along in your career. Practicing negotiating your salary from the early stages of your career will only make you better at it over time – future you will thank yourself for this!

Keep in mind that employers often start by making an offer at the lower end of their budget. They do so in the belief that negotiation will take place, and are often prepared to meet your requests – if only you ask for them.

For new grads, nurse salary negotiation starts with being confident in your skills and what you have to offer the organization. You may not have years of experience, but you are still a trained and qualified professional – know your worth! Doing your research about the organization, industry trends, and even talking to other nursing professionals will also put you in a better position to negotiate the terms of your nurse job offer.

When getting started with negotiations for your nursing salary, here are four considerations to bear in mind.

1. Check Industry Averages for a Nursing Salary in Your Region

The salary of nursing professionals varies in different regions and even for specific nursing roles. Negotiating may be difficult as a new nurse if you are not aware of the average nurse salary in your region, and for the particular role you will be taking on. Websites like Glassdoor or Indeed can be a handy resource to help determine this number.

The U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics is another reliable resource to verify the average pay. For example, nurses in Outpatient Care Centers are paid the highest hourly wage of $42.93, and the annual mean wage in California is $120,560. Having these figures on hand will help you determine if you are being offered a competitive starting salary, or if you should consider negotiating your nursing hourly rate.

Hospitals may also offer hefty sign-on bonuses in a bid to solve the shortage of nurses. Note that sign-on bonuses should be given in addition to the base salary. Knowing the average salary you should be aiming for will help assess whether the sign-on bonuses are actually bonuses and are not cut from the base salary and disguised as a perk.

2. Negotiate Your Working Schedule

Negotiation for a nursing job offer does not stop with the salary or monetary consideration. As a nursing professional, you may be expected to do night shifts, but did you know that you can negotiate the days and even the hours that you work?

Be prepared to clarify shift differentials for different shifts and weekends (being paid extra to work outside of regular hours or on weekends and bank holidays) before signing the contract. Working overnights can be a lucrative way to make more money if that works for your schedule and lifestyle, as can picking up extra shifts or doing overtime, and covering per-diem work to fill unexpected gaps in the roster of the organization. Some organizations have also offered substantial bonuses for taking on additional shifts in light of new surges in caseloads because of the COVID pandemic.

3. Consider Non-Monetary Nurse Benefits

Apart from negotiating your nursing hourly rate and schedule, you should take into account the non-monetary benefits that the organization may be offering. Some organizations may not boast a high salary, but make up for that with a host of attractive benefits that may sweeten the deal. It can even be prudent to evaluate these non-monetary benefits by assigning them a dollar value and comparing the value of the total package across offers.

Some non-monetary nurse benefits include:

  • Health insurance
  • Paid time off (vacation, sick days)
  • Professional development allowances
  • Tuition reimbursement for further education
  • Subsidized commutes and parking
  • Relocation assistance or subsidized housing

It is also wise to consider the benefits offered against your desired lifestyle or personal priorities. Someone who loves to travel may be willing to take a lower salary at an organization that offers a month of vacation time or opportunities to be a travel nurse with accommodation or housing subsidies included, rather than a job with a higher salary and only 14 vacation days. Someone else might be keen on an organization that offers tuition reimbursement for further education if they have plans to get additional licensing. At the end of the day, it’s about being aware of what you seek from a job and ensuring that the offer presented aligns with that.

4. Acknowledge Your Worth and Ask for It

John F. Kennedy once said, “Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate”. You are a trained and qualified professional with very high demand in the market. Don’t undervalue yourself, underplay your capabilities, or sell yourself short just because you are new to the industry. Acknowledge that you have something valuable to offer the organization and they require your services. Ask for what you are worth and don’t be shy or hesitant about it.

When it comes to negotiation, there is nothing to lose. The worst that can happen is that they reject your requests and you can make the final decision about whether to accept their offer or pursue one of the tons of other opportunities out there. And at best, you’ll get to enjoy a higher salary, more benefits, a better working schedule and more!

Knowing how to negotiate your salary as a nurse can be tricky and intimidating. With these tips in mind, you will be prepared for your next salary negotiation. And after you get the job? Keep practicing those negotiation skills – they’ll come in handy at your one-year performance review too!  Need some ideas on how to phrase your requests for a higher salary, more benefits, or additional compensation? This Glassdoor article has some useful phrases that could help!

For more tips and useful information relevant to nursing professionals like you, subscribe to our The State of Nursing newsletter to stay up-to-date on relevant topics!


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