Why a Bachelor's Degree Doesn't Guarantee Your Salary

Posted by The Editors on February 24, 2012
Why a Bachelor's Degree Doesn't Guarantee Your Salary

If you’re in college, you may have done some research regarding your bachelor’s degree, your major, and the kinds careers you can explore when you graduate. You may have also found some information about those careers, how much growth there is in the field, and what the salary range is.

But as you start interviewing and preparing to enter the workforce, the salary offers you see may not quite match the research you’ve done. That’s because having a bachelor’s degree alone isn’t enough to guarantee a certain salary when you get that first job offer after graduation.

So if your Bachelor's degree doesn't garuntee your salary, what does?

Here are some of the main factors that go into a salary offer.

I know, it’s a frustrating Catch-22. You need a job to get experience, but you can’t get a job without it. This is why it’s imperative that you get some kind of experience under your belt while you’re still in college, and why internships, volunteer experiences, and college work-study positions can become your best friends. You don’t need a full-time position to get started: Work for one of your professors for 10 hours a week, volunteer at a local non-profit to develop skills you’ll need in your industry, or seek out a summer internship at a company you would like to work for. The key is to start gaining the skills you need to hit the ground running when you graduate. Once you have those, a future employer won’t have to train you and show you the ropes, which makes you more valuable to them (and also qualified to ask for a better salary than someone who is starting from scratch).

Salary History
As a college senior or a recent graduate, you may not have had an employer ask about salary history yet, because up until this point, you’ve probably been paid an hourly wage. Salary history is an overview of a candidate’s past salaries and is used as a tool during the negotiating process. In general, no one’s salary history will show an enormous, six-figure increase when they move from one job to the next. Instead, what an employee earns over time tends to grow as that employee takes on more responsibilities and gains more skills and knowledge. (Those who don’t make those efforts won’t be able to increase their salary history as much as those who do.) The morale of the story here is to be patient and remember that pretty much no one starts their career at the top of the salary range. The salary you dreamed of is out there, you just need to build some history to get there.

Your Work Ethic
As a new employee, this is the one factor you have the most influence over when it comes to salary. While experience and a salary history take time to build, you can impress your supervisor with your work ethic right now. It goes without saying that those employees who go the extra mile, self-motivate, seek out new opportunities, and stay educated tend to be in line for bonuses, promotions and raises. So by focusing on your work ethic from day one, you’re accelerating the rate at which your experience, and your salary history, will grow.

As a recent college graduate, you should also remember to factor in the intangibles when you’re looking at jobs and salary offers. If you’re offered health insurance, dental insurance, flex time, and other benefits, you actually need to estimate their worth and factor that into your total annual salary. Once you do, the picture might look a whole lot rosier.

About the Author: Noël Rozny is Web Editor & Content Manager at myFootpath, a career and education resource for students of all ages.

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