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Salary Offer is Too Low but Wants the Job

Nurse Beth   (412 Views 2 Comments)
by Nurse Beth Nurse Beth, MSN (Advice Column) Writer Innovator Expert

Nurse Beth has 30 years experience as a MSN and works as a Nursing Professional Development Specialist.

14 Followers; 88 Articles; 226,968 Visitors; 1,782 Posts


Dear Nurse Beth,

I'm a registered nurse who is transitioning into a new field of nursing (psychiatric mental health) after spending a couple of years doing ICU and acute dialysis. I have been given a job offer at a psychiatric hospital I'm very interested in, but I feel that the initial salary offer was quite low. I'm about to start salary negotiation, and I know a big rule of negotiating is to "know your market worth". But when I use the online calculators to gauge my market worth, it's based on my current industry. How can I tell what my market worth is when I'm transitioning to a different field of nursing?

Dear Transitioning,

The best way to find out salary information is by networking with others in the area. This is difficult if your network does not extend to the area, but one way is through a local professional organization. While it's not OK to ask someone "What do you make?", it is OK to ask a colleague "What's the typical salary?"

Average Salary

There are "averages" to be found online, but they can be dated and "average" as a metric is not always meaningful. In your case, there is another rule to keep in mind: "Always aim for a salary increase when changing jobs". 

Part of your negotiating is to explain that, while you are interested in the job, you can't afford to take such a significant decrease in pay. You need to have a bottom line salary in mind when negotiating. The bottom line is a salary you will not go below even if it means passing on the job.

Experience Matters

At the same time, since you are changing specialities, you may not be able to expect what an experienced mental health nurse would make. For example, as an experienced ICU and dialysis nurses, you would expect a higher pay than an inexperienced nurse. Still, you should be offered more than a new grad. You have learned time management skills, and communication soft skills. Find out if you are familiar with their computer documenting system (Epic, Cerner), and if so, mention this.

In some areas of the country, behavioral health pays less than acute care; and in some areas, it pays more. This would be helpful to know in your area so you can adjust your expectations accordingly. 

Counter Offer

Given that they may have low balled their initial offer, it is perfectly acceptable to counter with a higher number. "I am interested in the position but was hoping you could come closer to (the amount desired) based on my overall years as an RN".

Make your counter offer higher than your bottom line number so you can come down and accept a counter to the counter offer. Once you've named your top number, you can only move downwards.

You can also negotiate non-salary benefits, such as tuition reimbursement or paid time off. Sometimes the hiring manager is able to offer benefits that don't directly impact the monthly budget.

Good luck in your negotiations and I hope it works out in your favor.

Best wishes, 

Nurse Beth

Author, "Your Last Nursing Class: How to Land Your First Nursing Job"...and your next!



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2 Followers; 5,906 Visitors; 1,055 Posts

In any case, it will be a pay cut. Get used to that idea.

If it is a state psych facility, there may be benefits to make up some of the difference.

Benefits negotiated will depend on how many people are applying for that same job

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