How to Negotiate Your Healthcare Salary

negotiate my salary

“I’m terrible at salary negotiation.”

It’s something we hear candidates say all the time, and we’ve watched too many prospective employees try to negotiate their salaries and land below what they hoped for (or even the minimum they would be satisfied with). We want to help you get more comfortable asking for what you deserve. 

The keys to negotiating a fair salary in healthcare are:

  • Understanding the average salary ranges in your market
  • Determining what you need in a job (salary, environment, duties, education compensation, benefits, etc.)
  • Defining what makes you uniquely suited for the job

Once you understand what you want, what you need, and what isn’t negotiable, you’ll be in a much stronger position to land your dream job.

It’s Not All About the $$$

When you think about what you loved and hated about your last job, your salary certainly isn’t the only item on your list. Don’t let it be the sole focus of your job hunt.

When you evaluate a job offer, it’s important to take the total package into account. What kind of duties do you enjoy, and which would you like to avoid? How do you want your day to be split up? Do you want flexible hours? What kind of benefits package works for you? Are there bonuses?

healthcare salary negotiation

Define what you expect out of an employer, including:

  • Is the organization serving a good cause?
  • Level of healthcare insurance (dental, vision, medical, etc.)
  • Disability programs
  • Childcare spending accounts
  • Education reimbursement
  • Certification reimbursement
  • Funded attendance to trade shows or conventions
  • Flexible work arrangements
  • Free transportation
  • Relocation packages

Draw up a list of your best-case scenario. If you get an offer for your dream job at the hospital you’ve always wanted to work for with a team you know you’ll enjoy, it’s worth considering a lower salary.

Bring Up Your Concerns Upfront

Once you’ve done the work of defining what you do and don’t want out of your next career move, it will be easier to measure job offers. Write a list of major concerns, and bring them up to the recruiter all at once. 

Sometimes people shy away from salary negotiation because it can be uncomfortable, so make it as painless as possible for everyone involved by stating your conditions once. People get irritated when issues keep popping up, and it makes you look like a difficult employee if the offer negotiation starts out rocky.

Do Your Research

There’s nothing worse than going through the full interview loop only to discover your salary expectations aren’t even in the same ballpark as the organization you’re interviewing with. Sometimes the misalignment is due to lack of funding or the recruiter pitching a position for a lower-level candidate, but we’ve also seen people walk into an interview with unrealistic expectations.

how much should i make

Use tools like Payscale,, Payfactors, and Glassdoor. Some of these tools will even adjust for additional certifications and experience, which is a huge help when determining your target salary. 

Ask the recruiter upfront what the salary range is for the position. It’s better for everyone involved if you exit the interview process early rather than finding out the salary is capped beneath your acceptable range.  

Last but not least, check out employee review websites like Glassdoor or Indeed, and read industry reports from publications like USA Today. Check out the environment, especially if you don’t have any connections who can give you the inside scoop.

Be Prepared to Build a Case

Salary negotiation goes more smoothly if you know how to position your argument. It won’t matter to your employer why you want more money. What will matter to them is if you have unique qualifications that make you worth an increase in salary.

A bad example would be:

“I need an increase in salary over my prior position because the cost of living has gone up, my apartment is expensive, and my dog needs TPLO surgery.”

A good example would be:

“I am dual certified in adolescent addiction and adolescent behavioral disorders in the state of Illinois, and I have a Master Addiction Counselor certification. I also have ten years of experience in a clinical setting. According to my market research, I believe these qualifications make me uniquely suited to the position and justify the additional ($K) in salary.”

Make It Clear You Want the Job

I’ve found that playing hard to get will help you win over the affection of dogs, cats, and some toddlers, but it doesn’t work in an interview setting. People want to know that a successful salary negotiation will result in a hire. If people think you’ve got better options waiting for you, they won’t put in the effort.

Understand Who You’re Negotiating With

Typically, you’ll want to bring up job offer concerns to the recruiter. The hiring manager may not be accustomed to salary negotiation and find the process off-putting. The exception to this is when a hiring manager has recruited you directly through a personal connection. If they want you on the team, they may be more willing to advocate for a higher salary than someone who isn’t emotionally invested.

negotiating a salary

You’ll also want to understand what will appeal to the person you’re negotiating with. Will they only care about certifications, or will they be impressed by specific experience examples or influential references?

Don’t Be a Jerk

People only want to help people they like. Don’t be rude or combative. The person across the table isn’t your enemy, and you don’t want to make them one. Keep the tone light and professional.

Don’t Make Ultimatums Unless You’re Willing to Walk

People don’t like to be threatened, and that’s what an ultimatum is–a threat. If you say, “I won’t work for less than $87K a year,” you should understand that the person across the table will take you literally. Ultimatums are a last resort. You may get what you want but only use an ultimatum if you’re comfortable walking away from the job.

Know When to Walk

If taking the position means settling for a salary that makes you feel undervalued, a lack of flexibility when you really need it, or you have a bad feeling about the people you’ll be working with, walk away. 

salary negotiation

Write a list of your red flags and see if there are ways to calm your worries. If you had a bad feeling about the person you would be reporting to, ask if you can get a second meeting with them. Just remember to ask for additional information when you bring up your initial list of concerns instead of spacing things out.

Good luck finding your ideal position! If you’d like advice or any help with this process, Shepard Search Partners is here for you. Feel free to contact us at any time.

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