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Thread: Salary negotiation tips for entry-level planner?

  1. #26
    Quote Originally posted by jobaba View post
    Wow. I guess was wrong. A lot of my classmates got jobs out of school but I don't know how much they make. I'm not super tight with any of them. That is quite low.

    A silver lining is that one of them is a Senior Planner with only a couple of years experience under his belt (not sure how that's possible), but I'm sure he makes more $ than that now. But not too sure.
    Some jurisdictions and companies inflate their titles so you get basically sophomore planners with a senior label. I've especially noticed this in non-profits and non-municipal government offices where it seems everyone is a "manager" or "director" but when you look closely there's no one beneath them.

  2. #27
    Cyburbian Kingmak's avatar
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    Was just hired this past June after getting my Masters. Making low 30s, but it beats making nothing. Bills are paid (very little left over). But everyday is more experience than I had the day before. If you want in, get in. That's the difficult part.
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  3. #28
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    Quote Originally posted by jobaba View post
    Wow. I guess was wrong. A lot of my classmates got jobs out of school but I don't know how much they make. I'm not super tight with any of them. That is quite low.

    A silver lining is that one of them is a Senior Planner with only a couple of years experience under his belt (not sure how that's possible), but I'm sure he makes more $ than that now. But not too sure.
    I landed my first job out of college just last month. I'm actually the Planning Director here (although the Planning Department consists of just myself), so chocolatechip is spot on. Starting pay was more than I expected (above the 32-38k range Hink gave) BUT I get 6% automatically taken out by the State for retirement pay, so I end up back into that 32-38k range.

    I will tell you this much, attitude goes a LONG way. I've been able to gather that I got this job based on the fact that both the Commissioners in the interview liked me, and that right after graduation I walked into the County Planning office where I attended college and volunteered to help them with whatever they needed. Was I more experienced than the other candidates? Not at all.

  4. #29
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    Quote Originally posted by chocolatechip View post
    Some jurisdictions and companies inflate their titles so you get basically sophomore planners with a senior label. I've especially noticed this in non-profits and non-municipal government offices where it seems everyone is a "manager" or "director" but when you look closely there's no one beneath them.
    I've noticed that a lot of people here put emphasis on how low planners salaries are but that in salary surveys the pay seems to be quite respectable, maybe with a median of 70K with most people making over 50K (APA survey and BLS).

    That is comparable to engineer's salaries. So I wonder which source is right.

  5. #30
    Cyburbian stroskey's avatar
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    Is there any way to do an anonymous salary survey here on Cyburbia? Sometimes I think the APA survey throws people off because it's geared towards those with AICP designation. I think it may be interesting(?) to see what the mean is.
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  6. #31
    I wonder how prevalent it is for prospective planners to view APA's salary surveys and other rosy literature, earn an MSP, and then be disappointed when they're not making half what they thought they would be making in the field.

    http://www.planning.org/salary/summary.htm

    The sample includes both AICP and non-AICP planners and reports on them separately. The numbers still look too high. Is there a sampling bias since lower paid planners may forego APA dues and are never contacted to fill out the survey? Or maybe the numbers are inclusive of fringe benefits?
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  7. #32
    Quote Originally posted by OfficialPlanner View post
    I wonder how prevalent it is for prospective planners to view APA's salary surveys and other rosy literature, earn an MSP, and then be disappointed when they're not making half what they thought they would be making in the field.

    http://www.planning.org/salary/summary.htm

    The sample includes both AICP and non-AICP planners and reports on them separately. The numbers still look too high. Is there a sampling bias since lower paid planners may forego APA dues and are never contacted to fill out the survey? Or maybe the numbers are inclusive of fringe benefits?
    Respondents would be the first source of skewing. Same thing that happens with college alumni salaries. No one wants to report how crappy they're doing.

  8. #33
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    I never reply to the salary survey. As indicated its not scientific nor can it be validated. Its just a request that you respond, yeah. Its skewed towards the braggarts.
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  9. #34
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    There is a problem with sampling in the APA salary surveys, which only include 1) those members of APA, 2) who respond to the survey. People who are more likely to be APA members are those who are more senior and those whose employer pays the dues. In either case it would be expected that these same people would tend to have better salaries than the typical planner. Younger planners tend to be underrepresented, as those in tech, planner I and Planner II positions, people in related professions where many planning grads find jobs, planners working for non-profits and planners serving smaller and rural jurisdictions. All of these will tend to be lower paid, and if they were in the survey, would skew salaries downward.
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  10. #35
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    I can understand the APA surveys being skewed, but out of curiosity, where are these jobs with the lowball figures in the $30K range? Many of the listings I've seen in major metropolitan areas start at $40-50K.

  11. #36
    NIMBY asshatterer Plus Richmond Jake's avatar
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    Back on topic...do you really have any leverage to ask for even a mid-range salary for an entry-level position? Take the job and get your foot in the door.

  12. #37
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    Really Surprised

    Wow, I was really surprised by the advice Jazzman was getting.

    "don't negotiate anything. You are not in a position to even think about that yet."

    "avoid trying to get more money, because getting the job and getting the experience should be the most important."

    Jazzman's concern that a low starting salary will impact the rest of his career - is absolutely correct. It will affect his future salary offers -- and good luck trying to avoid disclosing your salary in future jobs a la chocolatechip's advice. That is almost impossible to do.

    You should always negotiate your salary. Even if you only get a couple extra $,000s per year, your employer will respect you because you showed initiative. Don't forget that they want you -- they chose you -- they are offering you a job. So you do have some leverage. In addition, employers are almost always given a salary range in which to negotiate -- and their first offer is always at the bottom range. Look at it from the employer's perspective -- if you accept their first low-ball offer, they will wonder why you are accepting it and question is you were really the right person for the job.

    Anyway, you should definitely negotiate your salary and if you want some help let me know -- I am a salary negotiation consultant. {link removed}.

  13. #38
    Cyburbian
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    Your [soon-to-be employer] respects you enough to offer you the job. Negotiation only works when you have something to negotiate with. A requisite degree and some internships, though important, are qualifications that are required to perform the job, and the interview is one method of demonstrating competence in those qualifications. Beyond that I don't see any bargaining chips. A willingness to work hard and learn is not added value, it is doing the job. However, if the applicant brings a portfolio of completed work that shows skill in a niche field learned in internships and courses, maybe there might be some weight but it's still a long shot. At the entry-level, with so little to negotiate, I doubt few employers on pondering why the new hire is or isn't trying to negotiate.
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  14. #39
    Super Moderator kjel's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Hink View post
    Usually I am the one who is very positive about this stuff, but you can't be picking on price. If you can find a job that excites you, in this economy you can't be choosy. Take it. We all have to make sacrifices to move forward, and in our profession right now, there just aren't the starting jobs for $40k. I would imagine the range is probably more in the $32-38k starting. You really have to look at the whole package though, as many government jobs have step increases, and you could make significantly more in a year or two.

    Good luck.
    My first job after the MCRP was $42K at the height of the recession. My current job is in the mid-50's and I was asked to negotiate my salary up the extension of an offer. We came to a pretty fair agreement considering that I was coming off of 5 months of no job/working at McD's. I was told that there probably not be a raise in the next couple of years since they had a salary freeze three years ago. Our benefits package is robust and our 401K match has been left untouched, we also have a 35 hour work week and plenty of PTO, continuing education/training is also largely paid for and encouraged. I live/work in NJ which is also a high cost area so there is some measure of relativity in the salaries, but not always. I've brought in a lot of money to my division in the past 18 months and currently working on a proposal for a new program that could bring me a raise, otherwise I am not doing it

    At this point in time, I'd just take the job unless it was some ridiculous offer in the 20's. It doesn't have to be forever and definitely can help you move forward and upward.
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  15. #40
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by josephwrichards View post
    Anyway, you should definitely negotiate your salary and if you want some help let me know -- I am a salary negotiation consultant. {link removed}.
    Advice from a poster who is clearly selling something is always suspect.

    Anyway, I agree with nrschmid. You really don't have the ability to leverage your past experience in an entry level position to insist on a higher salary. I'd imagine hiring for most entry level positions is largely a crap shoot since there's just so little there to base the decision on.

  16. #41
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Backstrom View post
    I can understand the APA surveys being skewed, but out of curiosity, where are these jobs with the lowball figures in the $30K range? Many of the listings I've seen in major metropolitan areas start at $40-50K.
    If you are looking at the salaries listed for jobs on the APA site then you are likely seeing some of the higher ones. Remember that you have to pay to post a job through APA. This means that the communities that have a decent budget are likely to advertise there. Others will be listed through municipal league sites or newspapers, etc. Even so:

    MN APA site - two of four positions listed starting below $40K (the other two had no salary listed)
    CO APA site - one of six positions listed below $40K, one other no salary listed
    GA APA site - one of five positions listed below 40K
    ID - only listed position is under $40K

    I could go on. Of course, the lower-paid positions are entry level and those at a senior or director level are paid more. But fresh out of college with a madters and no experience, it is at the entry level where most people will find a job.
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  17. #42
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Cardinal View post
    If you are looking at the salaries listed for jobs on the APA site then you are likely seeing some of the higher ones. Remember that you have to pay to post a job through APA. This means that the communities that have a decent budget are likely to advertise there. Others will be listed through municipal league sites or newspapers, etc. Even so:

    MN APA site - two of four positions listed starting below $40K (the other two had no salary listed)
    CO APA site - one of six positions listed below $40K, one other no salary listed
    GA APA site - one of five positions listed below 40K
    ID - only listed position is under $40K

    I could go on. Of course, the lower-paid positions are entry level and those at a senior or director level are paid more. But fresh out of college with a madters and no experience, it is at the entry level where most people will find a job.
    I was lucky to get a good job out of grad school, but I was ...ahem...older and into a second career so my experience is an outlier and I can't contribute.

    Nevertheless, I never looked around at the state APA job boards like Cardinal just did. I can definitely see how that and the laughable APA salary surveys (laughable APA I mean) could obscure the situation in reality for people thinking about planning as a career. It might explain why there are so many unrealistic expectations by the newbies on this site. Just a thought.
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  18. #43
    I just found out today that I qualify for a different re-payment plan on my student loans from the government.

    I knew alternative repayment plans existed, I just assumed that I wouldn't qualify for them. But I do, and that makes a huge difference in terms of my expenses.

    I conducted my job search (and started this thread) under the assumption that I'd be paying $1,100 a month in student loan repayments. On top of rent, groceries, etc. That's why I reacted the way I did upon seeing these salaries for planning jobs.

    I think I'm going to be OK. Thanks for the advice, guys.

  19. #44
    Cyburbian chupacabra's avatar
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    $1,100 a month in student loan repayments
    *drops knitting*

    I'm glad you qualify for a repayment program. That's insane.
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  20. #45
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    Quote Originally posted by chupacabra View post
    *drops knitting*

    I'm glad you qualify for a repayment program. That's insane.


    For real, $1,100 is ROUGH. Glad there are alternatives out there.

  21. #46
    Yeah and it's not like I went to Princeton and majored in basket weaving. I have always attended public schools, from kindergarten through graduate school.

    For undergrad, I went to a small public school in-state that practically nobody's ever heard of. To be fair, it took me 5 years to finish instead of 4, and I didn't get any scholarships. But still. Tuition, room and board, etc. was dirt cheap. Definitely a budget school, not a flagship school by any means.

    For grad school, I went to a much more well-known state school, but I only paid about half the cost thanks to a significant amount of funding, and the fact that I was able to obtain in-state rates for 3 out of the 4 semesters I was there. Despite all of that, I still racked up a huge amount of debt.

    I think the biggest thing that hurt me in this regard was going to grad school straight out of undergrad. If I worked for a few years before going to grad school, I could have chipped away at that debt. Instead, I took on more debt before paying down one dime of the debt from undergrad. I don't regret my decision to go straight to grad school, but I know that's the biggest reason my debt load is so huge now.

    But again, the reason I inquired about salary negotiations is not because I was some entitled prick who expected to make six figures on an entry-level job in civil service. It's just that I had this huge problem to deal with, and I needed to do something to chip away at the debt. I know that the lower monthly payments means that the life of the loan will stretch out much longer and I'll end up paying more in the end, but there was just no way I could handle that kind of debt load and still find money for groceries, rent, etc. So I'm glad it seems like things will work out.

  22. #47
    Cyburbian
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    Sounds like you need to put down two jobs to pay down the debt. It's not the end of the world. Look for a planning job, it might take 6-12 months and relocation (see previous posts). Once you get settled, look for other ways to bring in additional income. True, it might take years to pay down the debt, but it sounds like you are going to have to do that anyway.
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  23. #48
    Cyburbian btrage's avatar
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    In any negotiation, you always have to keep in mind the BATNA, or, Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement.

    For the employer, their BATNA is most usually just selecting the next candidate, who oftentimes is also a qualified candidate.

    In today's job market, the prospective employee's BATNA is how many more months of unemployment??

    So in negotiation, you're taking a risk that the employer loves you so much that you are the BATNA, even over the 2nd runner up.
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  24. #49
    Cyburbian Veloise's avatar
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    First professional job/expense cutting

    Quote Originally posted by Jazzman View post
    ...For undergrad, I went to a small public school in-state that practically nobody's ever heard of.... huge amount of debt. ... I needed to do something to chip away at the debt. I know that the lower monthly payments means that the life of the loan will stretch out much longer and I'll end up paying more in the end, but there was just no way I could handle that kind of debt load and still find money for groceries, rent, etc. So I'm glad it seems like things will work out.
    In another thread, I tossed out some recommendations for housing. The OP was looking for an apartment complex-type of situation in a touristy area. From a couple thousand miles away I hit Craigslist, and found some very reasonably-priced sublets, shared spaces, etc.

    There's always a temptation to take that first "real" paycheck and enjoy life a little more. Recommend you keep your fixed costs as low as possible. Don't sign up for car payments or credit cards...thrift stores can be good sources of professional attire...one of my old grad school profs cited the mantra "live close to work" as a housing choice.

    If you continue to live like a grad student for another year, and your loan modification allows for balloon payments, you can retire that debt a little faster.

    (full disclosure: I was raised by Depression babies, and it bothers me to have lights on in an unoccupied room)

  25. #50
    Quote Originally posted by btrage View post
    In any negotiation, you always have to keep in mind the BATNA, or, Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement.

    For the employer, their BATNA is most usually just selecting the next candidate, who oftentimes is also a qualified candidate.

    In today's job market, the prospective employee's BATNA is how many more months of unemployment??

    So in negotiation, you're taking a risk that the employer loves you so much that you are the BATNA, even over the 2nd runner up.

    My thoughts exactly. That's why I started the thread - I had gotten advice to negotiate salaries but that didn't make sense - couldn't they just find some other guy willing to take less?

    The other big X factor for me is health insurance. Without knowing who my next employer will be or what plan I will be on, I have no idea how much I will have to pay. This could be as much, if not more, of a factor than the student debt.

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