How Important Should Salary Be with Your First Post-College Job?

Salary for your first job out of college is an important issue no matter where you find employment. Read on for some key considerations when looking at pay for an entry-level job.

entry-level salaries

Salary: One Factor Among Many

Recent graduates looking to enter the workforce typically must weigh a number of factors before deciding on which job to take after college. Salary is one very important consideration, but should it be the make-or-break factor in a decision?

While many are eager to get the necessary experience to begin a successful career in a particular industry, well-paying entry-level opportunities are often hard to come by. In fact, many grads experience a rude awakening when they realize they'll be expected to work at a salary far below median pay rates within a profession.

Some people might be willing to work at a modest annual wage if it means they'll eventually move up within an organization and ultimately make more money. However, not all opportunities may be worth sacrificing for on the salary front. Here are some factors to consider in deciding whether or not to take a low-paying position.

Opportunity for Advancement

If an entry-level job with an organization is also a 'dead-end' job, you may well want to pass - especially if the salary isn't impressive. If, on the other hand, there is a clear path to advancement, you may decide to accept a job offer and plan to move up within the organization.

Opportunity to Develop Skills

Not every job opportunity is likely to be in an organization in which you'd like to advance, but that doesn't necessarily mean you should reject an offer out of hand. Taking a position that will allow you to develop hands-on professional skills that could qualify you for roles in a more desirable organization could make taking a job worth it, regardless of salary.

Access to Benefits

Compensation is about much more than salary. Health insurance, retirement plans, bonuses and other benefits that come with full-time positions can yield a significant boost to your economic standing. Some jobs also offer such perks as gym memberships, education opportunities and subsidized transportation costs.

Location

Will taking a job require you to move across the country, away from family and friends? Will you have a terrible commute that will take up a significant portion of your day? If you're skeptical of moving or a bad commute seems undesirable, a marginal salary may end up being a final strike against pursuing a given opportunity.

Lifestyle Factors

Some jobs require long workdays that extend well beyond regular business hours and into the weekend. Perhaps you're okay with this aspect of professional life. If not, working in a position that asks a lot of you but pays only a little may not be right for you.

Job Satisfaction

Is there a good chance that you'll enjoy performing the responsibilities of a position? Will the work be rewarding in a personal way that transcends other job factors? Do you like the other staff members? If your answer is yes to these three questions, you might be willing to take a position - even if the pay isn't what you hoped for or advancement paths aren't clear.

Economic Circumstances

One last question to ask yourself before taking a low-paying position: Can you afford it? If the salary you receive won't cover your expenses, including repayment of any student loans that will be coming due, you'll probably have to pass on a job. Alternatively, you might also take a job and make other arrangements for meeting your financial obligations.

Decide whether you should apply for an internship or get a paying job.

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