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Negotiating Salary and Your Start-Up Package

In February 2016, the UW Career Center convened a panel of recently hired faculty members to share their perspectives on how to negotiate salary in pursuing an academic career. Here are some highlights from the workshop:

Top Tips:

  • (Almost) Always negotiate.
  • Check your attitude (you want to aim for humble-confident).
  • Think broadly. Beyond just salary, there are moving expenses, set up costs, teaching load, professional development funds, staff support, and etc.
  • You can’t get it all, but ask yourself: What will help me be a happy, productive faculty member? What are the deal breakers?

Before Asking:

  • Frame your thinking and communications as a faculty member, not as an aspiring graduate student or postdoc grasping for a position.
  • Think hard about what you want (what kind of position). Understand fit. What kind of institution are you looking for? What kind of institutional culture?  What kind of experience do you want as a professor? What is possible to ask for within the kind of institution in which you are applying?
  • Do your research. Know what the salary range is for your discipline and type of institution. Know what you can ask for. In order to do this, you can talk with your network, e.g. people who have gotten positions in the last 3-4 years. This helps you know what to expect.

When to Ask?

  • Never give the first number, even if they ask. Do not talk about salary until you get a job offer.
  • Do not respond right away after receiving the offer of salary. Let it sit for at least 24 hours.

What to Ask?

  • Ask for what you need to be successful. Negotiation implies give and take.
  • Things to ask for: Remember to tie all asks back to your productivity and impact.
    • Salary. Consider cost of living in the city, hard money/soft money split – how long before you need to bring in more of your own salary.
    • Summer support. Justify it as research/productivity time. It is easier to give since it is a one-time commitment.
    • Moving costs. You can get estimates for your move and negotiate for higher amount – usually institutions have set amount whether you move from near or far.
    • Tech, grant, and/or teaching support.
    • Travel and development. As junior person, you might need to ask for 2 conferences in first 3 years as you build your network and your position.
    • Reduced teaching load. How many preps do you want each year (new courses)?
    • TA or RA support
  • Make sure you have what you want at the end of the negotiation.

How to Ask?

  • Be honest, have integrity. Don’t “BS” – people can see through that.
  • Be gracious in the way you ask.
  • Remember humility – you deserve to be treated well (but not better than) all the other faculty.
  • Tie your requests back to how it will facilitate your contributions and success as a faculty member – you are not asking to be selfish, you are asking because you want to make good on the investment they are making in YOU.

What if…?

  • You receive multiple offers.
    • Be honest. Never misrepresent. Keep in mind these are your colleagues who will be in your national network.
    • You can always ask – if you haven’t heard from top choice yet, you can ask where you are in the process because you have another offer.
    • Be gracious in asking for more information, and for more time. Search Committees take time, the whole process takes time. E.g. “I have an offer from another institution, but I would be very interested in hearing from you.”
  • You are moving with your partner who is also pursuing academic career.
    • Don’t start asking right away – it can create a barrier.
    • You want to be honest. You want to be upfront.  But think about when to say it.
    • Certain states have “anti-nepotism laws” – strict rules about having relatives be in potential positions of power over each other.  Or resource constraints. Research institutional culture/practices – some institutions can be very helpful.
    • Sometimes they find “options”, but they are not options that are desirable for your career.
    • Sometimes you can ask for career services for your spouse.

Things to Bear in Mind:

  • When negotiating, you are starting the beginning of a long term relationship. You want to start on the right foot.  Be objective, be fair, look for a win-win solution (see Steven Convey).  A teaching institution won’t be able to provide a Research I lab space. Know the context in which you are asking.
  • Don’t take it personally. When they throw a number out, don’t get excited or offended. Look at the range you know they use.  It sets your starting point and you move from there. Do not agree on anything right away.
  • Putting your best self forward in negotiation. Word will get around about the “ridiculous” things you are asking for, or how unreasonable, or difficult you’ve been.
  • You have to communicate your sense of value.  But not your value as “better than everyone else”.  Be confident but humble.
  • If you give up too much, it also creates a lesser If you agree too quickly, you are not perceived as strong.  You may end up resenting what others have.


  • Check university websites for benefit packages.
  • Check with your professional society, or with publicly available databases to find out appropriate salary ranges for your field or the institution. Keep in mind years of experience will count.
  • Career Center resource on Academic Career: Salary Negotiation
  • Julia Miller Vick & Jennifer S. Furlong. (2008). Academic Job Search Handbook.
  • Linda Babcock & Sara Laschever. (2009). Ask for It: How Women Can Use Power of Negotiation to Get What They Really Want.

Acknowledgement to the panelists:
Dr. Thelma Madzima, Faculty in Biology, UW Bothell
Dr. Hala Annabi, Faculty in iSchool, UW Seattle
Catherine Basl, UW Career Center


Originally posted on February 11, 2016.