How To Determine if You are Paid a Fair Wage

If you are like many employees, asking for what you’re worth is one of the most difficult parts of looking for—and staying at—a job. For a lot of people, when the subject of the interview shifts to compensation, it becomes an awkward topic.

Employees can become nervous when it comes to discussing the matter of pay, and not without good reason. You’re probably wondering: Could I be making more money? If I ask for too much, will I price myself out and lose the job? Am I making the same amount as other people who work for this company and do similar work?

With all of these nagging questions, most job seekers broach the subject of pay with some trepidation, but that doesn’t need to be the case. You should approach payment just as you would any other aspect of looking for a job. The trick is to go in knowing your value.

In a free market, value is determined by supply and demand. What is the demand for your skills? Are there many people who can do what you do? You’ll have to answer these questions before you can determine if you are being paid fairly and this article will help you determine if the wage you have been offered is a fair one.

Evaluate your skills

Each one of the skills you bring to the table has value. While you may have landed the job based on the specific training you have, there are many other ways to make yourself invaluable to a company.

Evaluate all the ways that the company you work for makes use of your particular skills and abilities. Especially if you are working for a small business, where everyone is doing several different jobs worth of work, having the ability to wear many hats for a company can make you indispensable.

This will increase your value in the eyes of your employers.

The trick is to think of yourself as a salesperson; the products you are selling are your own skills, and your customer is your employer. If you aren’t completely sure what skills you have and where to apply them, consult a career center for help.

Do salary search

Many career center websites, such as, have a salary search function where you can compare the wages earned by other people in similar positions to your own. Do a little bit of research; check the career center websites, but also just do some basic Google searches to see if you can discover what people that do the work you do are usually paid.

Keep in mind that there are many factors that affect the wages you can earn. For example, a small business will usually not pay the same as a large corporation. For this reason, comparing wages based on a website is not a perfect metric; however, it can be a good jumping off point.

Consider benefits

When you’re trying to determine if you are being paid according to your value, you also need to consider the benefits offered by a potential employer. Sometimes the pay may seem low compared to similar positions at other companies, but there may be a great benefit package.

Similarly, the take home pay may seem great, but at the expense of benefits such as dental and medical care. You’ll have to weigh how important a good benefits package is to you.

If you’re a young, single professional, having great health insurance may not be as important to you as if you have a family to care for.

You’ll also want to consider factors like time off; do you value having a lot of vacation days in the year? If so, that’s worth taking into account when looking at your compensation, rather than just numbers on a paycheck.

Think about growth

You might not be making as much as you’d like when you’re just starting out at a company. Nevertheless, it might be worth sticking around if you have the potential to grow within the business. When accepting a job, think about factors such as upward mobility.

If you take this job, can you move up through the ranks relatively quickly, and earn more money in the process? If so, perhaps it’s a job worth considering. Similarly, if a job has a high starting salary, but nowhere to go from there, perhaps it’s not the best decision for you in the long term.

Do you like the job?

Another thing you must take into account, beyond the monetary factor, is if this is a job you can do long-term. Too often, workers accept jobs for a high wage only to discover that their stress level goes through the roof.

You’ll want to think about whether this is a job you can go to every day while maintaining your mental well-being. If it’s not, a higher paycheck doesn’t really matter.

Consider other factors that affect your take home at the end of the day, as well; for example, the commute. If you have to drive an hour to get to work, that’s two hours out of every day that you are on the road (and more if there’s traffic!) Is that worth making a little extra money if you’re not willing to relocate. Sometimes, your best option is to take the lower stress job with the shorter commute, even if the salary is a little less.

Further research

If, after reading this article, you still aren’t sure what you should be being paid, schedule a meeting at your local career center. With help from a professional, you can make a careful evaluation of exactly how much money you are worth and get tips on how to negotiate for a fair wage. They will also help you search for local job openings in your field and point you to places where you can train your skills further, thus increasing your value.