Each spring, as a new crop of college graduates hits the streets looking for that perfect job opportunity, many of them often start their search with unrealistic salary expectations.  In particular, students who graduate from the “top tier” schools are frequently led to believe that they are worth more than most employers are willing to pay new graduates of any college or university.

What is so often never mentioned is that it’s the employer who gets to decide what the job is worth to his or her company.  It’s not unusual for large companies to hire a “class” of brand new college grads for a fixed number of entry-level positions for which the salary has already been set.  Why is that?  Because most entry-level positions are essentially “earn while you learn” jobs!  Employers know that a predictable percentage of the new grads aren’t going to make the cut, so to speak, after the initial training period.  If they hire twenty new grads, for instance, they know only ten of them will be left at the end of the training period.  It’s those ten who are promoted to essentially permanent jobs within the organization.

As a result of this process, entry-level salaries ordinarily pay what they pay and there is no room for salary negotiation by candidates for those positions, regardless of what they may have been told in college about their potential value to an employer.

The only positions that have salary ranges attached to them are in fields that are highly specialized, such as sound and vibration engineers, just to mention a comparably rare sort of engineer.  New grads with degrees in this handful of highly specialized fields do have some room for salary negotiations, but it will usually be limited to negotiating within the salary band already established by the prospective employer.

The keys to being able to negotiate salary are actual work experience and job performance, neither of which brand new grads usually have.