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Question – What should I expect from my first salary?

Heading into your first role? Our career coach looks at the various factors that can affect your salary and says it’s best to research for your own needs.

Question: What’s a normal salary to expect in your first role? Ginny, London 

Salaries vary wildly, so there is no generic answer to this question. Your task is to do some research to figure out what a normal salary would be for you.

Average salaries

The big factors that influence average salaries are industry and location.

This article from Luminate is a good summary of average graduate salaries by industry and location.

Organisations in the same sector have to compete with each other for candidates, but there can still be big variations in salary depending upon their pay structures. Sites like Glassdoor and LinkedIn (click on ‘Jobs’ and then ‘Salary’) can give you some insights at organisation level, as can reviewing job boards and talking to people in work already.

Your individual salary

But of course your salary will also be individual, based on your perceived value to the employer. This is influenced by your experience and qualifications, the job role you’re going for, and (to a lesser extent) your negotiation skills.

If you’re a student, you can get more granular detail to inform your expectations on the Government’s Discover Uni website – look up the information on graduate earnings for your course.


When it comes to negotiating, there are a couple of considerations novices often forget:

There will be a budget attached to the vacancy, and it’s very unlikely that the hiring manager can exceed that budget, so be reasonable. Base your negotiation on research, using the links above as well as networking with people working in similar roles

There’s more to your compensation than salary. Factor in things like pension contributions, vacation, training budgets, gym memberships, and other non-monetary benefits.

Talk about ‘interests’ rather than ‘positions’. Interests are easier to address. For example, “I have expenses involved in relocating” is an interest, and could be addressed with a starting bonus, or other forms of practical assistance like temporary accommodation, or time off for moving home. “I won’t work for less than £40k” is a fixed position, and if the hiring manager can’t pay that salary, there’s no solution…

Decision making

When it comes to choosing between paths, you should also consider:

Future prospects. How fast is your salary likely to increase? What other options does the role open up for you?

Logistics and lifestyle. How much will you need to spend on travel, rent, bills and tax? How much time will you spend at work? Time spent commuting? Think about how much money you’ll have left for discretionary spending each month, and how much time you’ll have to spend it.

Motivation and fulfilment. Research tells us that money is only a very short-term motivating factor. Considerations such as the people you work with, the content of your job and the values of the organisation play a much bigger role in how satisfied people are with their jobs over the long-term.

In summary

There’s a huge range of entry level salaries. Do your research to determine what’s achievable for you given the industry and job roles you are targeting. But don’t forget there’s more to compensation than salary, and there’s more to work than compensation…