One thing that many academics hitting the job market overlook is the importance of negotiating the initial offer made by the interested institutions. (Historically, women and people of color are much less likely to negotiate for that few extra grand.) What I want to stress is how important this becomes in the long run. Let’s suppose the offer is $45,000 per year and you just take that. Assuming a 2% increase per year after twenty years, you will be earning $66,867.63 (this only factors in annual raises and not raises based upon increased seniority). Your colleague that hits the market the same year, but is just a little more aggressive at negotiating the starting salary, negotiates her initial salary up to $48,000. After twenty years, she is making $71,325.48.
So what? She’s only making roughly $4,500 more per year? Take the long view, though, and you get a different picture. In that amount of time, she has earned $77,349.95 more than she would have had she just taken the initial offer. Obviously, the difference in lifetime earnings only gets greater when you consider that most academics stay in there jobs for closer to 35 years rather than 20. In that case, she has earned $155,983.10 just because she negotiated for an additional $3,000 more than what she was offered.
Universities and colleges go into the hiring process expecting that there will be some negotiation. They work with budgets in the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars. The three thousand dollars you’re negotiating is a very small matter to them, but, as the calculations above show, they’re a huge deal for you. Keep the long term in mind, and ask for a higher starting salary. The worst they can say is “no,” but not asking that question may end up costing you hundreds of thousands of dollars.