Whether you’re waiting on your first nursing job or planning to make a career shift, there are two things nurses should know about salary and benefits. The first is that you have more negotiating power than you realize (we’ll get to how to use it later) and the second is, before you negotiate anything, have a grasp on your personal and professional goals.
You want a competitive salary, but there are a number of other benefits to consider in the negotiation process, so don’t necessarily be sold on the highest offer when looking for a nursing job. Health facilities can offer a plethora of benefits including, medical, dental and vision insurance, short- and long-term disability insurance, retirement benefits, and life insurance. Based on your position in life, you may also consider family leave, gym memberships, or on-site childcare a major benefit.
One of the most important nurse benefits, especially for those in the first phase of their career, is tuition assistance. Higher education isn’t cheap, so many hospitals and other organizations are willing to help foot the bill for college in exchange for your commitment to stay with their facility. This is a major negotiating tool, because some organizations may offer upwards of $15,000 a year for college, while others cap out at $5,000.
Tuition Assistance vs. Tuition Remission
Be sure to ask if the hospital offers tuition assistance or tuition remission – they are not one in the same. Tuition remission is typically secured before the school semester starts and is the employer’s agreement to pay tuition fees up to a certain amount. Most employers require a set tenure with the organization before you can take advantage of the benefit.
Tuition assistance is the payment of certain college courses by your employer. In most cases, the courses must focus on the employee’s desired specialty and must be approved before taking.
Cash for school isn’t the only negotiating element when it comes to continued education.
A determined nursing candidate may present to her future employer that she should be allowed to return to school sooner than the typical wait time. A driven attitude may get a nursing candidate a six month wait time rather than the typical one to two years before being eligible for tuition remission.
Tuition assistance may also be available for the nurse’s child or life partner. Use either of these benefits as negotiating tools to make the position more lucrative.
Readying For Retirement
Ask your potential employers about benefits offered for retirement, specifically how much the organization matches when you contribute to your 401K. Over the course of your career, a 3% versus a 6% match contribution can make a huge difference. Also, ask about retirement planning. Many organizations provide financial retirement counseling to their employees through the partnering financial institution.
Which Nursing Job Is Better?
For nurses who have multiple job offers on the table, it’s best to create a list that compares the benefits of each employer. The nurse salary offered by one may be higher, but the benefits package supplied by another could include $15,000 in tuition costs. Layout the benefits of each offer and compare them to your goals.
Benefits play a vital role in choosing the right nursing job, so don’t hesitate to ask direct questions about issues that matter to you. You’ll want all the facts before committing to a particular organization.
If you’re considering changing jobs, don’t propose a benefit to a potential employer that wouldn’t actually make you leave your current job. If you present your desired salary and benefits package, be certain those things are exactly what it will take to bring you on board and follow through with your commitment.