Salary advice for a new graduate

Hi everyone! I'm about to graduate with a Master's degree in Educational Technology and have started applying for jobs. During my Master's program, I discovered that I have a passion and talent for e-learning, so I'm focusing my search on jobs in that area. However, since all of the e-learning projects I've created so far have been for school (with the exception of one project I did for an internship in the fall), I'm a little unsure about how to answer the salary question.

Using the eLearning Guild's salary calculator, for my level of education, experience, etc. I get a benchmark salary of $82,000. According to the Guild's 2016 US Salary Report, I'm in the second highest paid city (Los Angeles, average salary of $98,130) for the e-learning industry, but still, $82K seems much higher than I expected for someone right out of school. Is that really an accurate salary projection for someone just starting out with a Master's degree, or would I scare a potential employer off with that figure? Also, what would be an appropriate hourly rate for contract jobs?

8 Replies
Natane Chomicki

Just to throw a couple of other numbers in the mix, indeed has $54K listed as the average for "E-learning Instructional Designer", and Simply Hired has $60K listed as the average for "E-learning Developer". Those are more in line with what I expected. Does anyone know if those figures are more accurate than the eLearning Guild's calculation?

Kara Sordelett

Hi Natane,

Welcome to the eLearning world! I also entered the field with a Master's degree, but in Technical Communication. During my time in the industry, I have checked my salaries to the eLearning Guild and am always blown away by what it says I should make versus what I do make. 

While you are coming in with the educational experience, I think the $60K mark would be a good starting point, especially being in Los Angeles. However, the best piece of advice I can offer you is to always put "negotiable" on your applications, if asked, and allow the company to make the first salary offer (which usually occurs when they are extending a job offer). You'll have room for negotiations later if you feel that the salary is too low. But keep in mind, PTO and benefits can factor into a low or high salary. 

Regarding contract work- I'm not going to have the best information for you - sorry!

Good luck with your job search!

Andrew Winner

Hey Natane!! Congrats on the Master's degree and getting out into the workforce. 

I do think the $82 range is attainable, especially in the LA area. If you're going to be working at, say, a bank or another company with significant resources, they'll be able to meet that salary. And I think Kara's advice is very strong -- ask the recruiter or HR rep to give the salary range before you say what you're looking for.

Most recruiters are very cool about this -- they want to know if they can meet the candidate's salary range sooner rather than later. (Sadly, though, not all recruiters/companies do this -- they'll make you go through the entire hiring process, just to low-ball you at the end. It happens.) 

Above and beyond salary/benefits, though, I think it might be good for you to join a small team with some more experienced designers that can help you learn some tricks of the trade. Getting stronger as a designer will really help you negotiate a higher salary in the future. (And, tbh, a choosing a position with a short commute would be near the top of my list in LA.)  

Good luck!! 

Bob S

Congrats, Natane.

Something I hear on the Talent Acquisition side...   Education gets you an interview, experience gets you the job. So polish up that portfolio, be prepared to explain how your experiences (in school or otherwise) have prepared you for the role, and remember to think/speak in terms of the business problem you can solve for them.... not just all the great stuff you know how to do.

Good luck and sure you are going to do great!

Natane Chomicki

Above and beyond salary/benefits, though, I think it might be good for you to join a small team with some more experienced designers that can help you learn some tricks of the trade. Getting stronger as a designer will really help you negotiate a higher salary in the future. (And, tbh, a choosing a position with a short commute would be near the top of my list in LA.) 

Thank you, that was my thinking as well, so I've been focusing on job openings where I will have the opportunity to learn and grow as part of a team. 

And yes, the commute will definitely be a factor in any decision I make when I get a job offer! It would be a dream to work somewhere along the subway line so I wouldn't have to drive. I was able to do that for my internship and loved it! 

Natane Chomicki

Thanks for the advice! I actually spent a week at the end of the quarter updating and making improvements to my website, portfolio, and resume, so I'm prepared on that end. I've also had a phone interview with a company for contract work, which gave me some real-world practice talking about my experience and what I can bring to the table. Earlier this week an ATD webinar on "Articulating Your Value in the Workplace" introduced me to using the STAR Technique to communicate your value to an organization, so I think that approach will help me do even better in the next interview!