The first thing people think about when they hear the word “compensation” is salary–and for good reason. Your paycheck will influence everything from where you live to what kind of car you drive and where you go on vacation.

Even if you know what others at the same company are receiving for the position you’ve been offered, that won’t tell you if your potential salary is high or low for the industry or the area of the country in which you’ll be living. Other sources for getting comparative data:

  • Online databases, such as or 
  • Your school’s career center (which should have salary surveys and other information)
  • Private career counselors (who will likely charge for the service)
  • Industry or professional organizations (which usually perform yearly salary surveys and will provide results free of charge)

Once you know what the average is for the position you’ve been offered, you can use cost-of-living comparisons to determine how much more (or less) it costs to live in your area of the country. This is information you can use when you begin negotiating with your prospective employer.