Teaching Nomad Guide to Basic Salary Negotiation

Dec 16, 2015

As a teacher who spends most of your time interacting with students, planning lessons, meeting with parents, etc., it can be easy to forget that, with the exception of public schools and not-for-profit organizations, schools are businesses. And like any business, they’d like to keep costs down where they can and this includes teachers’ salaries.

Of course, they have to weigh this against the market rate of a teacher with certain qualifications and experience. This means that there is some grey area around salaries and some room for negotiation. The thought of this can be a little scary for a lot of people, particularly if for people that have never negotiated before.

So here’s how to go about it:

1. The Initial Offer

After you finish your final interview, most schools will send you an email with a contract that contains the terms of your employment, as well as your salary. This is exciting, but take the time to review the details of the contract. Some important things to take note of are the amount of holiday time, bonuses, housing or housing allowances, health insurance, and the hours you’ll work per day.

Some high paying positions are high paying because they have very demanding schedules. Some lower paying positions compensate with great bonus schemes or extra holiday time. If you’re not taking these things into consideration, then you’re setting yourself up for failure and disappointment, because many of these things cost the school money and will affect how much salary they will be willing to offer you.

2. Negotiation

So you’ve taken into account the benefits of the position and you feel you’re worth more than their offer. Time to negotiate! The first thing you’ll need to do is ask them! It might seem obvious but the school will never know that salary was a pertinent factor in your decision to turn down an offer if you don’t at least ask.

Decide why you’re worth more

The best way to go about this is to look at the requirements for the position in the job description and compare them with your own qualifications.

Maybe the position requires 2 years of prior teaching experience and you have 3. You can use that to defend your request for a higher salary! If the position requires experience with IB curriculum and you have it – perfect! Anything that highlights why you’re a great fit for the role is a fantastic way to justify a bump in your salary. If you don’t meet many or any of the requirements for the position, then maybe you should reconsider whether negotiation is appropriate.

Decide how much you want

You’ll also need to decide how much more you’d like to ask for, and again, the job description is your friend here. Look at the salary range advertised in the position, as this will give you some clue as to how much they’ve budgeted for the position.

If the salary they’ve offered is on the high end of the scale, there’s not going to be much more wiggle room. Conversely, if the salary they’ve offered is on the low end, then you know that there’s some good potential for a bump in salary.

There is little point in asking for a salary way above the given salary range, the school will have a budget for all of their teachers and they won’t be able to afford to blow the whole thing on a single teacher. This can also come off as rude if you’re asking for way more than the top end of the advertised salary range.

However, it can also be pertinent to ask for slightly more than you want so that if they make a lower counter offer it will be close to what you want.

3. Asking

Now comes the asking. The most important thing is to do so politely and professionally, there’s no point getting super aggressive or rude, remember you’re trying to work with these people! A polite message will allow you to gracefully accept the original offer if they can’t or won’t raise your salary, should you still want to.

An email will allow you to word things properly and avoid any miscommunication that might take place over the phone or in person if you’re nervous.

For example:

“Dear Mr./Ms. Principal,

I wanted to start by thanking you for your offer. I really enjoyed speaking with you, and I’m very excited about the opportunity to work at _________ School. I’ve reviewed the terms of your contract, and I wanted to ask if there is some room to negotiate my salary? I am aiming to make at least $________ with my next position. Would a salary at this level be possible with YY School? I feel that given my extensive experience with ________ and my qualification in __________ I more than meet the requirements of the role and will bring a wealth of __________ knowledge to YY School.

Warm Regards,

Ms. Smith

No professional organization is going to take offense or retract your offer for trying to negotiate, so long as you go about it in a polite, professional manner. Any organization that does react in this way is likely one you don’t want to be working for anyway, so you can consider yourself lucky to have dodged a bullet!

4. The Counter-Offer

The school will respond to this in one of three ways: 

a. Make you a new offer with the salary you requested (Woo!)

If they give you the salary you asked for, it’s time to accept the offer. Most organizations will not look kindly on a second round of negotiation when they’ve given you everything that you asked for in the first round. You’ll come off as greedy or like you don’t really want the job. Not a good look for anyone, least of all a teacher.

b. They’ll tell you that an increased salary isn’t possible

If they tell you a salary increase isn’t possible, then it’s time to consider how badly you want the position. Sometimes it can be worthwhile to consider a position where you’re underpaid if it’s going to present you with the right career opportunities. It might be worth it to do this if later on, you’ll have the ability to take on a much higher paying position at a different school or if there are opportunities for advancement within the school that you’re considering.

It’s also a good idea to consider how much time is left before the start of the school year. It’s much harder to secure a specific position in the middle of the school year than at the start. If it’s March or April, you have plenty of time to find a new position, if it’s July or August, then the recruiting season is coming to a close, and it’s unlikely you’ll get many more offers before September.

If you’ve weighed out these factors and you still feel the opportunity is not worth it, then don’t be afraid to politely decline. You never know when you might interview with the same principal or hiring manager at a different school further along in your career. If you leave them hanging without a response, they’ll remember it. If the school really wants you and has the ability to make it work, then they’ll quickly make you another offer, but if not, this particular opportunity may not be for you.

c. They’ll make you a new offer somewhere between the original amount and the amount you requested, or they’ll offer you some other less quantifiable benefits

This is probably the trickiest outcome, as you’ll need to be the judge of whether the increase in salary or benefits is sufficiently close to what you asked for to clinch the deal for you. If it’s not, then you can simply proceed as if they hadn’t increased your offer at all and hope that they change their minds and increase your offer. If it is, then it’s time to sign the contract and get ready for your new job!

Still looking for your perfect overseas teaching position? Check out our job board to find the teaching job that’s right for you.


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