Why you need to understand what you are worth

The starting salary sets the standard for how much you can expect to increase in salary in the future. We guide you to the best possible starting point when you get ready for that first salary negotiation.



“DKK 33,000 a month and of course you get a computer on top of that”. The words come from your new boss, who is sitting across from you. You think about the student life style you just waved goodbye to, add it together with the money from the student job you interspersed between reading and appointments with friends. And your computer is actually a bit sluggish.

“That sounds very reasonable”, you say. “Deal”, comes the prompt reply from your boss. You both leave the job interview satisfied, but you have most likely cheated yourself out of thousands of kroner every month. Money that is difficult to negotiate home for your next salary interview.

Get off to a good start

The above is an imaginary example, but a study indicates that it is probably not far from reality. Among students in the field of STEM, both men and women aim too low when they are asked what they think they can get in starting salary.

Women in particular underestimate their market value. One of the many challenges is that you may have already got the job, and it is not until the moment you have the contract in hand you do discover that the salary is quite low. It can be difficult as a fresh graduate to stand out to the boss and say that you would like to add more to the salary.

”You risk that you accept the offer they come up with without negotiating, and then you place yourself too low on the salary level” Nicole Sander Jensen, legal adviser at IDA, says.

The first negotiation sets the direction of one’s salary many years ahead. According to the adviser’s experience, it is very difficult to catch up on what was neglected in the subsequent interviews if you have started too low.

”Private workplaces have a salary pool that must be distributed between the employees, so there is not much to give away,” Nicole Sander Jensen adds.

How do I know what the right salary is?

Putting a price on your own labor can be challenging. After all, we live in the land of Jante´s Law, and if we are taught to not to toot our own horn, it can be quite tricky to demand a high salary. For internationals, add to the fact, that this might be the first time, that you are exposed to the Danish working life and culture, which is a whole other subset of learning to take into consideration.

But pricing is ultimately a matter of supply and demand. Also when it comes to your workforce. And although it can be difficult as a recent graduate to know exactly what you can actually offer a specific company, it is important to ask yourself the following question: What can my skills and my profile offer this department? And how difficult is it to attract the type of labor that I can provide? You must bring that knowledge to the interview, and show that you have done your preparatory work. Show that you know what you’re worth.


Video: 5 tips for your first salary negotiation

A good start is to look at IDA´s salary calculators that all IDA members have access to. Here, you get a sense of where you are on the salary scale. And then you must be aware that the negotiation can come at different times in the hiring process.

“There are no rules for when salary enters the talk. It can be the first, second or third interview that the employer asks about your salary expectations, so it is important that you come prepared to the very first meeting,” says Nicole Sander Jensen.


When in doubt, use IDA

You can always use your trade union to check that you are in control of your legal rights during a salary negotiation. IDA’s lawyers ensure that you are well prepared for your salary negotiation and that your future contract complies with applicable law.

Contact IDA´s legal counselling.


Your salary will vary according to education, graduation date, geography and industry. Therefore, you can also use the Salary Compass to see what you can expect in salary. The Salary Compass is a forecasting tool, which takes the calculated salary as its starting point and projects the salary so that it matches the development in IDA’s indicative starting salary. Try various parameters and see what happens when you change industry or geography.

Try IDA´s Salary Compass.


You can also compare and assess whether the salary you are aiming for matches what others in similar positions earn with IDA’s salary calculator. These are actual numbers in the sector or industry, you are interested in.

Prøv IDAs lønberegner.


Video: Determine your market value

IDA´s tips before the salary negotiation

  • Use IDA’s tools, such as the Salary compass and IDA Salary Calculator, so you can get an overview of, what other members in similar positions earn.
  • Don’t accept the first and best offer.
  • Start the salary negotiation yourself. Instead of waiting for your potential manager to come up with a plan, take the lead and show action. It is easier to slack off on your own bid than to try to get the boss’s bid up.
  • Salary can take many shapes and forms. If there is no more to be gained from the salary itself, you can advantageously ask about other options: further education, extra holiday or paid internet at home, socalled fringe benefits. The possibilities are many.
  • IDA has an indicative minimum salary for newly qualified civil engineers, diploma engineers and bachelors. Check out our