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I was hired as a front-end developer a full semester before I graduated college with a CS-related degree. The director of my program was gracious enough to have my professors allow me to complete my degree from afar. My company is quickly growing, and my responsibilities are also growing. I have done relatively high-profile work in this job for several major brands and recently (last week) received a very good 3-month evaluation. Next month, I graduate with honors from a well-known university in the northeastern United States.

My question is simple: do I have a raise coming when I graduate? I suppose I know that I do, but the question maybe should be, "when can I ask for it, and how much?" The average seems to be between 65,000 and 75,000 (from what I've seen). Obviously I'm not going to be asking for a 25% raise, but what is appropriate for going from year 0 to year 1 and getting my degree?

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From the Related tab: workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/1025/… workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/896/… - should be required reading before continuing. –  Shog9 Nov 20 '12 at 1:20
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in this field you almost never get a real raise until you change jobs, be prepared to leave at some point and don't ever get attached to any one place; not for a long time. –  Jarrod Roberson Nov 20 '12 at 2:00
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Don't sell yourself short. No "percent increase" is too high if it's what you are really worth. –  NickC Nov 20 '12 at 7:54
    
From what I see a lot of front end people tend to hit the lower end of the programming pay scale but I would expect a raise for the degree. Whether your expected range is reasonable depends on your performance, quality of work, grades, degree, and area. A lot of devs around here would make that range without any experience (or more) where as in North Dakota some with experience might get 40k-50k. –  Rig Nov 21 '12 at 6:14
    
Am I the only one that chuckled at OP's username after reading the question? –  Garry Dec 2 '12 at 0:03
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8 Answers

My impression is it has alot to do with your hiring conditions. You've been working there 4 months. I could see this rolling out one of two ways:

  1. They hired you knowing you'd be getting your degree, in fact the offer was even contingent upon it. So you are already getting paid what a college grad would get paid, in their minds, and asking for more will probably get you a funny look.
  2. They hired you for a steal, because you didn't have a degree yet. In which case you should expect to be able to ask for a raise to get the same kind of money your peers getting jobs with degrees in hand are getting. Probably a small degree higher as you've already proven your worth to the company.

I'd say knowing which of these categories you fall into is a big thing to know before you go in asking for a raise. Another way to come at this is to ask about when raises would normally be discussed. That'll give you a clue on how to come at this. Many jobs don't offer raises in the first 6 months to a year by policy, so walking in and demanding a change to the policy may not be so wise. Instead, asking the policy and then gently pointed out that you just finished your undergrad and are now far more marketable is an easier way to go.

In many cases, your boss may be far ahead of you - most of the time for an undergrad, bosses do pay attention and have a way of recognizing your accomplishment worked out ahead of time.

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+1. How much of a raise you should expect has just as much to do with how much you are making now as it does with how much you want. –  fake fake Nov 20 '12 at 18:59
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I'd like to give the company the benefit of the doubt, but in my experience, they don't deserve it. They probably hired you at lower rate to get a steal. Remember, all businesses are in the game to make a profit otherwise they die, which is bad for you (if you work there) and for them. At the same time, if you leave the company, they also loose. They have hiring costs and training costs invested in you and you have part of the company mindshare. They do not want to loose their investment in you.

If I was hiring you, I would bring you in as low as possible. Let's say at 50k. If this your first professional job, you are probably use to making 10 to 15 dollars an hour. That is roughly 30k a year. They offer you 50k a year. That seems like a lot of money to you and you accept.

You graduate with a degree, yes you are worth more, but we started you out at 50k. We'll give you a 10 percent raise. They will give you some line of crap about how a 10 percent raise is almost unheard of in the industry and it's tough times! You can tell them it's not enough and explain to them the average wage is 65k for your position and that you'll cut them a deal and accept 70k. Because that's how good you are. Or you can do what most people do and accept the 10 percent wage and feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

Are you willing to find another job? Your bargaining chip is you leaving. I've seen people ask for a raise and not get it. They leave company and come back a year later taking a higher position and making double their old salary.

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If your market value has increased 25%, then you should ask for a 25% raise. It doesn't matter how much you are currently paid, or how long you have been at that level. The only thing that matters is what someone else will pay for your services. $15,000 means very little to your employer. It would cost them at least that much to replace you.

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There are a few things to consider here.

First - to anyone in the future reading this wondering about similar situations, make sure to talk this over with your employer prior to this situation. Some companies have different policies on this. Some will consider any education received while working as a non-salary changer, some will adjust accordingly. The important thing is to know this in advance. For this particular situation, it's a bit late, but anyone else seeing this - try to determine this ahead of time.

Second - you should talk about this sooner rather than later. It sounds like you are being significantly underpaid compared to market rate for your position and someone with a 4-year degree is. You don't want to find out come January the company isn't going to be able to give you a raise or anything and suddenly be stuck in a low-paying job (well, maybe you do?). You could approach this subject like

  • "Hi Boss, I was getting ready for graduation and something occurred to me - we never talked about how formally receiving my degree will affect my employment here. Will I receive any increase in responsibilities, salary, or is there anything else I should know about?"
  • "Hi Boss, I will be graduating in a few months and will be able to take on more responsibility at work as a result. I was wondering if this will be reflected in my salary?"
  • "Hi Boss, as you know we recently reviewed my performance for the first 3 months and it was very good. I've been able to contribute XXX and YYY in my time so far and will be graduating soon - I know that normal salaries for full-time people in my position are in the $65k - 75k range, is there any chance we would be able to reflect my degree change in my salary?"

Try not to approach things from a "I have a piece of paper pay me more now" perspective but a, "I'm going to be able to add more value than before, can I be compensated more" perspective.

Also read through the related links Shog posted as a comment.

Third - realize your piece of paper DOES make you more valuable. Some companies (admittedly less in the tech industry) care about that 4-year degree piece of paper. This has the effect of increasing your value on the market, as you are aware from your salary search.

If it is a difference of 25% then it is 25%. Just because you might have a job that is only paying 50% market rate right now does not mean you should only ask for a 10% raise. Or whatever the numbers might be.

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I was hired as a front-end developer a full semester before I graduated college with a CS-related degree.

It sounds like you were hired not as an intern (which is usually the way it works before you graduate) but hired contingent on graduating. In other words just hired a few months early.

If this is the case, moving to a higher pay level may have nothing to do with you graduating.

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I wouldn't expect anybody could start at 65K, but a 65-75K upgrade for a proven above-average front end dev at their first year in my market (Chicago) is entirely possible and we've got a pretty low cost of living if you compare to other major US cities.

If there's other client-side devs in the mix evaluating you, I can assure you most don't care about your degree, however, because I'd guess more than half of us don't have a relevant one. If anything I've had a couple interviewers who weren't front-enders say they're starting to see "self-taught" as a plus so make sure you know your stuff.

Very strong JS in particular is becoming highly sought after now that you can pretty much write one web-technology-oriented app that works on damn-near everything with it but if you're more design-oriented there's plenty of interesting career-path options down that road too that I know less about because I can convert a PSD to an HTML/CSS layout but I couldn't design a logo or pick a color scheme to save my life.

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Do you think a degree makes you more valuable to the company? No, don't have a raise coming just because you got a degree.

Now, you may be able to negotiate a raise, but that depends upon how they evaluated your worth when they hired you - if they undervalued you, and you can easily get another job with a higher salary elsewhere, they might renegotiate. But if they took the degree as a given (and with just a few months left they very well have) or simply don't care about it, the only change in your situation is your newly gained experience. That has undoubtably increased your worth, but it is also expected, and it has been just a few months.

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Actually, having a degree can be more valuable to a company, even if the employee does have the same skill sets both before and after the diploma is issued. Some contracts (for example, military and government contracts) can require or take into consideration the credentials (degrees, certifications, etc.) of the employees working on the contract. –  David Kaczynski Nov 20 '12 at 13:43
    
@DavidKaczynski: possible, but I don't believe it applies to the OP. If it did, he would know about it and his question would have been different. But in that case his employer would almost certainly have taken it into account when hiring him, since they would have anticipated his getting it. And, as with the more common case of valuing certificates, the company would have a formal policy on reporting, reimbursement, bonuses and pay increases. It's exteremely unlikely the company values it, but just forgot to mention that fact. –  jmoreno Nov 20 '12 at 16:39
    
@jmoreno: The OP wouldn't necessarily know if their employer's clients pay more for degrees, certifications, etc. In my experience, the companies that go after contracts like David Kaczynski mentions often go out of their way to keep their employees in the dark as to how the clients pay for the services rendered. Sometimes it may be a matter of public record, but even then the detailed facts are often difficult to find. –  GreenMatt Nov 20 '12 at 22:15
    
@GreenMatt: They may hide the details, and you may not know the requirements for any particular contract, but I don't think they can hide the fact that they are using it. If they do, they are likely to miss out on continuing education that would have made them more money, because the employee doesn't report it. There's another question on this site about someone wanting to hide the fact that they are about to get a degree for fear it will negatively impact their job. Guess it's possible, but I expect that most companies who benefit from their employees having a degree, don't hide that fact. –  jmoreno Nov 21 '12 at 6:04
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College degrees hold very little market value in the programming field (at least on the web side of things).

I don't want to be overtly negative about this, but put plainly, it doesn't matter to an employer if you have a degree or not, 99% of the time, in web development.

That being said, I would try for a raise anyways, using this degree as leverage. I have used to a growth in personal knowledge and accomplishments in order to get a raise - and it worked (I even made a post here asking about how to go after said raise). I would say that if you feel you can move on to a better paying job then ask for the raise, if you aren't confident you could get that salary as a new hire somewhere else, then you might not be worth it.

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