*Couldn't think of a better title. Suggestions?

If a student pursuing a degree in a highly technical field has already completed all of their upper division coursework, and the only courses seperating the student from graduating are a senior project and some 100-level introductory science courses in another field that are a requirement, can they make their salary request based on an entry level full time salary of a graduate instead of a part-time intern?

For instance, experience aside, suppose an average person with a particular degree makes $50,000 out of college. However, an intern (at any class level) makes $20 per hour. Not considering taxes, 50K is $4100 per month or $26 per hour at 40 hours per week. Say the student wants to make $26 per hour, but only part time while taking a reduced class load. Assuming they are not applying as a full-time employee, can they base their justification for a higher salary / hourly rate based on graduate salaries?

*Work experience can play a big factor here, so let's assume none. The company is getting a fresh student with an essentially "complete" collegiate-level academic experience.

UPDATE: Based on the answers provided, indicating that I will be in the same 'experience boat' whether I graduate now or not, it doesn't actually seem to make much of a difference. While one may be able to start working full time after graduating, depending on the students' workload and the employer, it may be possible to swap the two semesters.

  • 1
    FWIW, I wouldn't consider the degree "essentially complete" if the senior project is not done.
    – cdkMoose
    Sep 8, 2016 at 18:10
  • There are two sections to the senior projdct (one individual, one group), and only one remains. It will not take 'the entire senior year' to complete. Compared to the amount of work already done, the senior project is but the width of a human hair (in my ungraduated opinion).
    – user58446
    Sep 8, 2016 at 18:27

1 Answer 1


You can always ASK and try to negotiate. But in general, I think most employers look at the degree.

(a) It's way easier. Do you have a degree, yes or no, and what is it in? End of discussion. If they have to evaluate what classes you've completed and what you haven't, that's a lot of work. If they've got a hundred applicants, they don't have time to go through that with all of them. They want to run down a list and say degree, no degree, degree, degree, no degree, etc.

(b) Why don't you have the diploma? Are you trying to get a job while you finish the degree requirements? Or did you drop out or quit? If you dropped out, why? The obvious suspicion to the employer's mind will be that you couldn't cut it.

And I'm not quite clear from your question, but maybe (c) You're unlikely to get the hourly rate of a full-time employee while working part-time. If someone working 40 hours per week in this job typically gets $50,000, it doesn't follow that someone working 20 hours per week will get $25,000. They'll almost certainly get less. You spend some time learning company procedures, what's going on for any particular project, and with administrative trivia. Those times aren't halved if you only work 20 hours, so someone working 40 hours should usually get more than twice as much done as someone who works 20 hours.

  • 25,000 per year at 20 hours per week is only 20 per hour. In most metropolitan areas, any one other than a student receiving significant financial assistance (loans, living at home, etc.) would be hard pressed to live (dare I say) minimally but comfortably. This could be supplemented by more hours, say 30 per week, but the hourly rate would remain the same. I understand this may not be the company's priority, nor is it their responsibility to provide above market rate for this reason. Skills are skills. But this should (help) drive the market rate.
    – user58446
    Sep 8, 2016 at 10:00
  • But if I am going to raise this issue, I wanted to know if it was a) appropriate b) valid c) going to make them laugh in my face.
    – user58446
    Sep 8, 2016 at 10:06
  • I'm with Jay on this one. A decade ago, while trying to break into my career of choice, I got the same answers from recruiters and interviewers - No degree, no experience, no job. It was really quite frustrating. I could show my non professional experience, things I'd learned, but that incredibly expensive piece of paper is all important. If they will hire you on part time - take it and parlay that into a full time gig once you've completed your degree. Sep 8, 2016 at 14:25
  • 1
    I don't know about laughing in your face, but "yes I don't have a degree or any experience but I want to make as much money as you'd pay someone who does" isn't likely to be an effective negotiation ploy. When I was in college I lived on way less than $25,000 per year. Just found some statistics that say that 25% of Americans make less than $25,000 per year. (2012 so add a little for inflation.) Not to be a downer, but I think you may just have to accept that things will be tight until you graduate. That's just real life.
    – Jay
    Sep 8, 2016 at 16:32
  • I agree, to most employers, without the piece of paper, it never happened.
    – Kilisi
    Sep 8, 2016 at 21:11

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