Seeing this question about how to negotiate a better salary in a job offer (and many others related, but for what I judged, not exactly matching), it made me think about a soon to happen situation when I'll be expecting a significant raise to my salary, but which would be negotiated. This question is specifically for a case when I'm already employed to a company I'll be negotiating with.
Further explanation about the background:
I've been working in the company along my studies for +4 years, and am about to graduate with a master's degree in the near future. The 4 years have included around 1,5 years of full-time work and the rest as a part-timer. My duties have varied and included e.g. independent project/task handling, consulting, mentoring, administration and testing with around 5 major technologies often involving other technologies in a lesser role. I don't have previous working experience from the field prior to this job.
When I graduate, my daily work won't change in any manners, as the current project is scheduler to last at least a year more. The role is rather crucial within the customer's domain and I've received a lengthy training and orientation for this task.
The company has a rather strict policy for titles with a generally shallow hierarchy. In a nutshell, I'm expected to be a trainee until a final degree is achieved, and in the next-level position until 5-8 years of experience, etc. So there's also expected to be a change of title.
My salary started with a really low level. Ever since it has doubled to what could be expected at my level of studies, but what likely still could be extended based on the already proven experience.
Around a year ago, we renewed the contract, which seemed like something both me and the HR person considered self-evident to happen. At that time, I attempted to negotiate my title change as my last year of studies was to begin and there was already a sufficient amount of results shown through several projects, but this was rejected. Also, something around the following lines was included in the conversation:
Me: Being a trainee and working with our notable customers has caused some confusion in them, as to why I don't have to offer a business card and why I'm being the responsible for their project's [responsibility area].
HR: This is a bit tough and a special situation... If you feel like this could be an issue with your current or upcoming projects, we can think about you using a title suitable in the customer's environment, although your title in our company wouldn't still change.
I left the conversation to that, and we haven't had to use this, but the example I gave about the customer's comments were an honest description of what I had experienced.
Also to add is that I feel like my company's salary-standards are somewhat behind the country's (/ city's) general level of the same field. Combining this to the fact that I'm only now starting to work under the title I've been doing already for a while, I'm expecting to be offered the base-level salary for the employees of this position. Personally I feel this isn't sufficient to my competence-level, and I know my colleagues with ~1 year of work experience and a bachelor's degree as their final degree work under this title (supposedly with the base-salary).
I know I could risk things and stand undisputed with my request, but as of now (say, at least for 6 months) I can't afford losing a job. Additionally I feel like letting out a (clear) overprice to have some room for a negotiation feels even more risky. On the other hand, as hinted above, I'm confident my company would gladly like to hold on to me. I would expect a next negotiation to be held in around 2 years from here, but at first hand when I request one.
Which finally gets us to my question:
I feel like I'm worth of more than the base salary of the title X I'd be expecting to get promoted to. How can I negotiate my salary up, when I can't really afford to risk my job?
I don't feel like I'm able to judge whether I'm expecting too much or if there's a pure possibility for being a frontrunner in this negotiation.