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I Make $46,000 As A Social Worker — & I Struggled In Hourly Jobs For Years

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In our series Salary Stories , women with long-term career experience open up about the most intimate details of their jobs: compensation. It’s an honest look at how real people navigate the complicated world of negotiating, raises, promotions, and job loss, with the hope it will give young women more insight into how to advocate for themselves — and maybe take a few risks along the way.

Been in the workforce for at least eight years and interested in contributing your salary story? Submit your information here.

Previously, we talked to a tech associate program manager in San Francisco, a graphic designer in Miami, and a marketing manager in Chicago.

In 2019 women are still fighting the gender wage gap. On average, women are paid 80 cents for every dollar that a man earns. The wage gap for Black women is considerably steeper; Black women make 61 cents for every dollar paid to white men. Today is Black Women’s Equal Pay Day — the exact date is selected each year based on the day that Black women achieve pay parity with men.

Age: 29

Current Location: Raleigh, NC

Current Industry & Title: Nonprofit, Family Engagement Specialist

Starting Salary: $12/hour in 2011

Current Salary: $46,000

Number Of Years Employed: 8

Biggest Salary Jump: From $35,000 to $46,000 in 2019

Biggest Salary Drop: No big salary drops.

Biggest Salary Negotiation Regret: "I wish I had negotiated my salary from my first job after graduate school. I was so excited to have an offer within the first two weeks of graduation that I did not consider asking for more. I was worth more and should have come in higher than the starting."

Best Salary-Related Advice: "Always ask for more and ask for more than what you actually want. The worst that could happen is the company/organization saying no, and that's okay."

"This was the first job I had while finishing up school. I had independent study classes for two years, and that allowed me to work almost full-time. I worked around 30 hours a week at $12 an hour for a property management company. I was also a private sitter for the owners of this company and made more money outside of the office job. I had a flexible schedule and one-hour lunch, received a 50% discount at their other businesses, and received a cash bonus for Christmas every year. This job came with a 401(K), health, dental, and vision. I did not negotiate my salary for this job. I was asked to fill in because the original assistant quit, and I had free time. I ended up staying there for almost two years."

"This was a job that I thought I would have just for a few weeks. I never saw myself working in a restaurant. The manager at the time heard I was going back to graduate school and offered me this job, saying they would work around my class schedule.

"I started off with less money than my previous job, and I worked more hours. I stayed at this job for five years, until 2019, going between full-time and part-time, depending on my class schedule and, later, my work schedule with my full-time job. I was living at home with my mom at this time and did not have many expenses.

"With each new general manager who came in, I negotiated an increase in my salary, and I was able to get each one. My final salary when I left this job in April of this year was $14/hour."

"This was my first job in the social work arena. It was at a nonprofit that worked to find mentors for children. I found this job through someone I knew from undergrad. I mentioned I was looking for a job, briefly explained what I was interested in, and they suggested a few organizations. This was the only one that contacted me for an interview.

"I did not stay at this job long — it was such a negative work environment. Many of my coworkers were overworked and underpaid. Several people left while I was there. Most of my coworkers just complained all day, and I was not used to being in an environment where people were not happy. I worked 40 hours a week, so my annual salary would have been around $27,040 a year. But this job taught me what I did not want in a future career. I stayed for about two months and put my two weeks' notice in."

"This was a contract position at a local government social services agency. My mom worked for the same government agency in a different department and referred me to this job. I was a case manager for Economic Services, and I helped to determine if families were eligible for benefits. I also helped to fix any errors that were made on cases that would cause someone's benefits to stop without notice.

"I still worked my part-time job, because I wanted to make as much money as I could before starting graduate school in August 2015. This position was originally offered at $12 an hour. But I negotiated my salary for this job, because it only required a high school diploma and that you spoke English. And at that time I had my bachelor's degree, and my Spanish was considered to be moderate. (Spanish was my minor for undergrad, and I did study abroad.)"

"This job was offered to me when I started graduate school because of my past resident assistant experience in undergrad. I took the job because it gave me free housing and allowed me to work around my schedule.

"I was responsible for a building of juniors, seniors, and athletes. I also provided early-intervention strategies to students who were on the verge of flunking out. If a student's GPA dropped below a certain level, they would lose their housing, and the goal was to help students get back on track so they could stay in school. But this job became overwhelming with my school load, and I ended up leaving after a few months."

"Man, I've had so many job changes, lol. This was a brand new nonprofit that was just getting started. I loved this position. It was flexible, I made my own schedule, I could often work remotely, and it allowed me to be creative. I hosted workshops, educated parents on their rights with regard to the local school system, organized community events, and helped to create policies for the organization. I did a bit of everything — there were only five people employed at the time. I did not negotiate my salary, and I was happy with this position. I ended up interning for this group in graduate school."

"This was my first job after graduate school. It was at the same local social services department I was at before. I had originally left because of graduate school, and the organization was not flexible. But I returned because I knew I could get hired, and the benefits were GREAT! I was so thankful to have benefits again (prior to this, I was paying for my own health insurance, which left me with barely any money).

"My role this time around was very similar to before. I determined if people were eligible for government benefits. But I was promoted while in this position to mentor (for new employees) within a few months. I became a team lead within the first six months of being hired.

"However, because it's the government, there was no salary increase for each new job responsibility. I worked a ton of overtime to make ends meet, which meant my checks were AMAZING! But I was exhausted. There was a 3% raise that everyone got for the new year, so I made 51 cents more.

"It's interesting, because I was great at this job and had the best reviews, but I was miserable. It was very data-driven, and I wanted to get back to working with children instead of adults."

"My current position. I found this because I am best friends with someone higher up in the organization. They told me about this spot, and that they wanted me there. I was asked to email my résumé and cover letter. It took a couple of months, but I was called for an interview and eventually received an offer.

"I negotiated my salary for this job. The position only requires a bachelor's, and I earned my master's in 2017. I was also going to be commuting in this position, so it needed to be worth it. I asked for $45,000 (but was willing to take $40,000) and received a call saying they wanted to give me $46,000, because I was worth it. Y'all, I cried when I got off the phone. I was so overwhelmed, because I had worked so hard, at multiple jobs at the same time for so long, and this salary would no longer require me to do that. Now I live in an apartment by myself.

"I love my job. I am a social worker, and I get to work with families and children ages birth to five. Since I've been here, which is not long, I've spearheaded the creation of an intern program. I supervise the interns that will now come in, lead classes at seminars, and run the social media account. I also found out that I make about $10,000 more than my coworkers, so I feel truly blessed to be in the position that I am in and to be offered so many opportunities."

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