Are you thinking of accepting a job in the Windy City? Evaluating an offer or trying to decide on a salary range to ask for? Negotiating a salary is a difficult and uncomfortable task, which is only further complicated if you’re unfamiliar with the city you’re evaluating. There are a few things you should know before accepting a job here, including the average salary in Chicago.

 

Use a cost of living calculator

If you’re relocating to Chicago from another city and aren’t sure what a comparable salary in your area might be, try using a cost of living calculator. The calculator allows you to input your current city and salary as well as the city you’d like to live in. It will then give you a comparable salary in that city to your current one. You’ll be able to see the relative costs of expenses like housing, transportation, and food. Of course, this isn’t an exact science, but it’s a good starting point if you’re wondering what it will take to maintain your current standard of living.

 

Average salaries in Chicago

residential street in urban Chicago

According to Payscale, the average salary in Chicago is just under $63,000. This is across all industries and levels of experience. Some careers will pay significantly more, others will pay less. Blueground offers fully-furnished, equipped and serviced apartments in some of the world's most sought after cities. For example, Hired found that the average salary in Chicago for tech workers was around $113,000. While this is lower than the global average salary for tech employees of $135,000, it’s still a significant jump from a typical Chicago salary. For comparison, the average salary for tech workers was only $79,000 annually in London, although it was $142,000 in San Francisco.

If you’re hoping to join the public sector, Chicago is a city with great prospects. More than a third of the City of Chicago employees make over $100,000 per year, and a few dozen are even paid more than the city’s mayor!

 

Negotiating a salary in Chicago

Once you’ve been given an offer for a job in Chicago, you shouldn’t accept it immediately. Take some time to consider the offer and benefits carefully. Don’t be afraid to negotiate the salary if you think you’re being lowballed. Keep in mind that base pay isn’t the only thing you can negotiate; there are many other forms of compensation you can ask for.

Researching comparable salaries

The first step in evaluating an offer is to research average salaries in Chicago for similar positions. Many hiring sites offer tools to help you do this, including Glassdoor. If the company is large enough, you might even be able to find a salary range for past employees in the same position you’re applying for.

Once you’ve done your research, present it respectfully to the hiring manager. For example, you might say, “I’m honored to have been offered this position, but upon doing some research, I’ve found that companies in Chicago typically pay their senior software engineers closer to $114,000 per year. Do you think you could match that?”

Negotiating benefits packages

You should also evaluate the benefits packages side by side with the salary you’ve been offered. As we all know, healthcare is notoriously expensive in the United States, and some employers in Chicago cover very little of their employees’ health insurance plans. This could leave you with hundreds of dollars in out of pocket expenses every month.

Also consider additional benefits, such as vacation time and flexible hours. If an employer is unable to offer the extra $5,000 in base salary you’ve asked for, you might consider negotiating a certain number of flexible hours per week. Just make sure you get it in writing.

Evaluating the cost of living

The exact cost of living is tricky to nail down until you’ve actually lived in Chicago, but it’s a necessary step in negotiating a salary. Research prices of apartments and living expenses thoroughly to determine a rough monthly budget. Consider adding an extra cushion for unanticipated expenses, especially for your first year while you’re still figuring things out.

man sits at computer at a wooden desk doing research with a vase of flowers nearby

Rent will most likely be your largest monthly expense. A great way to accurately budget this is to look for apartments through an agency offering turnkey furnished apartments. It really takes the guesswork out of predicting living costs and most importantly it reduces stress. By having a move-in ready apartment, you can just focus on making a great impression at your new job in Chicago rather than having your mind dwell on apartment hunting, furnishing, and installing amenities. Blueground is a great company to work with if you decide to take the furnished apartment route.

 

Can employers in Chicago ask for my salary history?

The short answer is yes, companies in Chicago are allowed to ask for your salary history during the hiring process. Several cities and states across the U.S. ban this practice though, and while Chicago has tried to pass a similar bill several times, it’s never gone all the way through. However, no one says you have to provide an answer. It might be uncomfortable, but you’re always welcome to simply state, “I’m not comfortable discussing that information.” HR trends are starting to steer away from this practice, anyway.

The average salary in Chicago varies by industry and role. While salaries might be lower than in other major U.S. cities and countries, the cost of living has also stayed relatively low. Research is your greatest asset when negotiating salary, so don’t be afraid to use statistics to back up your asking price and make sure to get the compensation you deserve.

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