Negotiation following a job offer is often an enigma. Do you negotiate? If you do negotiate, what do you negotiate for? Salary might be the first thing that jumps to mind when negotiating but there are other factors to consider as well.
Consider the following. You have completed your on-campus interviews and you are now on the phone with a college official who offers you a job. What do you do first? After an initial moment of joy, you ask the official for the details of their offer. You are then given a time interval to consider the package. Always take the time to consider the offer – never accept during the initial phone call! With the offer in hand, how do you determine whether it is fair? Should you ask to add anything to the offer? These are questions we will now address.
Is the proposed salary fair? To answer this question, you can consult published salary information. The American Mathematical Society (AMS) annually publishes a report on salaries in the mathematical sciences. Here is the link for the 2011-12 data on average salaries by faculty rank and type of institution http://www.ams.org/notices/201203/rtx120300410p.pdf. The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) publishes an Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession, which gives average salaries across all disciplines. You may look up average salaries at most colleges and universities in the appendices of this document. See http://www.aaup.org/reports-publications/2011-12salarysurvey for links to this information. These publications give you valuable information about what is typically offered an individual with your qualifications and rank.
The published information listed above will help you to evaluate your offer. If your offer seems low, you have data to support your request for a higher salary. Additionally, if you have multiple job offers, you could use that information to support your a salary request. Finally, you could simply ask for a higher salary. The institution could decline your request, but they will not rescind your job offer.
In current economic times, it is possible that the institution cannot offer you a higher salary. However, there are numerous other things that one can negotiate when accepting an academic position. These include
Extra time to consider the offer
Computer resources (software and hardware)
Start up funds
Credit for previous experience on your tenure clock
Funding for Project NExT or similar organization
Deferment of your official start date at the university
As you consider an offer, decide what is most important to you. Determine what will make you happy and prosperous in your new job and ask for it! You might have to be flexible, but most institutions will work with you. In the end, the institution wants you to have a successful career with them.