Getting a promotion or a raise is thrilling. It means you’re good at your job and other people recognize it. It shows that your employer values you. And best of all – it means more money for you and your family.

One of the best ways to earn a raise is by completing your college degree. With a college degree, you are more valuable to your company and will have more doors opened for you.

Here are some helpful insights about how to ask for – and get – a raise from your company.

Make yourself more valuable

The best way to do this is to expand your knowledge, expertise, skills, etc. The best way to do that is to complete your degree.

Georgetown University did a study that revealed that people with college degrees earn an average of $1 million more over their lifetimes. The Pew Research Center has done studies that show the median yearly income gap between high school and college graduates is around $17,500. (What could you do with an extra $17,500 next year?)

And the best way to complete your degree is starting at Complete 2 Compete.

After completing your degree, here are some other helpful tips about asking for a raise.

Be confident

Never feel guilty about asking for a raise. If you’re performing well, and the company can afford to give its best people more money, you have every right to ask for a bump in pay. That’s how business works. Remember – you bring solid value to your company, and the longer you’re there, the more that value increases. And employees with college degrees are worth more to companies.

Be prepared

Be ready to answer the question – “Why do you deserve a raise?” Do your research. Prepare for your answer by assessing your performance. Are you completing everything you’re asked? Do you regularly go above and beyond? Have you done things that have had a powerful and positive impact on the company?

Know what the typical salary of someone in your position is. For help with this – do some research on a website like Payscale.com. Just go here,  enter your job title, and Payscale will tell you what you can expect to earn.

Practice your pitch in front of a mirror. “I believe I have earned a raise – and here’s why…” then list your notable achievements. And do not hesitate to point out that you returned to college and completed your degree so you would bring even more value to the company.

Be realistic

How much of a raise can you honestly expect to get? That depends. Some companies follow set raise schedules. Other organizations are more subjective. You may even get asked – “How much of a raise were you thinking?” Know what you will say if they ask you this.

Realistic raises typically range from 10%-20%. You should feel completely comfortable asking for that amount. Asking for more than that might make you look greedy, and quite frankly, most companies can’t afford large raises for all employees.

Be timely

There is definitely a right time to ask for a raise. Here are some guidelines about knowing WHEN to ask for a raise.

  1. Ask for a raise right around the time that you complete your degree.

  2. Wait at least a year from your last raise.

  3. Ask when you’re the hero. (Right after making a big sale or saving the company a lot of money is a great time to ask.)

  4. Ask right before the company sets its budgets for next year. (You’ll need to find out when they do that.)

  5. Don’t ask when your boss is in a bad mood.

Be professional

This is the most important tip. Above all else, when you are making the case of your value to the company, be respectful and professional.

  1. Start by thanking them for the job you have – make it clear that you appreciate your employment.

  2. Take the emotion out of it – simply tell them why you feel you have earned a raise.

  3. Don’t tell them why you need a raise – that makes it sound like charity. Instead, keep reminding them why you are a great value to the company.

  4. Listen attentively as your boss responds to what you’ve presented (and ask questions if appropriate.)

  5. Be open to negotiating – if they offer you something other than what you asked for, you can negotiate (or tell them you will consider it and get back to them.)

  6. You can say “no” too – if they offer you something that is not acceptable to you, you can say no. But do it professionally and without emotion.

If you are uncomfortable with a face-to-face meeting/negotiation, you can consider sending a professional email similar to this example.

Be ready to hear no

As already stated, not all companies are in a position to give raises. There are only two reasons they would refuse to give you a raise:

  1. They don’t think you’re worth more money at this point. If they say this, ask what you can do to increase your value. Ask for more responsibility. And ask them when you can be reconsidered.

  2. They think you’re worth it but can’t afford it. All you can do in this case is tell them you will check back in a couple of months to see if the situation has changed. You can also ask for other compensation – more vacation, more PTO, more flexible work schedule, etc. (This might also be the time to start exploring other options.)

Start with your degree

It all goes back to that degree of yours – it’s the surest way to get a raise. If you have previously earned some college credit, but never completed your degree, the Complete 2 Compete program was established to help you. The C2C program helps Mississippi adults like you return to complete their degrees. Once accepted into the program, you’ll be eligible for the C2C Grant and you’ll receive the support of a C2C Coach – who will help guide you through the process of completing your degree.

And once you have completed your degree, you’ll be ready to schedule a meeting with your boss and show him/her exactly why you are worth even more money now.