New Senior Living Workers Have Unrealistic Salary Expectations

For college students in programs that relate to senior living, salary expectations are a little high for most entry-level positions in the industry. This finding, from a recent Senior Housing News survey taken between April 2016 and May 2016 of 124 students studying senior living, highlights how important it is for senior housing companies to manage entry-level workers’ expectations in this area.

Almost half of all college students in senior living programs said they expect to be making between $40,000 and $59,000 after graduation, according to a survey conducted for the recent Senior Housing News report, “The Next Generation: Strategies to Attract and Develop Senior Living’s Future Leaders.”

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Currently, the national average for all entry-level jobs in all industries is $28,000, according to estimates from Glassdoor, so there is a disconnect between what recent grads think they should be making and what is actually the standard.

But what these students may not have been taking into account when pinpointing their ideal salary post graduation were the other benefits that can make up for a lower starting salary, explains Peter Corless, executive vice president at OnShift, a workforce management technology company specializing in post-acute care and senior living.

“As executives who are hiring, it’s important to focus not only on salary compensation, but share the other perks that could be included in the job like insurance, discounted meals and the culture of the company,” said Corless. “Culture is a huge aspect. A lot of companies can lose their employees if they don’t like the environment they’re working in.”


Over 40% of students said an executive director role matches their skill set and interests the best, though they may not necessarily be expecting to start in executive director roles.

Even for an associate director at a CCRC, the national average annual salary in the tenth percentile is $73,085, according to the Continuing Care Retirement Communities Salary and Benefits Report 2015-2016, which is significantly higher than the average starting salary. Most people in an associate director role have built up some experience to get there, which means they don’t typically start right out of college.

For executive director positions at CCRCs, which usually consist of those individuals who have been in the industry for quite some time and have worked their way up, the national average annual salary is $151,291.

A fresh graduate snagging an upper level executive position is not very common. “Students won’t necessarily enter into a senior living company directly into these roles, or earn these salaries right off the bat,” the Senior Housing News report states.

On the other hand, something more attainable and realistic for a recent graduate of a senior living program may be a marketing coordinator or marketing representative. Sales and marketing within senior housing were in the top three categories of interest for college students, the SHN survey found.

The average salary for a marketing coordinator at a CCRC is $43,381 and for a marketing representative at a CCRC the average is $49,434, according to the CCRC Salary and Benefits Report.

Grad student expectations

Students who are in graduate degree programs related to senior living have an even higher expectation of their salaries after they graduate, when compared to undergraduates’ expectations. Over 30% of graduate students surveyed said they expect to be making $80,000- $90,000 in a senior living job after graduation. This follows about 28% who reported a salary expectation of $60,000-$79,000.

These numbers are also extremely high. The starting salary for individuals with a graduate degree in health care generally start at $58,500, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). And for a social sciences master’s degree, graduates on average start out making about $54,816.

Graduate Student Salary Expectations

Graduate Students' Expectations for Senior Living Job after Graduation

Spotlight the perks

To make up for lower starting salaries, Corless suggests implementing some sort of career advancement program so entry-level employees know they can grow into a higher paying position. “The whole compensation package includes the promotional career path,” he said.

Another way to incentivize younger workers in lower positions is to have some sort of program for higher education, whether that may be continuing education within the company or reimbursements to get a masters degree, the SHN survey found.

“All of the added benefits on top of a salary can make up for a lower entry-level pay,” Corless explains. “But I do think people who go into a specific discipline [in college], and know the senior housing market, come into their first jobs with realistic outlooks on how much they will be making starting out. Sometimes coming in with a general degree may lead to more disappointment in terms of starting salary.”

Millennials who are focusing on senior living may have high salary expectations to start, but are also looking for a company whose values align with their own and where they can really make a difference.

“This generation’s interests and desires when it comes to their careers align closely with what senior living can offer, but it’s up to providers to tout those perks and make them known to millennials,” the SHN report says. “That requires the right tools, approaches and partnerships — all of which are entirely within reach.”

Editors note: The full report “The Next Generation: Strategies to Attract and Develop Senior Living’s Future Leaders,” including complete survey findings, is available here.

Written by Alana Stramowski

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