Should I Change Jobs or Ask for a Raise?

Quick Answer

Whether or not you should change jobs or ask for a raise depends on your goals. While you may be able to land higher pay by changing jobs, you should also weigh in factors like benefits, job satisfaction, growth potential and work culture.

A worker contemplating in office, hands behind head frowning.

Every worker wants to get paid what they're worth, but in times of persistent inflation, high grocery bills and steep interest rates, earning a fair salary or hourly wage is even more critical. If your current paychecks are no longer making the cut, you're faced with a challenging decision: Should you ask for a raise or start looking for a job elsewhere in hopes of even better pay?

It may sound like a simple question, but it's far from a simple decision. There are loads of factors to consider, from your benefits to job satisfaction and career growth potential. Here are some ways to decide between changing jobs and asking for a raise.

Asking for a Raise vs. Changing Jobs: What to Consider

As you weigh whether it's worth staying put and asking for a raise or searching for a new job, ponder these questions:

How Much Can I Make From a Raise vs. Moving Jobs?

Whether you have to ask for a raise or automatically receive one annually, most employers increase pay by 3% to 5% at a time. It's possible you'll gain a more generous raise with a promotion, or if you request one and are a top performer. But many employers limit salary increases, so workers can often find higher pay by switching to a different company where their pay starts off higher.

In pre-pandemic 2019 and 2020, you could score around a 10% pay increase by changing jobs, according to a 2023 Bank of America report. Then, as the "Great Resignation" tightened the labor market and put workers in high demand starting in 2021, companies paid a premium; job-switching could mean around 20% higher pay. But by April 2023, this bump shrank to 13%—partly due to job seekers having less bargaining power in the loosening labor market, but also likely due to wages rising from inflation.

Do I Really Want to Stay?

A job is about more than just money, so think about other impacts of staying versus going. For example, does your current position offer great benefits, room for growth, job satisfaction, work-life balance and purpose, or are those things missing for you? Do you want to stay in this industry or role, or are you ready for something new? Weigh all aspects of work and have a gut check on whether more money alone is worth staying (or going).

Can I Ask for Anything Besides a Raise?

If you feel undervalued but you're unsure a raise is possible, prepare for other benefits or perks you could negotiate. Just make sure your requests would add enough value to overcome a smaller (or no) raise. Consider trying to negotiate:

  • More vacation or sick days
  • Additional flexibility (remote working twice a week, a four-day workweek or more flexible hours, for example)
  • A higher title
  • Changes to your role or responsibilities
  • A guaranteed timeline for promotion
  • Employer-paid professional development, certifications or tuition assistance or reimbursement
  • More stock options or equity
  • Higher retirement account match
  • Commuter benefits
  • Health benefits, such as a gym membership

When Should You Ask for a Raise?

There can be a myriad of compelling reasons to stay at your current company and advocate for a raise rather than leaving. Here are a few situations when that could be wise:

  • You really like your job. There's a lot to be said for getting fulfillment from your job, whether you enjoy your day-to-day work, company culture or your coworkers. It's tempting to look for greener pastures (and higher paychecks) elsewhere, but if you're content in areas besides your salary, it could be worth staying and asking for a raise.
  • You've had recent success. If you've just wrapped up a major project, or your company exceeded profit goals in part due to your work, your contributions and value are undeniable. You can seize these moments as opportunities to lobby for a raise. Remember that leaving for another job could earn you money, but you'll also be starting over without this winning reputation.
  • You have valuable benefits. Perhaps your pay could be better, but you have access to many valuable employee benefits, like student loan repayment assistance, life insurance, retirement account matching, health savings accounts, employee assistance programs and subsidized gym memberships. These money-saving perks may make your job worth keeping, especially if you can also negotiate higher pay.

When Should You Change Jobs?

On the other hand, there are times when it may be better to look elsewhere, including when:

  • You don't have solid (or any) benefits. Just as it's hard to leave a job with excellent benefits, it may be easier to ditch one without them. If you don't have the essentials, like health insurance, or valuable perks like those mentioned above, changing jobs could net you more money-saving benefits plus better pay.
  • You want a bigger change. Negotiating for a raise may not be the answer if you're unhappy at work beyond your paycheck—unless the raise comes with other benefits or changes that address your concerns or outweigh them. If you're already unhappy with other aspects of your job, such as a long commute or toxic boss, or you want a career change, this could be an opportunity to find a better fit elsewhere.
  • Your salary and growth potential are too low. Maybe you really like your job and workplace, but you're told you won't get more than a 3% raise each year. Or that the only way to earn a higher raise is to have a higher position, but none are open or you're not a candidate. These could point you in the direction of leaving for another job with more room for growth—either in pay and/or in career advancement opportunities.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • There's no requirement to ever change jobs or career fields if you're content, but changing jobs too frequently can be a red flag to employers. Employers typically prefer candidates who haven't moved jobs more than once every one to three years. Changing jobs every year or two, or multiple times in a year, can raise concerns about your ability to commit and may make an employer wary of investing in hiring and training you. That being said, norms can vary a bit by industry.

  • Conventional wisdom says new hires shouldn't ask for a raise until at least six months, and some won't even be eligible for pay increases until a year of employment. Once you've been somewhere for several years, it's appropriate to ask for a raise once a year. If you have regular performance reviews that include pay increase discussions, you could plan to deliver your raise request at your review meeting. Or, if your employer offers an annual increase that's low, use this time to try to negotiate for a larger raise.

  • As of April 2023, the average salary increase workers could find by changing jobs was around 13%, according to a Bank of America study.

Leverage a Potential Job Change for a Raise

There can also be a middle option. Some employers are more open to negotiating a raise when countering an offer from another employer. If you're considering leaving due to pay and you land a job offer elsewhere at your desired salary, would you entertain staying with a raise? If so, reveal the job offer to your workplace and ask if they'll negotiate your pay to keep you. Even if they can't match the offer, you might nab a higher raise than you would without this leverage.

Regardless of the statistics or norms, this is a personal decision about what's best for you and your loved ones. If you're struggling to pay your bills, getting higher wages may be your sole objective. But if you have more wiggle room, you might consider all the other aspects of your compensation package and work-life balance. If you're not able to get more pay through staying or leaving for now, it's important to focus on living within your means until you can score a raise. Depending on your situation, that could mean getting on a budget, consolidating your debt or picking up a side hustle.