Entry Level in NYC

I am a recent graduate working in pop design in the midwest. I have about a year and a half experience at the company I am at. Although I love the field, I am pretty unhappy here and have been looking to move on. Recently a recruiter contacted me about some entry level pop/retail design positions in NYC after seeing my work at my graduate show. Before I even meet with the recruiter, I want to know what I should be looking for. NYC cost of living is absolutely insane, what is the minimum I can survive on out there with student loans and car payments? I tried to do some research, but all I ever get are averages. If it gets that far, I want to make sure I am prepared with a number. It makes me nervous why big companies like that would want to recruit an entry level designers from the midwest. Is this a cheap labor thing? Opinions?


Sounds like you need to calculate what your expenses are first. Everything for a month, car loans, student loans, rent, rent, food, the works. Then you’ll know what your minimum is.

I can tell you what my minimum would be, but it would be very different from yours.

Once you know that, you can tell the recruiter what your minimum salary needs to be.

Huh? I don’t understand your question.

Do you think these big companies recruit “cheap” labor, bring them to NYC, only to have their employee go broke, quit and move on?

If so, that ain’t the case. Every NYC company knows about cost of living and will offer a wage based on experience. You can say yes or no. It is that simple.

What your expenses are, I have no clue. But realize there is a difference between Manhattan Island and Staten Island. Both of which are a part of NYC.

So a guy with no loans, living with 6 housemates on Staten Island is able to accept an offer lower than a guy laden with debt living in a Manhattan penthouse.

And a car loan? wtf do you want a car for in NYC?

Or it could be that NYC isn’t the be-all-end-all pool of limitless creative talent many assume it to be. Besides, how do you think that perceived talent arrived there anyways? Give yourself some credit, and consider that they might just be impressed with your work.

Yikes, settle down. :frowning: I have no experience with New York City, that’s why I’m posting. I’m just trying to get as much information as possible. For example, the car thing never would have occurred to me if I didn’t post. The jobs are in long island and north jersey.

I agree that my question was poorly worded. I can scrape by on 35k in Ohio with my current bills. According to the calculators that equates to 45k in NJ. I can’t find any information on the long island equivalent.

So I guess my question is, for an entry level design position, if I say my required salary is 45k, is that reasonable? I have had employers scoff at me for that kind of number here. Just want to make sure I’m prepared! Also, I don’t want to put out “45k” and then come to find out that’s nowhere near enough and that there are a bunch of expenses I wasn’t anticipating.

Thank you for the help so far!

That’s why you need to plan exactly what your expenses are, both known and estimated. If you say you need 45K, and they say they’ll give you 35K, then don’t take the job. It’s that easy. Is it worth it living paycheck to paycheck eating ramen noodles just so you can say you lived and worked in NYC? You may say yes now, but after a few years, you’ll say no.

Thanks Chris! I guess I have just had bad luck with employers and being taken advantage of, I am very nervous going into this situation. I’ll do the math and make sure I stand my ground on the number.

Most companies view employees as a business expense and want to get the most value for the least amount of money. (Of course, there are exceptions, but entry level certainly hits that category)

Also, never let yourself get taken advantage of. Are you from the Midwest originally? (I am) this is a trait of many workers in the Midwest. We tend not to speak up about raises, etc., for fear we may lose the job or job offer. You have to remember to look out for yourself because you’re the only one who can.

(End college graduation speech)

Yep! Midwestern, female, and grew up on welfare. So, I have working really hard for dirt cheap engrained into my blood, haha. Trying to break the cycle, so I do need that speech! Thank you :slight_smile:

If they are a large company then this might yield some hints on how they compensate:

I agree with Chris on his take about the Midwest approach, but keep in mind that this company may provide an offer of compensation and not ask you to provide a desired salary, from there you can also negotiate. Larger companies with their pulse on the the creative labor market, at least in my experience, will provide an initial offer. As a hiring manager I usually do not discuss salary in interviews unless asked. But you need to be informed as to it’s value in said marketplace, so, I think you’re on the right track to educate yourself better about the living expenses.

The original poster was looking for guidance on how to prep for working and living in NYC, so let’s stick to that, instead of preemptive lectures…

  1. Salary-wise I’d go in with an open mind. You say you want to explore moving to NYC, this could be a relatively easy ticket to your goal. The opportunity for professional and monetary growth increases dramatically once you’re actually here, so you really just need that first “anchor.” As for numbers, $35-40k is what I’d consider a minimum, though it won’t be cushy. But people live here for less.

  2. The idea that “wages are higher in NYC because cost of living is higher” is not unviersally true. Small/independent consultancies are especially unsympathetic to the local cost of living. Corporate offices tend to factor it in much more heavily.

  3. In the end, salaries vary wildly. Anyone on this board can make educated guesses as to what your offer might be, but really I wouldn’t be surprised if your offer was as wide of a range as $30k - 80k.

  4. Since you’re junior-level, and it’s POP, and it’s LI/NJ, I’d probably say $55k if they gave me the opportunity to request a salary. IMHO this is high-balling it, but you don’t want to low-ball yourself; let them do that to you.

  5. Indeed, kiss the car goodbye. Depending on the salary offer, expect to live in NJ, Queens, far Brooklyn, waaay upper Manhattan, or the Bronx. PM me for more specific neighborhood details if you get to that point.


Is it worth it living paycheck to paycheck eating ramen noodles just so you can say you lived and worked in NYC? You may say yes now, but after a few years, you’ll say no.

Don’t state this like it’s fact…people’s priorities vary on this kind of thing. I’ve got a friend working editorial design at GQ, who lives in the living room of a dinky 1BR apt (with one roommate). His privacy is a curtain. And take it from me, this dude is on cloud nine; he has his dream job. I personally started out in a 7-bedroom apartment in Chinatown working an unpaid internship, yet that situation ended up being a crucial foundation; I don’t regret the shaky start at all.

Neither of which are NYC.

Pardon my curtness, but in the environment you are considering, I am a sweetheart.

Your questions are hugely open ended. Every answer is correct. Yes $45K is reasonable. No, $45K is insane. Yes, you can negotiate wages and benefits. No, you get what you are offered, nothing else.

All companies will be different, you need to be ready for anything, but I certainly wouldn’t waste my time trying to determine every contingency. My only advise is to take your time and really think about your answer before you actually answer.

A couple things:

You say “NYC” but then mention LI/NJ? What towns are the actual jobs and where would you prefer to live?

Each area is going to have very different impacts to your cost of living, heck even within the boroughs there’s a big difference.

-If you live IN NYC (Manhattan, Bklyn, Queens), you probably do not need to keep a car. It’ll be expensive, you’ll wind up getting it crashed into once a month, and you’ll wind up with so many parking tickets from opposite side parking rules that it won’t make sense. So if you want to work and live in NYC sell the car and buy a bike and a Metro card. You’ll save your car payment + insurance + fuel. Trade it in for the cost of a cheap bike (it will get stolen at some point) and factor in $115/month for a metro card.

-If you want to work in Manhattan but live in Northern NJ or LI, you’ll have to factor in rent prices that are generally lower, but you’ll need to keep your car, and factor in the cost of a monthly train ticket + Metro card for your daily commute.

If you give more specifics on the locations you want to live/work I can probably give you better advice.

Rent is a big factor and you have to decide what area you’d want to be in. Also be prepared to have roommates since you’d probably be looking at $2k+ a month to have your own apartment in Brooklyn or Manhattan.

Exactly! I’m realizing as I’m doing my research that everything is all over the place, and it’s because I don’t know the area or exactly what to look for. Everything everyone has said so far has been incredibly helpful. Again, beyond a high school trip, I know nothing about new york or the area, or how to even approach the situation of moving. So all the small tips and advice are extremely helpful.

The jobs are in Paramus and Bay Shore. Besides google maps, I don’t know any information beyond that on where I would try to live, or what kind of costs I’m looking at. I’m pretty intimidated in general, but knowledge is power, so I’m glad you guys are calling me out on any misconceptions I may have.

Bay Shore is eastern Long Island (Suffolk County), so don’t get any expectations of New York, or “city” it’s a very small suburb like most of the south shore towns. The downtown area is about 2 blocks worth of restaurants and bars and that’s it. But it is a decent area, was there last night for dinner. So if you decided to live in that area rent would be much more reasonable, a car would be mandatory, and you would never touch public transportation until you wanted to go into Manhattan which is about an hour and a half train ride.

Rents decrease the further east you go on Long Island, but so does social life, especially for a young person. There are plenty of bars but typically they’re very much the local scene. You can head into the city for fun but it’s something to keep in mind that it’s not NYC in the least.

Paramus is probably fairly similar in that it’s really Northern NJ not NYC. Rent and cost of living will be more reasonable…pretty sure NJ has the highest car insurance in the country though.

I would take a look on Craigslist and you should be able to find local rent near those areas. And plot them both onto google maps so you can get a sense of how far away they are from the real NYC area. There should be plenty of cost of living calculators that have Suffolk County available for you to compare with where you are now.

Do you have job offers yet? (I didn’t see anything in the OP about it) I’d say cross the relocating bridge when you get to it. Yea sure, do a little bit of research about the location of the jobs and where to live in the area, but I wouldn’t get too far into it unless you already have an offer.

Awesome! That’s exactly what I needed to know. I would have never figured that out through google and maps. Thanks for your help everyone!

I’ve lived paycheck to paycheck and supported more an just myself… It’s fine when it’s just you, but add a wife and children to the mix and it gets complicated. It’s terrifying and motivating. And yes, its made me stronger in the long run. But, it’s not a place I ever want to be again, so if I can recommend to ANYONE they think twice before living so close to the edge of being broke, I’m going to say something.

But, you guys do what you want.

But if your going to do that, the time is when you are young and unattached. Before you get a taste for nice wine, cars, a backyard, and nice vacations :wink: Get the experience of having next to nothing so you can focus on learning, getting really good, and appreciating the little things so that when you advance you can appreciate it with some semblance of perspective.