Choosing that first professional job out of school is intimidating! Your first job is a launching pad that will play a huge factor in the future direction of your professional (and even personal) life.

Obviously, you consider the salary as you weigh your options. However, the highest salary job might not actually give you the highest overall compensation.

There are some “basic” benefits that are common and almost expected when you evaluate a potential employer. Here are 7 of the most common:

1. 401(k) or Retirement Plan

In addition to just having a 401(k) or retirement plan, ask about their match. A match is additional money they give after you contribute your own dollars. I’ve done a full explanation of why you should participate and the benefits HERE. Essentially, it is added income and free money!

2. Health Insurance

Health insurance can come in many shapes and forms, so be sure to ask a lot of questions. Your employer might pay for all of your insurance premium, some of it, or none of it. You might only have a high deductible plan offered. They might give you a Health Savings Account.

Also, they might not cover your health insurance until after you’ve worked there a few months. If that’s the case, read my article on job transitions HERE because I talk about short-term coverage options.

Just be sure they offer some kind of health insurance! Trust me, you do NOT want to have to find it and buy it yourself.

3. Life Insurance

A common benefit is to offer you free term life insurance at 1x your salary. So, if your salary is $60,000, your employer might give you free life insurance coverage of $60,000. You also might have the option of paying a very low premium to increase the amount.

It is much less expensive than finding and buying a policy on your own!

4. Short-Term Disability

You are more likely to experience disability than you are to die young. So arguably, this short-term disability insurance is even more important than the life insurance. Your employer might offer you free or very discounted disability insurance that will replace part of your salary if you were unable to work for a time (usually for a few months).

5. Long-Term Disability

Long-term disability is mostly the same as short-term disability except that it replaces part of your salary for a longer period (usually to age 65).

6. Paid Vacation Days

Paid vacation days are so important. You don’t want to talk yourself out of taking a break because you don’t want to miss pay. It makes all the difference mentally, knowing you can relax on your vacation without feeling like you are going to miss a paycheck.

7. Sick Days

You can’t help getting sick sometimes. If you are a parent, your kids are little petri dishes. Not only do you need paid sick days for yourself, but you might also need them to care for your sick kids. Ask your employer how many paid sick days you will receive, because using up your happy vacation days to tend to a cold is sad.


There are also more “advanced” employee benefits that I am considering writing about soon: stock options, profit-sharing plans, and deferred compensation plans. So, stay tuned. I hope this was a helpful article for those seeking information on employee benefits to consider at their first job!