Not one of us dreams of becoming a Recruiter, let alone plans a career that will span our entire professional life. But it is possible. As a Recruiter who recruits Recruiters we see it everyday in the backgrounds of the business owners, managers and executives we deal with. The career path for a Recruitment Professional is well established, just not well documented.


For the first three years in a Recruiters professional’s career, they spend most of their time learning the core tasks of sourcing, interviewing, and presenting. Large organizations are a great place for new recruiters to start their careers because they have a well-defined process around teaching, measuring, and rewarding individuals who perform the core tasks constantly. In addition to the process these environments instill, they also offer the new recruiter access to a high volume of requisitions, which increase a Recruiter’s chance of making a fill and furthering their career. The excepted overall compensation during the first few years starts in the low $30k range. When the core tasks are accomplished with ease the compensation will cap out around the $60k mark.


The end of the fourth year of a Recruiter’s professional career offers them a variety of choices. Some opt out of the agency side of our business to go in house for clients as either a Human Resources professional or Corporate Recruiter. Others leave the industry completely. The ones who choose to stay in the industry on the agency side move into Senior Recruiting roles.


As a Senior Recruiter moving into the fifth year of their career they bring well-established processes that enable them to run their desk efficiently. Boutique Agencies are an excellent place for a recruiter to mature into the senior role. The environment in a boutique will offer the Recruiter to take on the added responsibility of training and leading the Sourcing Specialist and less-tenured Recruiters. In addition to taking on these minor leadership roles they will be expected to move from the reactive model of account management to a more proactive model of building their own book of business. Recruiters reluctant to make the leap into the boutique agency environment will encounter their career plateau. Depending on the Recruiter’s value to an organization, they may find it difficult to progress their careers any higher because their individual contribution to the bottom line would constitute a significant loss if they were promoted into another area.


Either way, by the fourth and fifth year of a Recruiter’s career, the excepted total compensation will fall between the $60k – $70k range. The difference is the Recruiters in a good boutique environment will only stay within that range while they build their book of business. As the years for the Boutique Recruiter progress toward the ninth year of their career these individuals will be continuously tailoring their processes and becoming more and more specialized in a specific area. This adjustment to their desk will decrease their overall work load while significantly increasing their earning potential into the $150k to $200k range.


The next evolution in a Recruiter’s career is in the tenth- to twelfth-year time frame. At this point a Recruiter will have accumulated a significant amount of knowledge about what it actually takes to:

  • Make a single desk model profitable
  • Develop and maintain great relationships with clients and candidates to maximize profitability
  • Develop and manage others to develop and maintain profitability


Combine all of this knowledge and these individuals are at another crossroad in their Recruiting Career. A number of Recruiters will stay the course and continue to maximize their current situation and be quite happy. They will continue to maintain a comfortable living ranging from $60k to $200k, depending on market fluctuations and at what point they are at in rebuilding their desk. Others will take the option of Sr. Corporate Recruiter. These inside positions offer a more work-life balanced approach to recruiting while maintaining a relatively high income between $70k and $100k, depending on the organization. The career-minded Recruiter will step up into a Management role, where they can have a significant impact to an organization beyond their immediate team. The risk and the reward in the role of a Manager role can be significant, and this is directly reflected in the remuneration received, with typically ranges from $50k to $100k plus. The Entrepreneur or Business-minded Recruiters will take the leap of faith and hang out their own shingle. Income for these individual during their first year of operation ranges from flat to over $60k. If these Recruiters can tap into a successful network and weather the ups and downs, we see a significant turn at the end of the second year and steady success going forward for the next five years. Income for an Independent Recruiter can hit up to $300k…beyond that mark, the individual in no longer an Independent Recruiter. Instead, they would be classified as their own Boutique Agency.


Your career as a Recruiter can be as short or as long as you would like it to be. Just like everything else you do in your life you are only limited by your determination and your ability to take on challenges. Your skills as a Great Recruiter are not a fluke. Talent will only take you so far…it is the years and years of practice that makes a great recruiter.



Rebecca B. Sargeant

Recruiter’s Career Coach


Views: 51815

Comment by Dean Da Costa on January 4, 2012 at 9:31pm

Nice post, I have been in staffing for 16+ years and would not think of changing. For rme the main reason is I just out and out love it and in the end that is the best reason I can think of. My mantra is “Helping people connect with their Destiny" and that is why I love it. To me it is not just about the pay check, it is not just about the client, it is not just about the candidate. It is about it all, and helping to bring to paties together that need and want each others or as I cal lit the "win win".

Comment by JC on January 16, 2012 at 11:11am

For someone like me who is just starting out this is very encouraging.

Comment by Pritesh Vaidya on August 18, 2012 at 6:39am

Hi Rebecca,

Thank you very much for this post...

I have completed my 1st Year as recruiter with 90% of achievement.

In my 2nd year i have managed to increase my billing amount by 30% on an average and have started giving leads for business development too... do you think I am on right track

Looking forward for your valuable comment...


Pritesh Vaidya

Comment by Joshua Lee on August 18, 2012 at 12:55pm

Good article Rebecca.  The only caveat being of course that this is just a generalization.  I know this doesn't need to be said but your numbers ($40-60k) for the first couple of years would not stand in LA, let alone SF or NYC, Chicago, Boston.  I'm speaking about Technical Recruiters at least.  The base salary for a tech recruiter for the average agency is roughly $45-60k in the LA market.  That's only base.  For a non technical "generalist" or finance recruiter or something then the base salary is probably $30-40k in the LA market.  If you're talking about the super low level recruiter then the numbers are closer to what you posted.  The average tech recruiter earns around $80k a year at least by the second year if not the end of their first.

Anyway, just a clarification on the numbers.  

Also, perhaps you'd like to comment on my post.  I think you have a good perspective and wondering on what you think about some of my thoughts on the subject of different recruiting types.


Comment by Joshua Lee on August 18, 2012 at 1:01pm

Oh by the way, I'm definitely thinking about a change myself.  Been a tech recruiter for 12 years and on my own the last 4+ years of that.  I enjoy recruiting and the level that I'm at right now. I'm niche with fewer competitors and manage my own time both on the contingent and contract side.  I love the freedom of being on my own and the earnings and my work/life flexible balance.  I simply want to do something different with my brain.  I want to be challenged and do different kind of problem solving which is why I'm in the middle of a career change.  There is a part of me that is considering trying to do both but I know that at least in the beginning, I have to dive in full force in the new direction if I want to have a chance.  Every time  you start something new you have to give it your all.  No pain no gain and no reward without risk.  That means I have to start from scratch but that's OK.

Anyway, I think recruiting is a great field and probably for many years one of the "hidden" gems of truly being able to develop a successful business career.  Few fields offer the opportunity to grow into running your own business or going independent the way that recruiting does.  You have more choices.  You just have to be willing to always challenge yourself and grow and learn.

Comment by Josue Chavez on February 13, 2013 at 9:29pm

I needed to read this today and I am glad I found it.  Great read and excellent comments by everyone!

Comment by Ionut Roghina on February 14, 2013 at 6:11am

As usual, great post Rebecca!

Comment by jerina vincent on February 14, 2013 at 3:33pm

Rebecca, Great article. This is excatly what we get in Chicago as technical recruiter.

Comment by Valentino Martinez on February 27, 2013 at 2:45pm

Nice capture, Rebecca.  Naturally some industries pay more or very low -- expand, stay static or dry-up -- all affecting recruiter stability and compensation.


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