The average recruiter in the United States makes $ 35,000 to $ 200,000 per year, depending on the type of recruiting. The wide range of average recruiter salaries is due to the two fundamentally different types of recruiter.
These two categories of recruiters are paid completely differently, which I’ll explain in a moment.
You will find out in this article:
- How recruiters get paid
- How much money can each type of recruiter make on average?
- Which recruiting jobs pay the most
How are recruiters paid?
There are two different types of talent recruiter: internal and external recruiters. And they are paid very differently, only one can realistically and reliably earn the six-figure amount and more.
Below I explain both types of recruiters and how they are paid. Let’s start with internal recruiters.
How internal recruiters make money
Internal recruiters (also called in-house recruiters) work within a company as part of their HR department and help their employer to find and hire employees for vacancies. A variety of types and sizes of companies employ in-house recruiters, including Fortune 100 companies such as Microsoft, Exxon Mobil, Pfizer, and others.
In-house recruiters receive a salary or an hourly rate and typically make $ 35,000 to $ 75,000 a year when they work full-time. However, you’d have to become a technical recruiter to hit the high end of the above salary range.
Technical recruiters can make $ 75,000 a year because they specialize in understanding a specific type of job candidate in a technical field like engineering, software, law, nursing, etc.
As a contractor working on a shorter-term basis, an in-house recruiter could make even more – up to $ 50 an hour, which equates to $ 104,000 a year.
However, it is difficult for an in-house recruiter to get paid well beyond the average salary ranges listed above. So if you want to make more money as a recruiter, you should apply as a recruiter in an agency …
How external / agency recruiters make money
External recruiters, also known as agency recruiters or headhunters, work for a recruitment agency that helps several companies find employees and fill their vacancies.
A recruitment agency and its recruiters can help 20, 30, or more employers recruit candidates.
Agency recruiters do not normally receive a flat-rate salary. Instead, they earn commissions for placing candidates in jobs.
Because of this, the average salary for a recruiter varies widely based on the success of the individual, but it can go well over $ 200,000 for an experienced recruiter in an agency.
This is exactly how an agency recruiter is paid and how much can a recruiter of this type earn:
When a recruiter works for a recruitment agency, they typically earn a so-called success fee, which is often 15-20% of the candidate’s starting base salary in the first year. The candidate does not lose this money; it is just an additional fee that the employer (called the customer) pays the recruiter.
Then the recruiting agency usually keeps half of that commission and gives half to the individual recruiter. The salary of an external recruiter can add up very quickly.
How much technical recruiters earn in an agency (IT recruiter example):
In my last position as a tech recruiter, many of the IT jobs my team worked on paid $ 160,000 and up. This included software engineering roles as well as related areas such as data engineering and data science.
If one of our team members places a candidate in a position that pays $ 160,000 per year, the 20% Success Fee is $ 32,000. Split that up with the agency and you still take home $ 16,000 as the recruiter who placed the candidate on the job.
This is a bit oversimplified, but it is a basic idea of how the system works.
And a good recruiter might do an average of two or three “practices” per month (ie, hire a candidate for a position).
In terms of how much money IT recruiters make, they can potentially make $ 200,000 a year and more. This won’t happen in the first year, but over time it is possible.
This also applies to other technical recruiters in other areas. For example, you could work as a recruiter for science, lawyers, and more. All of these types of technical recruiters can generate exceptionally high income when working in a recruiting agency.
What type of recruiter makes the most money?
If you want to get paid as much as possible as a recruiter, there are two key takeaways from the information above. We just looked at different types of recruiter jobs that can result in a wide range of median salary, and to get to the high end of those ranges there should always be two things you should do:
- Working as a technical recruiter in a specialized field (such as law firms, IT, healthcare, etc.)
- Become an external / agency recruiter, not in-house
I will explain both in more detail and name additional factors that can help increase your salary in a recruiting job.
1. Work as a technical recruiter in a specialty
It doesn’t take long to learn a specialty recruiting and you don’t need to have the technical background of the candidates you are recruiting.
For example, I studied finance at the university. Even so, I became a technical recruiter in biotech and pharma and then software technology.
I’ve never worked in a science lab and can’t write a single line of code, but I’ve been a successful recruiter who lived well in these specialized areas.
And after settling into a technical area, I recommend finding a high-end recruiting agency that focuses on positions that pay $ 100,000 and up.
How much does a recruiter make in this type of role? You will likely get a base salary of around $ 50,000 to $ 60,000 for the first year, and then your commissions will replace that salary over time. The employer usually cuts the base salary if it is more lucrative for you.
2. Work as an agency recruiter, not as an internal recruiter
As mentioned above, you will only earn commissions and be paid for every job placement if you work as an external recruiter / agency recruiter.
So, if you don’t mind a more challenging position and some fluctuations in salary, this type of recruiting role can help you make more money over time.
In summary, recruiters will make the most money, especially in their second and third year and beyond, if they follow the two rules above.
However, this does not take into account stress and enjoyment in the workplace. I’m only sharing this information to show how much a recruiter can make and how to maximize that salary potential.
Here’s more information on what it’s like to work as a recruiter if you’re interested in the bigger picture.
Contract vs. full-time recruiter
Most of what I have described is based on my experience as a recruiter, who focused on filling full-time permanent positions in companies.
However, there are also contract recruiters who help companies hire contracts by finding candidates for shorter positions, which typically last three to six months.
These recruiters are paid a little differently by customers when it comes to commissions and referral fees. Instead of a large upfront fee when the client hires a candidate, they typically receive a continuous percentage of the job over time.
However, the rules above will also help you maximize your earnings as a contract recruiter. Focus on becoming a technical recruiter hiring for a specific type of position and industry, and make sure you work in a recruiting agency rather than a single employer looking for just one hire.
These guidelines will help you get the highest possible salary for your skills.
Choosing the right market and location
As a final tip, consider hiring in a market that pays higher average salaries. Markets like Boston, New York, San Francisco, and others pay more, so the commission percentage for each position you fill is in direct proportion to it.
Conclusion: how much money do recruiters make?
The average salary for a recruiter varies from $ 35,000 to $ 200,000 and more, depending on the following factors:
- Is the recruiter a specialized, technical recruiter or a generalist?
- Is the recruiter internal or external?
- Does the recruiter focus on contract positions or full-time permanent positions?
- Does the recruiter work in a market with high average salaries?
You now know how much recruiters earn and which factors determine your salary when you decide on a position in recruiting.
To find a job as a recruiter, apply directly to companies and use our list of the best job search sites here.