I live in Central VA (Richmond) and I definitely think accepting $8 an hour would be selling yourself short, especially since minimum wage in VA is going up to like $7 and some change in the next two years. Personally, when I'm asked in interviews about my desired salary, I usually keep my answer what I like to call "professionally vague." I have found that when I come right out and give a dollar figure that later on I realize that I've been "lowballed." I usually say something like "I am looking for a salary that is comensurate with industry standards as well as my skills, experience and job expectations." I suppose that could work on a cover letter as well. In my opinion, exact dollar amounts are best negotiated and discussed when the job is actually offered. It's always so tricky getting the salary you want. Even though you are entry level, don't sell yourself short, keep in mind the fact that you put a lot of time, effort and hard work into getting your certification, and that should not go unnoticed or rewarded. Hope this helps!
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