What Is a Good Salary?

Judging your salary against someone else’s might seem tempting; but that approach, unfortunately, neglects several factors such as age, industry, and experience level.

So, what is a good salary? And how can you determine whether you’re being paid well?

Here’s a quick guide to evaluate your salary, identify a suitable pay range and – hopefully – increase your bank balance. 

Let’s dive in.

What Is a Good Salary In the US?

According to the latest United States Census Bureau, the average median household income is around $70,784 per year. So, if a single person in your home makes at least $70,784, it can be considered a good salary in the US.

Still, keep in mind that this salary is calculated theoretically and is only an average. What is considered a good income in one region might not be considered so in another.

Person holding 100 dollar banknotes

Is 40K a good salary? If your monthly salary allows you to support your lifestyle comfortably and you can save a little money, you’re likely earning a good salary. However, you must also consider a few additional aspects to determine the monetary value of a fair income.

Your residential area, the number of people you support, and your profession dictate if your salary is appropriate. 

Also, you cannot expect to land a high-paying job in the US with fewer qualifications and minimal experience. Honing your skills, getting qualified, and gaining experience is key to earning more.

Top Tip: You should always compare your salary with your location’s median household income, the industry’s average pay, and your experience to determine whether you’re being paid well.

Average Salary In the United States: Statistics & Facts

Here are a few more interesting facts about American salaries and wages that caught my eye: 

Social Impact

The US is a complicated and diverse country that includes individuals with different ethnicities, educational levels, individual expertise, and, geographical backgrounds.

And the compensation received by people across the US also reflects this diversity.

  • American males between the ages of 45-54 receive the highest weekly income.
  • The income disparities between generations appear to be a controversial political issue with several millennials showing concern regarding their position in the economic system.
  • Gender inequality is also prominent in full-time salaries and wages – the average income of men tends to be much higher than women in the same industries.

High Paying Professions and Inflation

Inflation refers to the increasing prices of goods and services. Unfortunately, it is soaring across global economies. That’s partly because of the aftereffects of the COVID-19 outbreak and the Russia and Ukraine war.

But the question is, why should you care? Well, because it directly affects your median income.

  • The highest-paying jobs in the US belong to the medical field.
  • Cardiologists, anesthesiologists, and oral and maxillofacial surgeons make the most annual income ($353,970, $331,190, and $311,40, respectively)

However, salaries and wages do not exist in isolation from the economy. They must also adjust to the rising inflation.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals that Americans encountered a 12-month pay cut of around $0.31 hourly due to the notorious inflation.

American dollar banknotes rolled and tightened with red band

Industry

The average income in the US also varies per industry. The U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals the following wage statistics per industry.

  • The national average salary of the computer and mathematical industry is the highest ($96,770), followed closely by architecture and engineering ($90,300)
  • The business and financial operations stand third, with an average salary of $80,680.
  • The Art, Design, Entertainment, Media, and Sports industry have an average salary of around $64,400, followed by the education sector – $59,810.
  • The food industry tends to make the least with $27,650.

Race and Ethnicity Groups

A bias is also seen in how companies determine wages based on race and ethnic groups.

  • The median weekly income of Caucasians ($1,101) and Asians (1,442) was more than Hispanics ($861) and African Americans ($881).
  • The same statistics unveil that the median weekly earnings of Caucasian men ($1,192) were also higher than African American men ($922) working full-time.
  • The income difference among women was less, with Caucasian women making $990 and African American women earning $830 weekly.

What Determines a Good Salary?

A few factors can help you understand whether you’re being compensated fairly at your current job. Here are some to take into consideration.

Education

Although education doesn’t always guarantee success in a career, getting a degree always helps demonstrate your knowledge and expertise in a specific field.

For instance, teachers may become eligible for better pay after earning a master’s degree. However, the precise educational standards vary depending on the field.

The US Bureau of Labor and Statistics estimated the median salaries of American employees based on their education – and if you ever needed strong evidence to stay in college, it’s here:

  • Doctoral degree: $99,268
  • Master’s degree: $81,848
  • Bachelor’s degree: $69,368
  • High school diploma: $42,068

Experience

Higher experience accounts for more salary. It’s no secret that someone with 5-10 years of experience is likely to earn more than a newbie with 1-2 years of experience.

Companies today struggle to find professionals with more experience and better skills. Hence, they are willing to pay more for skilled professionals.

So, if you started a job right after college, your average wage would be naturally less than someone in an advanced position. However, your average income will gradually increase as you level up your career.

Person counting dollar bills while another person has a pink calculator and notepad

Location

Even if your experience, education level, and job title are similar, your median income will vary depending on your geographical location. This is primarily because of the difference between the tax rate, living costs, and local job demand of a particular area.

For instance, the average base salary of web developers in New York is around $78,857. However, web developers in San Francisco have a higher pay ($83,290).

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics also mentions the median salaries in numerous US metropolitan areas.

  • Washington DC: $80,480
  • San Francisco, California: $86,590
  • Seattle, Washington: $76,170
  • New York, NY: $74,150

Industry

The industry you work in also directly impacts your annual salary. For instance, as our future becomes increasingly reliant on technology, technical fields like architecture, engineering, finance, and healthcare are likely to pay more.

So, if you prefer a career with higher pay, consider breaking into an innovative and lucrative field.

Determining a Good Salary for a Single Person

It would be safe to say that a good salary for a single person in the US would be more than the average median household income of around $70,784.

However, if we compare this to the median household income of $90,842 in Washington, DC, the previous figure ($70,784) wouldn’t be a comfortable salary.

You’ll struggle to make both ends meet as a single person living in Washington, DC. In fact, the salary will feel stretched for a single person supporting a family of 3-4.

Tips to Increase Your Salary

Increasing your salary may feel like an uphill battle in this era of ever-increasing inflation. However, where there’s a will, there’s a way.

The key is to begin by enhancing your productivity and offering value to the company. Once you have what it takes to ask for what you deserve, it’s time to take the initiative.

Expand Your Skills

The more qualifications you have at your disposal, the more valuable you are as an employee. You can strengthen your existing skills or gain new ones to qualify for an advanced position in your workplace.

For example, you can:

  • Take an online course
  • Earn a certification to demonstrate your skills
  • Volunteer for projects
Businessman shaking hand of applicant in office

Plus, additional skills are always a great addition to your resume – especially if you plan to switch to another job in the near future.

Switch Your Career

Because specific industries pay better than others, you can generate higher income by switching to a new industry. 

This may sound like a major and risky step, however, most people often have numerous transferable skills that may help them dip their toes in a new industry.

These may include:

  • Critical thinking
  • Attention to detail
  • Problem-solving
  • Teamwork and leadership skills

Maintain a Consistent Performance

You can always negotiate for better pay based on your performance and contribution to the company. Demonstrating your expertise is crucial to retaining your responsibilities and earning a higher salary.

Also, if you seek a promotion, the way you perform in the meantime is vital to enhancing your reputation within the company.

Get Regular Feedback

Nothing adds to one’s growth more than constructive feedback. Make sure you request regular feedback from seniors regarding your performance.

This lets you assess your shortcomings and improve. It can also help you discover your strengths as well.

Plus, when the time for salary negotiation comes close, you can always base your argument on what your seniors have already acknowledged in previous feedback forms and noticed in your recent performance.

Talk to Your Employer

  • Once you’ve maintained a good performance, polished your existing skillset, and gained more experience, it’s time to negotiate your salary.
  • Don’t expect your employer to take the initiative, they won’t know what you need unless you tell them.
  • Remember to back your salary negotiation with facts and figures regarding your current performance, skills, and industry average salary research. 

Ask your employer for a raise or a promotion to ensure you’re compensated fairly. However, maintain a polite tone and avoid just boasting about your abilities.

What Are the Highest Paid Jobs In the United States?

Anyone enthusiastic about landing a high-paying job would naturally want to know about industries that pay more.

Well, according to the experts at investopedia.com, most of the highest-paid jobs in the United States are within the healthcare industry.

And this trend is showing no signs of stopping anytime soon because it has consistently topped the list of highest-paying industries year after year. In fact, research from BLS found that employment in the healthcare sector is predicted to grow by a further 16% by 2030.

Atm dispensing a bank note

The primary factor driving this growth is the aging population, leading to rising demand for healthcare services.

Now let’s take a quick look into some of the highest-paying jobs overall and in this field.

Anesthesiologists ($331,190)

Anesthesiologists are physicians who administer anesthetics for pain management during and after the surgery. Currently, this career tops the list of highest-paying jobs in the US.

However, an important thing to note is that because they’re required to be there during and after the surgeries, the work hours aren’t fixed and can be unpredictable. Plus their workload can also vary depending on the operating room’s schedule. 

Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon ($311,460)

This role stands second in the list of highest-paying jobs in the U.S, with an average salary of $311,460. As the name suggests, these professionals are involved with treating several injuries and illnesses around the jaw and mouth.

Some of their tasks include:

  • Managing tumors
  • Surgically treating cysts of the mouth or jaw
  • Extracting teeth 
  • Performing dental surgery implants
  • Surgically correcting congenital or traumatic maxillofacial deformities 

Obstetricians-Gynecologist ($296,210)

Health practitioners specializing in reproductive health and childbirth are termed Obstetricians-Gynecologists. Their annual wage is slightly more than general surgeons.

These professionals are experts at handling all types of medical health situations related to childbirth and pregnancy.

Surgeons ($294,520)

Surgeons work for long and unpredictable hours, depending on their specialization.

While elective/preventive surgeries have a dedicated schedule, surgeons working in emergency departments have an extended schedule. So, you may find them working overnight.

They may also address patients’ concerns even outside work hours, given the nature of their job.

Orthodontists ($267,280)

Also referred to as dentists, these professionals specialize in taking corrective measures for teeth.

They may apply braces, take X-rays, or create mouth guards to maintain teeth health. This profession ranks 5th in the category of high-paying careers.

Man in black jacket using black laptop

Related Questions

What Is a Good Salary Increase Per Year?

According to Indeed, a good salary increase is 3-5% yearly. This, however, may vary depending on location, inflation, job sector, and employee performance.

If that doesn’t seem like a decent raise, note that the consistent wage raises add over time and have a compounding effect. 

The Conference Board forecasts compensation costs to climb by 3.9%. This figure includes raises, salaries, and incentives.

How Much Money Does the Average American Earn a Month?

An average American earns up to $6,228 monthly. However, the median wage varies by state, gender, age, experience, and industry.

The average salary of people living in California or Washington is likely more than someone living in New York, given the recent data. Likewise, men get better salaries than women in a specific field.

Also, someone working in the IT or healthcare sector has the potential to earn more; the same goes for individuals with more experience.

What Is the Average Salary of a Single Person?

The average weekly wage of men in the US is around $1,164, and those of women are up to $971. So, single men and women must earn equal to or more than the average weekly wage.

Experts believe a single person in the US must have an average salary of $60,000 monthly. However, this varies per state. Check out how much money you need to earn as a single person to get by in a specific US state here.

Top Tip: Check out MIT’s living wage calculator to find out more about how much you should be earning depending on your individual circumstances. 

What Is Average Retirement Income for a Single Person?

According to the US Census Bureau data, the average retirement income for people aged 65 or more is $47,357. However, the average mean retirement income is around $73,228.

The numbers are broken into mean and median salary figures to make retirement accounts, like a 403 or a 401 more comprehensible for US citizens.

Key Takeaways

So what have we learned?

  • The median weekly wage for employees in the third quarter of 2022 was $1,070
  • Men are paid higher than women on average. (Equal Pay Day took place in March 2022, and let’s hope wage gap awareness continues to be highlighted)
  • The bias is also seen across different races and ethnic groups, with Caucasians and Asians making the most ($1,101-$1442) and Hispanics making the least ($881)
  • Your education level, experience, state, and qualifications significantly impact your average salary.
  • San Francisco has the highest annual income in the States ($93,740)

What is a good salary? Well, the health sector stands out among the rest in the category of top-paying jobs in the US and a good salary increase in all sectors lies somewhere between 3-5% annually.

To learn about how to counter offer salary, read our in depth guide here and good luck in the job market! 

Jason is a contributor at PFGeeks and has been figuring out ways to make money since the age of 12 when he organised a Connect 4 tournament in his school class. From the age of 15, he set up and ran a successful mobile Disco company that focused on everything from local parties to (eventually) corporate events for brands like Google and Hilton. Fast forward to 2020 and Jason went from part time writing to going all in on the content industry - it was a pandemic pivot that so far is reaping him rewards. For many years he was also a Radio producer and researcher, and it's this "leave no stone uncovered" methodology that Jason now brings to all his writing - believing that deep analysis is key to a strong article. When he's not brushing up on the latest Finance news or feeding his entrepreneurial side, Jason loves to solo travel, geek out on SEO trends and get some exercise in with long walks.

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