Whether you’re deciding on a new career path or wondering whether you’re being paid enough, it can help to know what the typical American worker earns per year.
Based on the latest data available from the Social Security Administration (SSA), the average annual pay in the U.S. in 2021 was $60,575 — an 8.89% jump from the previous year. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates the average worker made closer to $67,610 that same year. The amount you make may depend on a number of factors, including your occupation, where you live, your gender, and your level of education.
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Let’s take a closer look at how the average annual pay in the U.S. has changed over a three-year period based on data from both the SSA and BLS.
|Year||Average Annual Salary per SSA||Average Annual Salary per BLS|
It can also be helpful to look at median earnings, which represent the midpoint of salaries in the U.S. In other words, half of the salaries fall below the median, and half are higher than the median.
The following table shows the median annual salary for a three-year period.
|Year||Median Annual Salary|
As you can see, average and median incomes have risen each year. However, average salaries can be affected by various factors such as your occupation, age, and gender. Note that the numbers above also don’t include unearned income.
Examples of High-Salary Jobs in the US
Some industries tend to pay more than others, which means the career you choose may affect how much you earn. Here’s a sampling of high-paying jobs and their average annual salary, according to the BLS:
• Cardiologist, $353,970 per year
• Dentist, $177,770
• Aircraft pilots and flight engineer, $169,540
• Lawyer and judicial law clerk, $146,220
• Public relations manager, $138,000
• Air traffic controller, $127,920
Recommended: How to Reduce Taxable Income for High Earners
Average American Income by Occupation
While salaries tend to vary based on geography, seeing how much certain types of jobs pay can be informative. Let’s take a look at different occupations and how much they typically pay.
|Occupation (Type)||Average annual salary|
|Computer and Mathematical Operations||$99,860|
|Architecture and Engineering||$91,740|
|Healthcare Practitioners and Technical||$91,100|
|Business and Financial Operations||$82,610|
|Life, Physical, and Social Science||$80,730|
|Arts, Design, Entertainment, Sports, and Media||$66,100|
|Educational Instruction and Library||$62,140|
|Construction and Extraction||$55,900|
|Community and Social Service||$53,960|
|Installation, Maintenance, and Repair||$53,380|
|Sales (and Related)||$46,080|
|Office and Administrative Support||$43,430|
|Transportation and Material Moving||$41,340|
|Farming, Fishing, and Forestry||$34,730|
|Building and Grounds Cleaning and Maintenance||$33,750|
|Personal Care and Service||$33,620|
|Food Preparation and Serving Related||$29,450|
Source: BLS, May 2022 data
Keep in mind that average salaries may differ depending on the specific occupation you have. For example, although claims adjusters fall under the business and financial operations category, their average salary is around $70,960.
US Income by Gender
Demographics, specifically gender, are another factor to consider. By and large, men tend to outearn women throughout their career. The median annual salary for a 16- to 24-year-old man is $33,800; a woman of the same age earns $31,460, per the latest data available from the BLS. Likewise, the median annual salary for a man aged 25 and older is $60,320; a woman of the same age earns $49,608.
Median Income by State
Wages often vary based on where you live. In many cases, states with higher costs of living also have higher wages. For example, the median annual income in Hawaii is $100,532 — much higher than Mississippi’s median annual income of $61,205.
Below is the median income by state for a household of three people, according to data compiled by the Census Bureau between April 1 and May 14, 2022.
|State||Median annual income|
|District of Columbia||$138,342|
US Income by Race
As the BLS data below shows, there is often a pay disparity among workers of different races and ethnicities.
• Asian, $69,056 per year
• White, $52,936
• Black or African American, $41,652
• Hispanic or Latino, $40,404
How Does Your Income Stack Up?
Now that you’ve seen some of the average and median annual salaries by occupation, location, gender, and race or ethnicity, how does yours compare? If you’re not making as much as you’d like, you may want to research wages in your industry and region, and use that information to help you negotiate a higher salary. If you’re ready to make a bigger change, you can use this data as you consider whether to switch to a more lucrative field or relocate to a higher-paying region.
Recommended: How to Negotiate Your Signing Bonus
How to Stretch Your Income
Here are some different strategies to help you make the most of the money you make:
Track Your Spending
Understanding exactly where your money is going can help you keep tabs on where your money is going and identify areas where you can cut back. Consider using a spending app to track your spending and saving.
Want to lower monthly expenses, such as your cell phone or internet services? Consider calling up various providers to see if you’re able to get a better deal or if there are promotions you can take advantage of.
Cut Back on Large Expenses
Housing, food, and transportation tend to be the largest line budget items. Explore ways to trim your biggest costs. Examples include refinancing your mortgage, negotiating your rent, shopping at discount grocery stores, and taking public transportation when possible.
Sharpen Your Marketable Skills
Accepting networking opportunities and taking professional development courses could help you become more marketable as an employee. This in turn could set you up to earn more in the long run. If you’re on a tight budget, look into no- or low-cost ways to cultivate high-income skills, and ask your employer if there are any free resources are available.
Pros and Cons of a High Salary
A high income can be great, but it does come with some downsides.
• Improved quality of life: With more money, you can afford a higher standard of living and be able to afford different amenities such as better access to healthcare and food.
• Financial security: The more you earn, the more you can feel secure you have enough money to afford the things you want and need.
• Ability to achieve financial goals faster: Having more disposable income could mean you can set more money aside for long- and short-term savings goals, like retirement or going on a family vacation.
• Higher taxes: Earning more can put you in a higher tax bracket. However, there are ways to reduce your taxable income.
• Pressure to maintain income: If you’re accustomed to a certain living standard, you may feel like you need to keep earning the same amount or more to maintain it.
• More work stress: In many cases, higher-paying jobs come with more responsibilities and at times, longer hours.
Understanding what the average American worker makes in a year can come in handy, especially if you’re considering a new career path, negotiating a higher salary, or looking for a new place to live. According to the latest data from the Social Security Administration, the average annual pay in the U.S. is $60,575. But the amount you earn may depend on a wide range of factors, such as the industry you work in, where you live, your gender, and your race or ethnicity.
If you’re looking to make the most out of the money you earn, consider using amoney tracker app. The SoFi Insights app connects all of your accounts in one convenient dashboard. From there, you can see all of your balances, spending breakdowns, and credit score monitoring, plus you can get other valuable financial insights.
What is a good salary in the USA?
There’s no one set amount that would be considered a good salary in the U.S. However, the average salary is around $60,575, according to the Social Security Administration.
What is the real average wage in the US?
The average wage in the U.S. is $67,610 according to the most recent data available from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
What is the top 10 percent income in the US?
According to the Economic Policy Institute, the top 10% of workers in the U.S. earn $133,482.
How much should you be making at 30?
While there is no definitive amount you should earn by the time you’re 30, the average salary for U.S. workers aged 25 to 34 is $52,832, according to statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Photo credit: iStock/VAKSMANV
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