How to Find Average Salary Information for US Workers
Updated 5 March 2021
US salaries are not as straightforward as they used to be.
With the rise of online remote freelancers and companies like Lyft, Uber and Airbnb, it is difficult to say what the average annual income is.
The new nature of the working world has also led to ‘side-hustles’ and people with multiple jobs. The freelance industry allows people to set their own rates and work their own hours. This makes creative industries hard to regulate.
As such, income statistics have become difficult to define. Instead of working per annum, salary information is issued as weekly figures.
With that in mind, figures now show that in 2018, 67% of Americans were earning equal to or less than $50,000 per annum. The median is said to be $32,838.
How Much Does the Average American Make?
This question has no clear answer and is dependant on several factors, such as:
- Gender – Despite many politicians claiming that there is no gender pay gap, the figures detailed below indicate otherwise.
- Ethnicity – The figures in this category are considered to be inaccurate as they cover only White, Black, Hispanic and Asian. It is not always clear which category some ethnicities have been placed in. For example, Indians are believed to be categorized as Asian. However, they are not Asian, and their salaries and job positions may be different from Japanese and Chinese.
- Age – The under 25 age group is the lowest-paid as many of their jobs are part-time. As you get older and gain experience, your pay increases. You will see from the statistics that there is a peak age group before salaries start to reduce.
- Education – There is a school of thought that says education is not everything. Several self-made billionaires have confessed to dropping out of school. Yet, figures show that the level of education does impact your salary.
- Industry and Occupation – The more specialized your job role, the higher your pay might be. Jobs that require little to no training or expertise are not particularly well paid.
- Location – Cities like San Francisco and New York have a high cost of living and, as such, salaries are higher than they would be in other cities. It may be tempting to look at those figures and think that the job in New York is much better because the pay is higher, but your rent may also be considerably more.
The following statistics have been taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics released on July 17th, 2020. All the figures are pre-tax.
Weekly Average by Gender
The overall weekly median is $1,002.
By gender, for men it's $1,087 and for women it is $913.
White women earn 83.3% of what White men earn. For Black women, the percent is 93.7 compared to Black men. Asian women receive 77.1% compared to Asian men, and Hispanic women earn 85.1% compared to their counterparts.
Weekly Average by Ethnicity
White employees earn $1,018. Black employees earn $806, while Hispanics earn $786. Asians earn the most week-on-week at $1,336.
Remembering that gender also plays a role, these figures may be more for men and less for women.
Weekly Average by Age
For men aged 35–44 the median is $1,239, in the 45–54 age range it is $1,271, and for those between 55–64 it is $1,220.
Women in the same age groups earn $1,011, $1,005 and $998, respectively.
The 16–24 age group is much lower at $640 for males and $594 for females.
Weekly Average by Education
Those with no high school education earn, on average, $630.
High school graduates earn $789 and those with college or university degrees, $1,416.
Statistics also show that those with a postgraduate education, such as a master’s or Ph.D., earn over 10% more, with $3,997 for men and $2,910 for women.
Weekly Average by Industry and Occupation
It is no surprise that skilled jobs pay more than unskilled work.
Statistics show that those in management and professional roles earn $1,606 for men and $1,608 for women.
Men working in the service industry make $704 per week, and women, $584.
Sales and related job roles have medians of $1,069 for men and $709 for women.
Location and Living Costs
The cost of living varies depending on where you live. Some cities are more expensive than others, and cities, in general, are more expensive than the suburbs.
The same job role, with the same working hours, may yield different salaries and benefits.
Someone in Louisiana may earn $50,000, while someone in New York may earn $75,000 for the same role.
The Total Package
When considering if a salary is a good one or not, you need to look at the total package.
Where does it range in the national average? How does it rate within the industry? Does it meet the costs of living for the area you reside in? What extras does it offer?
Jobs now come with a host of benefits outside of the salary and bonus. A healthcare package is essential. Will your employer contribute to your 401k? Does it have a gym membership, flexible working hours or incentives?
How Do I Find the National Average Income?
There are several reasons why you may want to find salary figures:
- You may be a high school or college student researching potential future occupations. Knowing these figures can help you set a clear career path.
- You may be looking for a pay rise. Knowing the industry standards will help you determine your worth and negotiate a better salary. There are online tools to help you evaluate and compare your salary.
- You may be thinking of making a change, either in location or industry. Just because a city or job role may look amazing, the reality may be different.
- You may just be curious about the living and salary standards in the US.
Where to Look
For those of you still in education, your schools, colleges or universities will have career departments with all the latest information about salaries and job roles.
For those outside the education system, there are several websites you can visit.
- Payscale.com is an incredible resource with tools such as a salary negotiation guide, cost of living calculator and a career path planner. You can also search for salaries by company, certification, title and education.
- Indeed.com provides salary and company information.
- Salary.com offers a salary wizard and guides on career choices, costs of living and how to get a pay rise.
- Glassdoor.com reviews companies, detailing any employee benefits.
- Zippa.com has a tool called ‘Ranking Your Income’ that allows you to compare your salary to others across the country.
- Social Security Online has a detailed wage matrix, as well as a host of other employment information.
- US Bureau of Labor Statistics has a comprehensive guide to everything related to salaries and employment.
There are several helpful sources for finding average incomes, and the tools that allow you to evaluate your own are incredibly useful.
The average salary in the US is said to be $32,838.05.
For some, that may be a great salary. For others, that might be enough to just get by.
If you are looking to find out if your salary is good or not, it is better to compare your income to those living in the same city or state.
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) applies to the entire country, but each state has its own set of labor rules. One state may have a higher minimum wage and favor employees. Another state may protect businesses and employers more than employees.
Regardless of your reasons for wanting to know the average salary in America, it is useful information to have.
Remember that most salary figures are issued pre-tax, and not everyone is paid a salary. There are also those groups that decide their own fees and those that supplement their pay with extra work.
Knowing your rights when it comes to exempt vs. non-exempt, working hours and tax brackets will help you to understand your salary better.
Having information about the salaries of those in your demographics will facilitate any pay raises and career planning.
For more information about your salary and working rights, visit your state’s government website or a local job center.