What is a good salary and how do you compare?

A person sits cross legged on their bed while using a laptop and smartphone to research what a good salary is.Image: A person sits cross legged on their bed while using a laptop and smartphone to research what a good salary is.

In a Nutshell

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the national average salary in 2021 was $58,260. Although wages above the average could be seen as a good salary, there are no hard and fast rules regarding how to determine a good salary since there are many factors involved.
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The national average salary in 2021 was $58,260, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

However, many factors determine whether you’re making a “good” salary.

What is a good salary? That can vary depending on things such as where you live, your age and profession. However, you should have a general understanding of salary information to help you decide on a suitable career path and improve your job prospects.

By knowing the appropriate salary for your profession, you’ll be more empowered and better prepared to negotiate wages with an employer.

We’ll review some general information to help you evaluate your salary and determine what may be an appropriate pay range for you.

Factors that can determine a good salary

To determine whether a salary is competitive, here are some factors to consider.


Although education doesn’t always guarantee success in your career field, having a high school diploma and above often allows you access to more job opportunities. In addition, earning a degree from an established program in your field can typically elevate your chances of being recruited by top companies.

Experience level

In general, the more experience you have, the more likely you are to receive higher pay. With a lack of skilled workers in the workforce today, many companies are struggling to find applicants who have enough experience and also meet the job requirements.

As a result, salaries for these advanced positions are on the rise.

Since experience is highly valuable to employers, you may notice that entry-level jobs don’t pay as well. If you’ve just started your first job out of college, a lower salary is usually expected. But as you advance throughout your career, you may begin to see a steady increase in your annual income.


The industry you work in has a significant impact on your earnings potential. Highly technical fields that require longer training, education or apprenticeship typically command higher salaries.

Healthcare, engineering, finance, entertainment, legal and information technology are all examples of high-earning industries. If you want to maximize your earning potential, consider pursuing a career in a lucrative field you’re interested in.

Geographic location

Even when the job title, experience and level of education are the same, salaries across the United States can vary depending on your location.

This salary difference is mainly because of the varying degrees of local job demand, cost of living and tax rate. For example, in San Jose, California, the average annual income of a software engineer in 2021 was about $167,000. Meanwhile, in Chicago, software engineers take home a lower annual wage of about $114,000 a year.

What is a good salary to live on?

It can be difficult to reach a consensus about what is considered a good salary. What someone might consider a suitable salary may be unacceptable for another person. Your spending habits, financial goals, amount of debt and other personal factors can all influence your ideal salary.

Key takeaway: What’s considered a good salary varies widely based on location, cost of living and career choice.

To find out how much income you may need to live comfortably as a single person, you can use our cost of living calculator to compare the income you’ll need to make in each state.

What is the average salary in the U.S.?

The average salary in the United States was $58,260, with an average hourly wage of $28.01, according to the May 2021 National Occupational Employment and Wages Estimates from the BLS.

As of 2021, it’s estimated that women in the U.S. earn about 83 cents for every dollar that a man earns. That’s an improvement from 77 cents a decade earlier.

average-US-salaryImage: average-US-salary

Median salary in the U.S. by age & gender

How much women earn on a weekly basis at various ages based on BLS data from the fourth quarter of 2022:

  • 16 to 19: $602 ($31,304 annually)
  • 20 to 24: $706 ($36,712 annually)
  • 25 to 34: $955 ($49,660 annually)
  • 35 to 44: $1,099 ($57,148 annually)
  • 45 to 54: $1,042 ($54,184 annually)
  • 55 to 64: $1,017 ($52,884 annually)
  • 65+: $873 ($45,396 annually)

How much men earn on a weekly basis at various ages, based on the same data:

  • 16 to 19: $644 ($33,488 annually)
  • 20 to 24: $771 ($40,092 annually)
  • 25 to 34: $1,091 ($56,732 annually)
  • 35 to 44: $1,305 ($67,860 annually)
  • 45 to 54: $1,355 ($70,460 annually)
  • 55 to 64: $1,329 ($69,108 annually)
  • 65+: $1,205 ($62,660 annually)

Median salary in the U.S. by education

  • Less than a high school diploma: $626 ($32,552 annually)
  • High school diploma: $809 ($42,068 annually)
  • Some college, no degree: $899 ($46,748 annually)
  • Associate degree: $963 ($50,076 annually)
  • Bachelor’s degree: $1,334 ($69,368 annually)
  • Master’s degree: $1,574 ($81,848 annually)
  • Professional degree: $1,924 ($100,048 annually)
  • Doctoral degree: $1,909 ($99,268 annually)

Note: All numbers reported are weekly earnings based on 2021 data.

Average salary in the U.S. by industry

  • Food preparation: $29,450           
  • Healthcare support: $33,330
  • Personal care and service: $33,620
  • Farming, fishing and forestry: $34,730
  • Construction and extraction: $55,900
  • Education: $62,140
  • Art, design, entertainment, sports and media: $66,100
  • Business and financial operations: $82,610
  • Architecture and engineering: $91,740
  • Computer and mathematical: $99,860

What is the average raise percentage?

Getting a raise can affect your annual income for the better. Raise percentages often differ depending on the reason for the raise, job title, inflation and what your company can afford at the time of the raise.

From 2021 to 2022, workers in America saw pay increases of about 4%. Sources such as Willis Towers Watson or Payscale report that companies project an average pay raise between 4% to 5% in 2023.

Reasons someone could receive a pay raise include …

  • Heightened cost of living
  • Retention
  • Merit-based
  • Length of service
  • Job performance
  • New job responsibilities

How to get a high-paying job

If you’re hoping to pursue a job in a higher-paying career field, here are some tips to help you land a well-paying job in today’s competitive workforce.

Future-proof your skills

With the rise of artificial intelligence and sophisticated technology, the nature of work is continuously changing and it’s important to keep up with the latest trends and develop skills that will be valuable in the future.

For example, fast-growing careers such as data scientists and information security analysts are in high demand. As a result, professionals in these fields can receive generous compensation for their work.

You can also future-proof your career by acquiring new skills to remain valuable in the workplace despite the ever-changing job market.

Seek career advice from a mentor

A mentor can accelerate your career journey by guiding you in the right direction and providing valuable insights to help you achieve professional success.

A mentor may also help connect you with the right resources, offer motivational career advice and hold you accountable to your goals.

If your current employer provides a mentorship program, take advantage of it by asking your mentor questions about growth opportunities within the company.

Become an expert in your field

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in January 2022, nearly 11 million jobs were open in the United States, but the number of hires was about 6.4 million. With the growing skill gap in the workforce, businesses are experiencing increasing difficulty in recruitment and filling openings for highly skilled positions.

You may be able to gain a competitive advantage in the workforce by becoming an expert in your field by investing in ways to advance your knowledge. Whether it’s by attending webinars, going back to school or taking training courses, making an effort to expand your expertise can lead to career growth and salary increases.

Attend networking events

Networking events provide you with the latest knowledge about industry trends and are a great way to expand your network and build opportunities for yourself. Don’t forget to have your business card or resume handy and be ready to sell yourself and your skills effectively at these professional events.

You never know when you might bump into someone who can help you achieve a high-paying career.