As you make your way on your chosen career path, you may wonder the answer to the question, “How much should I be making?”
The good news is there is data available that can give you an idea of what to aim for in your salary as you progress in your career.
Of course, you must keep in mind that median salaries can vary widely based on the field in which you work, where you live, and your education level, as well as on things that it shouldn’t, such as gender and race.
Let’s try to answer these questions:
How much money should you be making based on your age?
What is the average salary figure for your job?
What are some factors that can affect pay but shouldn’t?
How can you increase your income?
How do you find a job you love at the salary you deserve?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) regularly releases median weekly earnings of full-time workers by age, race and gender. Find out where you stack up by age, based on results for the first quarter of 2020.
- Women: $600 a week, or $31,200 annually
- Men: $609 a week, or $31,668 annually
- Overall: $605 a week, or $31,460 annually
- Women: $807 a week, or $41,964 annually
- Men: $924 a week, or $48,048 annually
- Overall: $872 a week, or $45,344 annually
- Women: $942 a week, or $48,984 annually
- Men: $1,197 a week, or $62,244 annually
- Overall: $1,080 a week, or $56,160 annually
- Women: $927 a week, or $48,204 annually
- Men: $1,245 a week, or $64,740 annually
- Overall: $1,101 a week, or $57,252 annually
- Women: $922 a week, or $47,944 annually
- Men: $1,223 a week, or $63,596 annually
- Overall: $1,082 a week, or $56,264 annually
- Women: $774 per week, or $40,248
- Men: $1,098 per week or $57,096 annually
- Overall: $938 per week, or $48,776 annually
Using just your age to determine how much you should make in the workplace is, of course, just one factor to consider. As noted, different industries and occupations can have widely different salary expectations. For example, a surgeon might make $237,570 annually, while a food service manager might make $59,820 and a veterinary technician might make $36,670. So you definitely have to consider your salary based on your field, as well as your own experience level.
You can take a look at this full BLS chart to get an idea of what the median salary might be for your chosen field.
Note also that sometimes the same job might pay differently depending on where you live. Consider this map from the U.S. Census Bureau showing how incomes vary widely across the country:
For more research on fair market value salary figures for your occupation, you might also consider checking out websites such as PayScale and Glassdoor. These companies allow you to review self-reported salary figures from other users in your industry and at your experience level, and to target specific companies you might be interested in.
While it might be reasonable for different jobs to pay differently based on the type of work, experience required and sometimes even the local cost of living, there are other factors that should not impact your salary but that all too often do.
Specifically, let’s look at pay inequality based on gender and race, along with what you can do to push back against these disparities.
If you take a look at the figures given in the income by age section, you might notice something: The median salary for men is always higher than that for women, in each age category given.
The reasons for this are varied and complicated, as well as controversial. A 2020 report by PayScale noted that women are more likely to take a break in their careers to raise children, for one, and employers may have an unconscious bias against all women because of that, assuming they will eventually leave for a time to have and raise children.
And although women have made serious career strides over the past several decades, they are still less likely to, overall, have the highest-paying jobs, particularly in powerful leadership roles.
And even when men and women occupy the very same roles in the same field and in the same company, there may be a gap. A Pew Research study in 2017 found that 1 in 4 women reported they’ve earned less than a man who was doing the same job, while just 5% of men said they have earned less than a woman doing the same job.
The BLS chart not only tells the story of a gender gap, but also of a significant race gap. For example, white men ages 25 to 54 earn an average weekly median salary of $1,128, which translates to $58,656 per year.
At the same time, a black man in the same age range earns $891, which is just $46,332 annually. A black woman in that age range earns a median of $767 per week, or $39,884 per year, while a white woman in that age group earns $906, or $47,112.
Latino men in that age group earn just $796 per week, or $41,392, while Latina women earn just $701 per week, or $36,452. The data tells the tale of minority women experiencing the largest wage gap overall.
You can see the full BLS chart here.
There are many laws on the books protecting employees against discrimination based on their gender, race, age and more. However, that doesn’t mean people don’t actually experience discrimination in the workplace.
If you feel you are not being paid fairly at your work place because of your sex, race or both, and not because of your performance or job level, you should do some research on what other people in your same field, and at your experience level, are being paid.
If you can talk to other colleagues about this without it causing disruption or getting you in trouble at work (some companies have rules against discussing your salary at work, and you don’t want to risk your job), you might consider doing so. Going on the above-mentioned Glassdoor or PayScale might help give you an idea of what other employees at your company are making, without having to have face-to-face conversations.
If you do believe you are being unfairly compensated for what you do compared to others at your company, consider having a talk with your boss about your value to the company, and see if you might be able to negotiate a higher paycheck. If there are serious problems at the company, you might consider consulting an employment lawyer, although this option is complicated and should not be pursued lightly.
If you discover you haven’t reached your full earning potential, here are some ways you can start increasing your annual income.
You don’t have to leave your job to increase your income.
If you feel like you’ve worked hard enough to deserve a raise, brush up on your negotiation skills and ask for one at your next performance evaluation.
If you’re in a job that pays overtime, volunteer to take on more hours whenever possible. Also, look for additional projects that may justify you coming in earlier or staying later to rack up more hours.
If you’ve made yourself indispensable as an employee, your manager and others will take note.
Talk to your manager about ways you can prepare for a promotion in the next six to 12 months. Then, take their feedback and work to develop your skills and earn that pay raise.
Some companies are better than others when it comes to overtime, raises and promotions. If you’re skilled at what you do, you may be able to leverage your qualifications for a better salary in a similar job, but with a different company.
If you feel like there’s no clear path in your current job, look around for other jobs. Websites such as Monster, Indeed and SimplyHired offer access to thousands of job listings across the country.
You can also update your LinkedIn profile and get notifications on jobs that fit your experience and qualifications.
Looking to beef up your resume and skill sets? Consider taking a few online classes or attending night school to learn a new skill.
General Assembly, Udemy and Springboard are all great online platforms for continuing education. You can take courses from experts and university professors from the comfort of your home.
You might also consider getting a new degree at a traditional college. Your employer might even have a program that reimburses you for furthering your education.
If your passion lies in what you do outside of work hours, consider turning a hobby you love into a side hustle or full-on business.
Depending on how much time and money you’re able to invest in yourself, you may be able to increase your income significantly.
Check out these side hustles that have the potential to be lucrative from the get-go.
Once you find out average salary figures for your age and occupation, take some time to figure out the next steps in your career.
If you’re underemployed or feeling trapped in a low-paying job, develop a plan around the next couple of career moves you can make to improve your situation. Creating a five-year road map for your career can also help you visualize and formulate a strategy for accomplishing your career goals.
Remember, finding a career that makes you happy and pays well is possible. It’s just a matter of pursuing your opportunities and using your current skill sets (or improving them) to make it happen. Here are some sites that may help you find your next dream job, as well as some tips on creating a career strategy.
Rebecca Stropoli contributed to this report
Interested in refinancing student loans?Here are the top 9 lenders of 2021!
|Lender||Variable APR||Eligible Degrees|
|1.89% – 6.15%1||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.99% – 5.64%2||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.50% – 6.85%3||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.90% – 5.25%4||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.25% – 6.64%5||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.89% – 5.90%6||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.39% – 6.01%||Undergrad |
|2.15% – 4.42%7||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.00% – 5.63%8||Undergrad & Graduate|
|Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews! |
1 Important Disclosures for Splash Financial.
Splash Financial Disclosures
Terms and Conditions apply. Splash reserves the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. Rates and terms are also subject to change at any time without notice. Offers are subject to credit approval. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. If approved, your actual rate will be within a range of rates and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, income and other factors. Refinancing or consolidating private and federal student loans may not be the right decision for everyone. Federal loans carry special benefits not available for loans made through Splash Financial, for example, public service loan forgiveness and economic hardship programs, fee waivers and rebates on the principal, which may not be accessible to you after you refinance. The rates displayed may include a 0.25% autopay discount
The information you provide to us is an inquiry to determine whether we or our lenders can make a loan offer that meets your needs. If we or any of our lending partners has an available loan offer for you, you will be invited to submit a loan application to the lender for its review. We do not guarantee that you will receive any loan offers or that your loan application will be approved. Offers are subject to credit approval and are available only to U.S. citizens or permanent residents who meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers will receive the lowest rates, which are available to the most qualified borrowers. Participating lenders, rates and terms are subject to change at any time without notice.
To check the rates and terms you qualify for, Splash Financial conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, the lender will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull and may affect your credit.
Splash Financial and our lending partners reserve the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen and meet our lending partner’s underwriting requirements. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. This information is current as of May 1, 2021.
2 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application..
Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 2.98% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.49% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 1.99% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.34% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of October 26, 2020, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.
The information provided on this page is updated as of 10/26/2020. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at [email protected], or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.
© 2020 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved. Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.
3 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
Offered terms are subject to change and state law restriction. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900), NMLS Consumer Access. If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown. All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 0.15% effective Jan 1, 2021 and may increase after consummation.
4 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
Subject to floor rate and may require the automatic payments be made from a checking or savings account with the lender. The rate reduction will be removed and the rate will be increased by 0.25% upon any cancellation or failed collection attempt of the automatic payment and will be suspended during any period of deferment or forbearance. As a result, during the forbearance or suspension period, and/or if the automatic payment is canceled, any increase will take the form of higher payments. The lowest advertised variable APR is only available for loan terms of 5 years and is reserved for applicants with FICO scores of at least 810.
As of 04/07/2021 student loan refinancing rates range from 1.90% APR – 5.25% Variable APR with AutoPay and 2.95% APR – 7.63% Fixed APR with AutoPay.
5 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
6 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.
Laurel Road Disclosures
All credit products are subject to credit approval.
Laurel Road began originating student loans in 2013 and has since helped thousands of professionals with undergraduate and postgraduate degrees consolidate and refinance more than $4 billion in federal and private school loans. Laurel Road also offers a suite of online graduate school loan products and personal loans that help simplify lending through customized technology and personalized service. In April 2019, Laurel Road was acquired by KeyBank, one of the nation’s largest bank-based financial services companies. Laurel Road is a brand of KeyBank National Association offering online lending products in all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. All loans are provided by KeyBank National Association, a nationally chartered bank. Member FDIC. For more information, visit www.laurelroad.com.
As used throughout these Terms & Conditions, the term “Lender” refers to KeyBank National Association and its affiliates, agents, guaranty insurers, investors, assigns, and successors in interest.
Assumptions: Repayment examples above assume a loan amount of $10,000 with repayment beginning immediately following disbursement. Repayment examples do not include the 0.25% AutoPay Discount.
Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): This term represents the actual cost of financing to the borrower over the life of the loan expressed as a yearly rate.
Interest Rate: A simple annual rate that is applied to an unpaid balance.
Variable Rates: The current index for variable rate loans is derived from the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) and changes in the LIBOR index may cause your monthly payment to increase. Borrowers who take out a term of 5, 7, or 10 years will have a maximum interest rate of 9%, those who take out a 15 or 20-year variable loan will have a maximum interest rate of 10%.
KEYBANK NATIONAL ASSOCIATION RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE.
This information is current as of April 29, 2021. Information and rates are subject to change without notice.
7 Important Disclosures for PenFed.
Annual Percentage Rate (APR) is the cost of credit calculating the interest rate, loan amount, repayment term and the timing of payments. Fixed Rates range from 2.89%-4.78% APR and Variable Rates range from 2.15%-4.42% APR. Both Fixed and Variable Rates will vary based on application terms, level of degree and presence of a co-signer. These rates are subject to additional terms and conditions and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. For Variable Rate student loans, the rate will never exceed 9.00% for 5 year and 8 year loans and 10.00% for 12 and 15 years loans (the maximum allowable for this loan). Minimum variable rate will be 2.00%. These rates are subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change.
8 Important Disclosures for Nelnet.
Checking your rate results in a soft credit pull, which will not affect your credit score. If you continue with your application, Nelnet Bank will request your permission to obtain your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies. This is a hard credit pull and may affect your credit score.
Interest rate reduction of .25% for automatically withdrawn payments from any designated bank account (“auto debit discount”). Auto debit discount applies when full payments (including both principal and interest) are automatically drafted from a bank account. The auto debit discount will continue to apply during periods of approved forbearance or deferment if the auto debit discount was in effect at the time of receiving the forbearance or deferment. Auto debit discount will remain on the account unless (1) the automatic deduction of payments is canceled or (2) there are three consecutive automatic deductions returned for insufficient funds at any time during the term of the loan.
Request for the cosigner to be released can be made by the borrower after 24 consecutive, on-time payments (not later than 15 days after the due date) of principal and interest have been made. Borrowers in deferment or forbearance must make 24 consecutive, on-time payments after re-entering repayment to qualify for the release. The borrower must be current on their payments at the time of the cosigner release request and show the ability to assume full responsibility of the loan(s) by meeting certain credit criteria on their own at the time of the request, including, but not limited to, being a U.S. citizen or having permanent residency in the United States, being the age of majority in their permanent state of residency, providing sufficient proof of income, and having no student loans in default.
Hardship forbearance allows you to temporarily suspend payments on your loan(s) while you are experiencing financial hardship. It is offered in increments of two or three months, with a maximum of 12 months available, in aggregate, over the life of the loan. If your loan(s) are in good standing at the time of your request, you will be eligible for forbearance in increments of two monthly payments. If, at the time of your initial request, your loan(s) are considered past-due, you will be eligible for forbearance in increments of three monthly payments. Future increments of forbearance, up to a life-time maximum of 12 months, may be requested upon the completion of making a certain number of principal and interest payments. During the two- or three-month forbearance period, you will not be required to make payments; however, any unpaid interest will continue to accrue and will be capitalized (added) onto your principal balance at the end of the forbearance period. You may continue making payments in any amount without penalty during the forbearance period. Your loan repayment term will be extended by the number of months in the forbearance period.
Refinance Loan Eligibility: You must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident alien with a valid U.S. Social Security number, and be the legal age to enter into binding contracts in your permanent state/territory of residency, or be at least 17 years of age and apply with a cosigner who is at least the age of majority in their state/territory. Non-residents can apply with an eligible cosigner who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident alien with a valid U.S. Social Security number. The student loans you refinance must be in their grace or repayment period, and you can no longer be enrolled in school on a half-time or more basis. You must have at least $5,000 in student loans to refinance. You, or your eligible cosigner, must have an annual income of at least $36,000. Approval subject to credit review. Other credit criteria may apply.
Refinance Loan Limits:
Loan Refinancing Risks: Federal student loans include benefits that may not be offered with private student loans. Carefully review any potential benefits that may be lost by refinancing federal and private education loans, such as the loss of any remaining grace periods. To learn more about what to take into consideration when refinancing federal student loans with private education loans, click here
Selecting ‘Get Started’ results in a soft credit pull, which will not affect your credit score. If you continue with your application, Nelnet Bank will request your permission to obtain your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies. This is a hard credit pull and may affect your credit score.
Fixed interest rates range from 2.99% APR (with auto debit discount) to 6.25% APR (without auto debit discount). Your interest rate will depend on your (and if applicable, your cosigner’s) credit qualifications. The fixed interest rate will remain the same for the life of the loan.
Variable interest rates range from 2.00% APR (with auto debit discount) to 5.63% APR (without auto debit discount). Your interest rate will depend on your (and if applicable, your cosigner’s) credit qualifications. Variable rates may increase after consummation. The variable interest rate is equal to the One-Month London Interbank Offered Rate (“One-Month LIBOR”) plus a margin. The One-Month LIBOR in effect for each monthly period (from the first day of the month through and including the last day of the same month) will be the highest One-Month LIBOR published in The Wall Street Journal “Money Rates” table on the twenty-fifth (25th) day (or if such day is not a business day, the next business day thereafter) of the month immediately preceding such calendar month. The Annual Percentage Rate (APR) for a variable interest rate loan will change monthly on the first day of each month if the One-Month LIBOR index changes. This may result in higher monthly payments. The current One-Month LIBOR index is 0.15% as of 5/4/2021.
The lowest interest rate for each loan type requires automatically withdrawn (“auto debit”) payments, a five-year repayment term, and the borrower making immediate principal and interest payments. Not all borrowers will receive the lowest rate. The interest rate and Annual Percentage Rate (APR) may be higher depending upon (1) the credit history of the borrower and, if applicable, the cosigner, (2) the repayment option and loan term selected, (3) the loan type selected, and (4) the highest level of education attained. If approved, applicants will be notified of the rate qualified for within the stated range.
*Checking your rate results in a soft credit pull, which will not affect your credit score. If you continue with your application, Nelnet Bank will request your permission to obtain your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies. This is a hard credit pull and may affect your credit score. **Your actual savings may vary based on interest rates, outstanding balances, remaining repayment terms, and other factors.