How to Figure out How Much Money You Should Make

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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?

How much money should you be making based on your age?

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.

Ages 20-24

  • Women: $600 a week, or $31,200 annually
  • Men: $609 a week, or $31,668 annually
  • Overall: $605 a week, or $31,460 annually

Ages 25-34

  • Women: $807 a week, or $41,964 annually
  • Men: $924 a week, or $48,048 annually
  • Overall: $872 a week, or $45,344 annually

Ages 35-44

  • 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

Ages 45-54

  • 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

Ages 55-64

  • 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

Ages 65 and over

  • Women: $774 per week, or $40,248
  • Men: $1,098 per week or $57,096 annually
  • Overall: $938 per week, or $48,776 annually

What is the average salary figure for your job?

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.

What are some factors that can affect pay but shouldn’t?

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.

The gender gap

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 race gap

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.

Fighting discrimination

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.

How can you increase your income?

If you discover you haven’t reached your full earning potential, here are some ways you can start increasing your annual income.

1. Focus on your current job
2. Look for promotion opportunities
3. Look elsewhere
4. Learn a new skill
5. Start a side hustle

1. Focus on your current job

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.

2. Look for promotion opportunities

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.

3. Look elsewhere

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.

4. Learn a new skill

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.

5. Start a side hustle

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.

How do you find a job you love at the salary you deserve?

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 6 lenders of 2020!
LenderVariable APREligible Degrees 
1.89% – 6.66%1Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Splash

1.89% – 5.90%2Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Laurel Road

2.25% – 6.09%3Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit SoFi

1.99% – 5.34%4Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Earnest

1.97% – 8.54%5Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Lendkey

2.39% – 6.01%Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Elfi

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 October 1, 2020.


2 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.

  1. Checking your rate with Laurel Road only requires a soft credit pull, which will not affect your credit score. To proceed with an application, a hard credit pull will be required, which may affect your credit score.
  2. Savings vary based on rate and term of your existing and refinanced loan(s). Refinancing to a longer term may lower your monthly payments, but may also increase the total interest paid over the life of the loan. Refinancing to a shorter term may increase your monthly payments, but may lower the total interest paid over the life of the loan. Review your loan documentation for total cost of your refinanced loan.
  3. After loan disbursement, if a borrower documents a qualifying economic hardship, we may agree in our discretion to allow for full or partial forbearance of payments for one or more 3-month time periods (not to exceed 12 months in the aggregate during the term of your loan), provided that we receive acceptable documentation (including updating documentation) of the nature and expected duration of the borrower’s economic hardship. During any period of forbearance interest will continue to accrue. At the end of the forbearance period, any unpaid accrued interest will be capitalized and be added to the remaining principle amount of the loan.
  4. Automatic Payment (“AutoPay”) Discount: if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically from a bank account, the interest rate will decrease by 0.25% and will increase back if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically from the borrower’s bank account. The 0.25% AutoPay discount will not reduce the monthly payment; instead, the discount is applied to the principal to help pay the loan down faster.

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 September 9, 2020. Information and rates are subject to change without notice.
 


3 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

  1. Student loan Refinance: Fixed rates from 2.99% APR to 6.09% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 2.25% APR to 6.09% APR (with AutoPay). Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at either 8.95% or 9.95% depending on term of loan. See APR examples and terms. Lowest variable rate of 2.25% APR assumes current 1 month LIBOR rate of 0.18% plus 2.32% margin minus 0.25% ACH discount. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, the fixed or variable interest rate offered will depend on your creditworthiness, and the term of the loan and other factors, and will be within the ranges of rates listed above. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. See eligibility details. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. *To check the rates and terms you qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit inquiry. Unlike hard credit inquiries, soft credit inquiries (or soft credit pulls) do not impact your credit score. Soft credit inquiries allow SoFi to show you what rates and terms SoFi can offer you up front. After seeing your rates, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit inquiry. Hard credit inquiries (or hard credit pulls) are required for SoFi to be able to issue you a loan. In addition to requiring your explicit permission, these credit pulls may impact your credit score. Terms and Conditions Apply. SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE. 

4 Important Disclosures for Earnest.

Earnest Disclosures

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.


5 Important Disclosures for LendKey.

LendKey Disclosures

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 11/13/2020 student loan refinancing rates range from 1.97% to 8.54% Variable APR with AutoPay and 2.95% to 8.77% Fixed APR with AutoPay.