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What Is a Good Salary in US? [+Average Salaries 2023]

What Is a Good Salary in US? [+Average Salaries 2023]

“Are you dreaming of a life in the US, but unsure if you can afford it? You’re not alone. With the average salary in the US in 2023 being $59,428 per year or $28.34 per hour, many are left wondering if this is enough to live comfortably. This figure reflects a slight decrease compared to 2022’s real median household income of $74,580 and the median American worker’s annual income of $54,132.

But what does it really mean to have a ‘good salary’ in the US?

In the United States, factors influencing a good salary include career stage, industry, and location. Entry-level positions range from $30,000 to $40,000, mid-career professionals earn $50,000 to $100,000, while senior executives often exceed $100,000. Industries like technology and finance offer higher salaries, whereas education and arts tend to be lower. Geographic location plays a significant role, with high-cost areas requiring higher salaries. Additional factors such as benefits, work-life balance, and industry growth potential also contribute to defining a good salary.

In this blog post, we will discuss what you need to know about a good salary in the US. We’ll also share some insider tips on how to negotiate a better salary and increase your income potential. Whether you’re a fresh graduate, a seasoned professional, or a retiree, this post will provide valuable insights to help you navigate your financial journey in the US.”

How much do you need to live comfortably in the US? Read our article: Cost of Living in The US for a Family: What To Expect?

What Is A Good Salary In The US?

A mini metal basket with a red arrow above it

In the United States, a good salary varies based on career stage, industry, and location. Entry-level positions typically earn $30,000 to $40,000, while mid-career professionals can make $50,000 to $100,000 average salary, and senior executives often exceed $100,000, particularly in sectors like technology and finance. Industry-wise, tech and IT command high salaries (around $80,000 to $120,000), healthcare professionals, especially doctors, can earn upwards of $200,000, whereas education and arts salaries are generally lower. 

Regionally, high-cost areas like New York or San Francisco require higher salaries due to living costs, while lower-cost states like Mississippi offer a comfortable living at salaries closer to or below the national average. Other factors influencing a good salary include benefits, work-life balance, and future growth potential in the industry. 

Factors That Determine a Good Salary

check mark symbol near the average option

A good salary is a relative term that depends on various factors, such as career stage, location, education, experience, industry, and occupation. To give you more idea about it and the national average salary, I will discuss how different factors influence salary ranges in different states or industries, and why it is important to consider them when talking about what is a good salary in the U.S.

Career Stage

Businessman receiving his salary and bonus

One of the most obvious factors that affects salary is career stage. Generally, the more advanced and experienced a worker is, the higher their salary will be. For example, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median wage for workers with less than a high school diploma was $31,200 in 2022, while the median wage for workers with a bachelor’s degree or higher was $76,800. This shows that education can have a significant impact on earning potential, as well as career progression and opportunities. However, a worker with a high school diploma or lower education level still gets good income or financial stability like college graduates with doctoral degree, if they work in the right location. 

Location

Another factor that influences salary is location. Different states and regions have different costs of living, tax rates, and demand and supply of labor. Therefore, the same occupation may have different salary levels depending on where it is performed. For instance, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median household income for registered nurses in 2022 ranged from $53,760 in South Dakota to $120,560 in California. This reflects the differences in living expenses, healthcare systems, and population density across the states.

Industry

accountant in black suit working

A third factor that affects salary is industry. Certain industries have different levels of profitability, competitiveness, and innovation. That said, the same occupation may have different highest pay levels or average income depending on its industry. For example, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for software developers in 2022 ranged from $75,590 in the educational services industry to $118,580 in the computer and electronic product manufacturing industry. This reflects the differences in market demand, product quality, and industry research and development.

To illustrate how these factors can interact and influence national average and salary ranges, I will use a comparison table that shows the median annual wages for some common occupations in different states and industries based on the data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The table is shown below for a better understanding of how several factors affect the median salary of wage earners:

OccupationStateIndustryMedian Annual Wage
AccountantNew YorkAccounting, Tax Preparation, Bookkeeping, and Payroll Services$83,910
AccountantTexasOil and Gas Extraction$90,740
AccountantMontanaFederal, State, and Local Government$59,410
TeacherCaliforniaElementary and Secondary Schools$82,960
TeacherMississippiElementary and Secondary Schools$45,230
TeacherAlaskaColleges, Universities, and Professional Schools$72,880
EngineerMassachusettsComputer and Electronic Product Manufacturing$107,830
EngineerWyomingMining (except Oil and Gas)$93,970
EngineerArkansasArchitectural, Engineering, and Related Services$77,540
table showing salaries of different jobs in the US

The table shows that the same occupation can have different salary ranges depending on the state and industry it is performed in. For example, an accountant in New York working in the accounting industry earns more than an accountant in Montana working in the government sector. Similarly, a teacher in California working in elementary and secondary schools earns more than a teacher in Mississippi working in the same industry. Likewise, an engineer in Massachusetts working in the computer and electronic product manufacturing industry earns more than an engineer in Arkansas working in the architectural, engineering, and related services industry.

Statue of Liberty in New York

Thinking about moving to New York? Check our article about What Is A Good Salary To Live in New York? 2023 Guide

These examples demonstrate that a good salary is not a fixed or universal concept, but rather a relative and contextual one. Therefore, when talking about what is a good salary in the U.S., it is necessary to consider the factors that influence salary ranges in different states or industries, such as career stage, location, industry, and occupation. By doing so, one can have a more realistic and accurate understanding of the value and potential of their work, as well as the opportunities and challenges they may face in the labor market.

I can relate to this topic because I have experienced the effects of these factors on my own salary. I work as a web developer, and I have moved to different states and worked in different industries throughout my career. I have noticed that my average American income has changed significantly depending on where I live and what industry I work in. For example, when I worked in New York in the media and publishing industry, I earned more than when I worked in Florida in the hospitality industry. However, I also had to pay more for rent, taxes, and transportation in New York than in Florida. So, I had to weigh the pros and cons of each location and industry, and decide what was a good median income for me based on my personal and professional goals, preferences, and needs.

Do you want to try other jobs outside the US? Are you considering Germany as your new home? Read our article: What Expats Need To Know About Average Gross Salary – Germany Before Moving. 

How Much Do I Need to Live Comfortably in The US?

woman relaxing enjoying luxury sofa outdoors

To live comfortably in the US, you must consider the average cost of living. It ranges between $2,500 and $3,500 monthly for a single person. The feasibility depends on factors like location, lifestyle, and job. 

Below is a breakdown of the cost of living in the US, according to envoy.com

  • Housing (one-bedroom flat): Renting a one-bedroom apartment in the city, ranging from $1,500 to $2,500, depending on location, size, and amenities.

  • Services (power, heat, AC, water, trash): Essential utilities cost $150 to $300, depending on usage, season, and service provider.

  • Food: Grocery expenses and home cooking, ranging from $300 to $500 based on dietary choices, shopping habits, and food quality.

  • Eating out: Dining expenses at restaurants, cafes, or fast-food places, ranging from $150 to $300 depending on frequency, type, and location.

  • Healthcare cost: the average monthly cost of health insurance in the US was $495. The average cost of individual health insurance for a 40-year-old across all policies was $495. The cheapest premium you can get in the US is $313. 

Here is a table for the living costs in various US regions based on the data from Expatistan and Forbes. I have grouped the states into four regions: Northeast, Midwest, South, and West, following the [U.S. Census Bureau] classification. We have also calculated the ratio of average salary to cost of living for each state, which indicates how much income is left after paying for essential expenses. A higher ratio means a higher disposable income.

RegionStateAverage SalaryCost of LivingRatio
WestWashington$90,128$60,3001.49
MidwestIllinois$79,852$54,9001.46
SouthTexas$73,069$51,0001.43
NortheastPennsylvania$74,420$54,9001.36
SouthFlorida$63,238$51,0001.24
WestMontana$57,994$48,0001.21
NortheastVermont$60,840$54,6001.11
WestNew Mexico$59,412$48,0001.24
WestCalifornia$93,517$72,6001.29
WestHawaii$72,694$72,6001.00
cost of living in different states in the US

As you can see, the average salary and cost of living vary widely across the US states. Generally, the West has the highest salaries and costs, while the Midwest and the South have lower salaries and costs. However, some states have a better balance between income and expenses than others. For example, Hawaii has the lowest ratio of 1.00, meaning that the average salary barely covers the cost of living. On the other hand, Washington has the highest ratio of 1.49, meaning that the average salary leaves a lot of room for savings and discretionary spending.

Of course, these are only averages and may not reflect your specific situation. To live comfortably in the US, you should also consider your personal and professional goals, your lifestyle preferences, and your career opportunities in different regions and states. You can use online tools like a cost of living calculator to compare the costs of living in different cities and adjust your budget accordingly.

male cardiologist in a modern clinic

When calculating the cost of living, don’t forget to add the healthcare cost. The average monthly cost of health insurance in the US was $495. The average cost of individual health insurance for a 40-year-old across all policies was $495. The cheapest premium you can get in the US is $313. 

We recommend taking out affordable coverage from Cigna. You can adjust the policy to your needs and save money that way. Cigna is a US-based insurance provider with 74,000 employees, 200 years of experience, and more than 100 million customers globally.

Do you want to compare life in the US to another country? Check our article: Living in New Zealand vs USA: Which Is Better?

What Do People Say About The Cost of Living in The US?

Girl friends hanging outdoors

Here are some anecdotes from people about the cost of living and the average salary in the US:

  • “I moved to California from the Midwest and was worried about the cost of living. But I was pleasantly surprised to find that the higher salary I received more than made up for the increased expenses. I’m happy with my decision to move here. I’m getting a good income even without the advanced positions or college degree for my age group” 

  • “I’ve lived in New York City for years, and the cost of living is just ridiculous. I’m paying $2,500 a month for a tiny apartment, and that’s considered a good deal. I’m seriously considering moving to a cheaper city. Right now, I am aiming for a higher average American income to cover my expenses, including the credit card debt.” 

  • “I live in Texas, and the cost of living is very reasonable. I can afford a nice house, and I don’t have to worry about money too much, especially the recurring expenses. I’m happy with my quality of life here.”

These are just some personal stories from different people, and they may not reflect the general sentiment of the population in each state or region. To get a more objective and comprehensive view of how people feel about the cost of living and the average median income in the US, we can look at some survey data or broader population insights. 

sad businessman in front of alptop

In a recent Bank of America survey reported by CNN, 67% of employees feel that the cost of living is increasing faster than their salary and wages, up from 58% in February. The survey also revealed that 59% of workers are worried about inflation, and 44% express concerns about saving for retirement. 

Note: Salary, especially in metro areas, affects your ability to cover expenses. If you want to lessen your expenses, consider having remote work. It offers flexibility. Employers’ compensation policies, influenced by data like median wages, age, and industry, shape workers’ pay. Assessing these factors is essential to determine a suitable or average family income for a comfortable lifestyle.

Do you want a change of scenery? Or do you want to restart your career somewhere else, like Australia? Check our article about What is a Good Salary in Sydney? [2023]

How to Know If You Have a Good Salary?

Person receiving good salary

With a better understanding of how your salary compares in the job market and what factors influence your salary, you can now decide what is a good income level for yourself. Here are some quick tips to know if you have a good or average American income:

  1. Research average salaries for your job title and location. This will give you an idea of what you can earn based on your skill set and experience level. 

  2. Compare your salary to the median income in your area. You may be earning a good salary if you’re working in the metro area. Companies give higher median salaries to places with a good supply and demand for workers. 

  3. Consider your education level. Generally, an individual with a higher education level tends to earn more money than those with lower levels of education. 

  4. Evaluate your current employer. Some employers pay higher salaries than others, so it’s worth researching the pay scales of different companies in your industry.

  5. Assess your pay compared to others in your industry. You may be earning a good salary if you’re earning more money than others in your industry with similar experience and skill sets.

Remember, what constitutes a good salary can vary depending on your geographic location, industry, and other factors. However, by considering these tips, you can better understand whether you’re earning a good income or should be looking for ways to increase your pay and reach your financial goals.

Things You Can Do To Increase Your Salary

Portrait of a hispanic business woman with a file standing in meeting room

Here are some things you can do to increase your salary in the US:

Professional Development:

  • Attend Conferences and Seminars: Participate in industry-specific conferences and seminars to stay updated on the latest trends, technologies, and best practices. This can enhance your expertise and make you more valuable to employers.

  • Online Learning Platforms: Explore online learning platforms like LinkedIn Learning, Coursera, or Udacity to acquire new skills and certifications at your own pace.

  • Mentorship Programs: Seek out mentorship programs within your company or industry. Learning from experienced professionals can provide valuable insights and guidance for career growth.

Negotiation Tactics:

  • Timing is Key: Choose the right time to negotiate, such as after a successful project, positive performance review, or when the company is doing well financially.

  • Present Your Achievements: Clearly articulate your accomplishments, contributions, and any additional responsibilities you’ve taken on since your last salary review. Use concrete examples to demonstrate your value.

  • Benchmarking: Provide data on industry salary standards for your role to support your case during negotiations. Websites like Glassdoor or industry-specific salary surveys can be helpful.

  • Consider Non-Monetary Benefits: If a salary increase is not immediately possible, explore other benefits such as flexible work arrangements, additional vacation days, or professional development opportunities.

Industry-Specific Tips:

  • Build a Portfolio: For creative or technical roles, create a portfolio showcasing your best work. This can serve as a powerful visual representation of your skills during job interviews or performance reviews.

  • Stay Informed on Market Trends: Industries evolve, and staying informed about emerging trends can position you as a valuable asset. Being at the forefront of industry knowledge can lead to increased demand for your skills.

  • Certifications and Licenses: Depending on your industry, obtaining relevant certifications or licenses can significantly enhance your qualifications and make you a more attractive candidate for high-paying positions.

Performance Metrics:

  • Quantify Your Impact: Where possible, quantify the impact of your work in terms of revenue generated, cost savings, or efficiency improvements. Numbers can strengthen your case when discussing salary increases.

  • Set Clear Goals: Work with your supervisor to set clear, measurable goals aligned with company objectives. Meeting or exceeding these goals can be used as a basis for salary discussions.

Remember, a combination of these strategies tailored to your industry and personal circumstances can be most effective. Regularly reassess your career goals and market conditions to make informed decisions about your salary growth.

Worried about your taxes in the US? Check this article: Taxes in the UK vs US: Where Do You Pay More?

Final Thoughts About The Good Salary in US

In this blog, we have discussed the factors that affect the average salary and median income in the US and how they can help you determine a good salary for you. We have also explained the difference between the average salary and the median salary, and how they can vary by profession, location, education, industry, experience, and economic factors. 

We have also provided some examples of the average salaries and median salaries in different states and industries and some anecdotes from people about the cost of living and the average income in the US.

We hope that this blog has given you some insights and guidance on how to assess and estimate salaries in the US, and how to achieve your financial goals. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact us or leave a comment below. We are always happy to hear from you and help you with your salary-related queries. 

Also, if you want to learn more about a good salary in US, please click the links in the article to read more about the topic. Doing so will also help us keep this blog afloat and provide you with more useful information.


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