What Is Considered a Good Starting Salary?

A good salary adds to your overall work satisfaction.
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While salary may not be your only reason for starting a new profession, it’s still an important consideration. You want to be sure that the pay you’re getting covers the time, effort and money you spent learning a new career, and that it leads to pay that’s better than your old job. One way to determine if your compensation is good is to compare it to the ranges of salaries compiled by private and government agencies for your job.


If you’re a college graduate, you can compare your pay with the figures collected by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, NACE, for the class of 2012. It showed average annual starting salaries of $44,455, up 3.4 percent from the 2011 average of $42,987. The highest-paying degrees belonged to engineering majors, who averaged $61,913 per year, with a range from $49,770 to $73,387. The lowest paying degrees were in the humanities and social sciences, averaging an annual $36,988, with a range of $29,644 to $43,606.


You can also check what you get paid against what other college graduates are making in the industry that you’re in. The NACE reported that the top-paying industries and their average annual starting salaries were mining and extracting oil and gas at $59,400, construction at $57,047, management of companies and enterprises at $56,607, manufacturing at $54,530 and finance and insurance at $52,741. For salaries in industries with the most hires, educational services provided 444,500 new positions with average starting pay of $39,879 per year. Professional, scientific and technical services were next for employment with 289,400 jobs and mean starting wages of $48,035 yearly.

Highest-Paid Jobs

If you’re interested in specific occupational categories, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics compiles statistics on all jobs in the country, with its latest figures from May 2011. Resources show a link to the primary table. Two tips: click on the column heading to sort the figures. Then click on the occupation title for salary information on that particular job. As a group, management occupations reported the highest average salaries of $107,410 per year. These aren’t starting wages, but you can compare your pay to the annual range for the category, which started below $45,720 and reaches above $187,199. Within the group, chief executives earned the highest annual pay of $176,550, with a yearly range of below $75,860 to above $187,199. By contrast, the average U.S. worker earned $45,230 per year.

Biggest Employment

The biggest occupational group was office and administrative support, containing more than 21.3 million of the country’s 128.2 million positions. The average annual pay for this group was $34,120, with a range of below $18,980 to above $53,880. Within this group, general office clerk jobs were most numerous, at 2.8 million jobs. Pay averaged $28,920 yearly, with a range of below $17,740 to above $43,390. The largest single occupation belonged to retail salespeople, with more than 4.2 million jobs. Average annual compensation for these workers was $25,130, with a range from below $16,640 to above $38,510.

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