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Annual Pay for the Average American

Updated on July 1, 2013

2013 by Aurelio Locsin.

With over 800 different occupations and 130 million workers, the enormous and complex task of tracking American employment falls to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a federal agency. Through their annual surveys, they discover how many people work in each occupation and in each industry, and how much they make. These results are as of May 2012.


The average American receives an annual $45,790, which equals $22.01 per hour. The highest pay belongs to anesthesiologists, who manage patient pain before, during and after surgical processions. They earned a mean $232,830 per year. In fact, the top nine occupations belonged to medical professionals. The lowest-earning occupation belonged to shampooers, who cleaned clients’ hair at hairdressing salons and barbershops. They made a mean $18,600. Other low-paying occupations and their mean wages were combined food preparation and serving workers at $18,720, fast food cooks at $18,780 and dishwashers at $18,930.


The BLS groups jobs with similar tasks and goals into groups. The group with the highest salaries were management occupations, which received a mean $108,570 per year. Within this group, the highest-paying job belonged to chief executives, who averaged $120,060. They received their high pay by developing the goals and directions of their organizations. The lowest-paying group belonged to food preparation and serving related occupations, which earned a mean $21,380. This group included the previously mentioned combined food prep workers, fast food cooks and dishwashers as its lowest earners.


The group with the most workers belonged to office and administrative support occupations, where over 21.3 million individuals averaged $34,410 per year. Within that group, information and record clerks, who manage the flow of information into and out of companies, held the most jobs, with 40,225 workers receiving a mean $31,940. The fewest workers belonged to the farming, fishing and forestry occupations group, where 427,670 averaged $24,230. Within that group, the smallest number of jobs belonged to the 570 fishers and fishing-related workers, who caught fish and other water creatures for human consumption. They made a mean $28,600.


The BLS shows how education can affect salaries for the average worker. It asserts that the median annual pay of all workers was $42,380 as of 2012. Those with less than a high school diploma earned the lowest median wage of $24,492, while a high school diploma bumped pay up to $33,904. Median yearly wages for college degrees ran $40,820 for associate degrees, $55,432 for bachelor’s degrees, $67,600 for master’s degrees and $84,448. Professional degrees boasted the highest salaries of all at a median $90,220.


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    • MG Singh profile image

      MG Singh 4 years ago from Singapore

      Informative and interesting

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 4 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      Interesting! I wonder how this actually equates to real earning, the statistics are well and good but there are always exceptions. Many chief execs also get huge bonuses in addition to their salaries.

      I'm afraid I'm boringly average.

      Voting up.

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Great Hub Aurelio. I have a doctorate, but based on your statistics, I am grossly about 50%. And what is my profession, you ask...and I sardonically reply, "Why, I am a college professor." Oh the

      irony! Hope you and your family have a blessed Christmas. Theresa

    • thelyricwriter profile image

      Richard Ricky Hale 4 years ago from West Virginia

      Voted up, useful, awesome, interesting, and shared Alocsin. You're numbers are always interesting. I believe you love numbers as much as I do pal. Well informed information for anyone and right to the point. Great as always Alocsin. Once again, I'm in the wrong field!

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      So, you have it confirmed that a degree does help and the more your education the more money you make. Voted up and interesting.

    • rose-the planner profile image

      rose-the planner 4 years ago from Toronto, Ontario-Canada

      Wow, very insightful! Thank you for sharing. (Voted Up) -Rose

    • Jeannieinabottle profile image

      Jeannie InABottle 4 years ago from Baltimore, MD

      Thanks for sharing this information. Sometimes it is good to know what those around me are probably making. Voted up!

    • alocsin profile image

      alocsin 4 years ago from Orange County, CA

      Well, maybe my latest article on the Top 100 Hubbers will lift your spirits, billybuc ;)

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 4 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Staying in school and getting those degrees definitely helps! I see you left out the category of HubPage writers. Judging from my HP income, I should become a fisherman. Haha! Good hub. UUI votes and sharing this.

    • point2make profile image

      point2make 4 years ago

      Great hub Aurelio. The information was informative and, in some ways, surprising. It is striking when you compare salary levels with education levels. The message for our children is clear.....stay in school, study hard and get your degree.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Well, that firmly establishes me as a member of poverty. Thank you for the uplifting news. LOL