What Is a Good Salary? [Yearly, Entry-Level, US]

Salaries vary quite a lot depending on several factors. It’s important to know you are getting a good salary and not being underpaid. What is a good salary?

As a general rule, in the U.S., earning $50,000 per year in a rural area would be a comfortable salary. In an urban area that is not one of the largest 10 cities in the U.S., a good salary would be $100,000 per year.

The median living wage in the U.S. is $67,690. Mississippi has the lowest living wage at $58,321 per year, while Hawaii has the highest at $136,437 per year.

Another way to assess if a salary is good or not is how it relates to the effort you are exerting in the job. For your salary to be considered good, it must be at least equal to the amount of physical and mental effort you are spending to do your work and how much your work contributes to your society’s betterment.

Read on to learn more about what a good salary is, the factors that determine how good it is, and what a salary is based on.

What Is a Good Salary? 

what is a good salary

A good salary for the job you are doing should give you at least the average living wage in your industry. As a general rule, a $50,000 yearly salary in a rural area would be considered comfortable. In an urban area that is not one of the largest 10 cities in the U.S., a good salary would be $100,000 a year.

In the United States, $67,690 is the average living wage. That means there are places in the US that have lower wages than the others. Hawaii has the highest annual income at $136,437.

Mississippi has the lowest at $67,690 per annum. That’s a huge difference of $68,747, which is even bigger than Mississippi’s yearly median wage.

Looking at it at the fundamental level, if you are paid at least the average living wage, you could consider your salary as good. However, many factors come into play before you can consider a salary as ‘good.’

Factors That Determine How Good a Salary Is

Your salary can be considered ‘good’ if its monetary value is equivalent to your mental and physical effort to accomplish your job. Your work should also be relevant to the advancement of your society.

Oftentimes, your work’s value concerning the kind of society your industry is dealing with determines the amount of money or salary you will be paid. And this is one reason why there is a big discrepancy in workers’ actual salaries in different locations.

What is considered a good salary? If you are happy with your salary, it must be good, regardless of your receiving. This was the subject of a Purdue University study conducted in 2018 using comprehensive data taken from Gallup World Poll.

This study’s proponents found out that happiness cannot be equated to how much money a person is earning. This study revealed that a $60,000 to $75,000 annual salary would provide a worker with emotional well-being. A $95,000 annual salary will provide life satisfaction.

But here’s their most interesting finding: you will be less happy if you earn more than $105,000 per year. In other words, this kind of salary is not good even if it is considerably more than the average salary because it cannot fulfill the two aspects of life satisfaction and emotional well-being.    

What is a good annual salary? A good annual salary in the U.S ranges from 60,000 to $75,000 annual salary. This amount can stabilize a worker’s emotional well-being, while an annual salary of $95,000 can give a worker life satisfaction.

Factors That Determine If a Salary Is Really Good

Several factors determine if the amount of salary you will be paid is good or not. While there is an average salary for every type of work, some elements influence the actual pay. 

A salary may be good in one place, but the same salary may not be good in another place. The exact job position and the same type of work are oftentimes paid differently in different locations.

Here are the factors that affect whether a salary is good:

1. Supply and Demand for Workers

If there’s not much demand for the type of work you do, and you still have a job, you are getting a good salary.

2. Cost of Living

If after deducting the cost of living in your local area, e.g., house rent or mortgage, utilities, food, education of your kids, reasonable entertainment, and there’s still much money left in your pocket, then you really have a good salary.

3. Economic State in Your Local Area

If the state of the economy in your area is not that good and you can still have a job and pay for your cost of living, your salary is good.

4. Standard of Living

This is closely tied to the ‘cost of living’ but has some particular elements that can also define how good your salary is. An illustration best explains this. Say you are a marketing manager in Omaha getting $50,000 a year, and you are enjoying a good standard of life.

You have to earn $97,000 in the same position to enjoy those same living standards if you are working in San Francisco, California.

5. Company Expectations

What the company requires of you and the salary you are being paid to fulfill its requirements also determines if what they are paying you is good or not.

If you are required to put in 80 hours of work per week amidst pressure, and in an intense environment, you should have a higher salary than someone in another company who is not required to work in stressful working situations – even if both of you have the same job title.

What is a good salary in the US? A study conducted by Purdue University determined that in the U.S., a good salary that a worker is satisfied with ranges from $60,000 to $75,000 annual salary. In contrast, an annual salary of $95,000 will provide a worker with life satisfaction.

Entry Level Salary

What is a good entry-level salary?

It depends on the kind of job and the industry where that job belongs to. It also depends on the state where the company you are working with is located. In the United States, the average salary for an entry-level job is $40,153 per annum.

The entry-level salaries in all 50 states in the U.S. range from $26,000 to $56,000. These figures represent all kinds of jobs in all kinds of industries. Entry-level salaries for different types of industries and jobs will only be slightly different.

The Fair Labor Standards Act has instituted $7.25 per hour as the federal minimum wage. This would translate to $15,080 per year for a full-time worker.

However, every state in the union is allowed to set a minimum wage that they think is best for their cost of living and local economy – as long as it does not fall below the base minimum wage set by the federal government.

Again, what is a good entry-level salary? What is a good starting salary? This depends on the kind of job and the state you’re in. But entry-level salaries in the United States range from $26,000 to $56,000. Also, the Fair Labor Standards Act has set $7.25/hour as the federal minimum wage.

A Salary to Make You Live Comfortably

what is considered a good salary

What is a good yearly salary that will allow you to live comfortably? There was a survey conducted by Princeton University to find out if money can buy happiness. They found out that the answer is yes – but only up to a certain point.

The study’s researchers found out that happiness increases considerably when a household’s income goes up to $75,000. But once it goes over this salary peak, happiness starts to crumble.

A United States Census Bureau report also indicated that in 2018, the average household income in the U.S. was $63,179. That means there is a chance for most people in the United States to boost their happiness level if they will only increase their income.

The survey results were based on the total income of the household. So, whether you are a family of two, three, or four, as long as your total income is in the vicinity of $75,000, you will be happy.

High Paying Jobs with Low Stress

So, you now know that you must have an income that is more than the average – perhaps reaching up to $75,000 per year to be happy. What are the jobs the pay this much, and what are the requirements?

Obviously, you can’t demand this kind of payment if you are not a college graduate. Let’s say you hold a college diploma. The next question now is which degree will enable you to earn this much in a job with the least stress level?

Now, we are talking about the real deal. You need to choose a job that pays a lot but does not give you too much stress. If you know what this job is, you will know its requirements, e.g., college degree, experience, and so forth.

According to an article, there is a surge in demand for STEM degrees in the last decade. These are science, technology, engineering, and mathematics degrees. Some studies show STEM degrees lead to the highest-paid and less stressful jobs. These jobs are called unicorns.

Consider the following table:

Job TitlesAverage SalaryStress Score
Materials Scientist$99,79853
Mathematician$101,89957
Software Developers$103,63661
Chemical Engineers$104,91561
Astronomers$105,68562
Computer Hardware Engineers$114,60862
Computer and Information Research Scientist$118,37366
Physicists$120,95261

Don’t lose hope if you are not inclined to get STEM degrees. I want to stress that you can have a job that pays a good salary without the attendant stress. What is too much salary if you are always overstressed each day at work?

Good Salary for Singles

What is a good salary for a single person? There is no right answer to this question. It really depends on where you live. If you are single and live in Arkansas or Kentucky, you will get by comfortably with only $22,000 as your annual salary.

However, you will need a minimum of $30,000 if you happen to live in Maryland or Hawaii.

Dr. Amy K. Glasmeier of MIT has devised a Living Wage Calculator in 2004. It aims to determine the minimum amount required to meet basic needs without relying on outside help or going into poverty.

This calculator considers several factors, including food, housing, other normal costs, and insurance. It does not include leftover money, meals at restaurants, and other luxuries and conveniences.

If you want to have a more detailed method of determining a good annual salary for a single person in your local area, please refer to the link above.

What is a good salary for a single person? What is a good salary out of college? If you’re single, a recent college graduate, and live in Arkansas or Kentucky, then you can live comfortably with only $22,000 as your annual salary.

However, you’ll need more than this amount if you live in other states in the U.S.

Where to Get the Right Information about Salary Scales?

You can get the right information about what constitutes fair pay for your job position at Salary Data. The information you will get from this site considers your location, educational, and experience level related to your particular job.

You can also check the information provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. They can provide you with a survey of current wages, including figures on median salary and salary data for the bottom 10% and top 10% of income earners.

Sample information you can get from BLS is the median annual salaries of construction managers. As of May 2018, it was $93,370. The bottom 10% of construction managers earned less than $55,240, while the topmost 10% earned $161,510.

what is a good yearly salary

There are other places or sites where you can get information about salary scales:

1. Glassdoor.com

This site will provide you with specific salaries for specific job positions in specific companies and organizations.

2. Salary.com, Indeed.com and PayScale.com

These sites will provide you with salary information for various occupations and job titles.

3. Zippia.com

This site will give you info regarding the best job markets in the United States and the cities in the U.S., where you can easily find jobs.

If you are active in social media, you can capitalize on your network of friends and those in your particular field of work. They are a good source in finding out good salaries in your profession. Be careful not to ask a contact what their salary is. It is quite impolite to do this.

Reframe your question so that it will appear that you are the subject of the question. For example, instead of asking: “What is your current salary?” you can ask: “Considering my qualifications, what do you think would be a good salary for me?”

Conclusion – What Is Considered a Good Salary? 

A good salary for the job you are doing should pay you at least the average wage in your industry. In the United States, the median living wage is $67,690. Mississippi has the lowest living wage at $58,321 per annum, while Hawaii has the highest at $136,437 per annum.

It will surprise you to know that studies have shown that salaries above the average do not make people happier. If this is true, it is not wrong to conclude that a very high salary does not necessarily mean you will be happy.