Of all the factors to consider when weighing a job opportunity, salary may be one of the most complex. When it comes to a "good" salary, what works for you may not work for anyone else (and that’s okay). With a quick guide on defining a good salary and the right combination of online resources, you can arm yourself with the right information to come up with a number that works for you.
What is considered a good salary and why?
There are so many factors involved in defining a “good” salary that coming up with just one number is virtually impossible. To determine what a good salary is, decide what “good” means to you. Consider these terms:
Living wage: an income level that affords the basic necessities, such as food, transportation, and housing
Comfortable wage: an income level that affords more than the basic necessities
Ideal wage: an income level that exceeds the cost of basic necessities, living expenses, and “wants,” such as travel and entertainment
According to the census, the median household income in 2020 was $67,521. A living wage would fall below this number while an ideal wage would exceed this number. Given this, a good salary would be $75,000. It is higher than the national average and hovers around the average salary for the four most expensive states in the nation. In other words, a $75,000 salary would cover the basic necessities in even the priciest of areas.
How might that number change depending on your cost of living and debt?
Even a good salary can be hampered by high cost of living. In addition to housing, transportation, and food, common living expenses include health care and child care. If you don’t factor these into your request, you could lose half your income to living expenses, making a good salary feel insufficient. You should also consider your location and family size, as these two factors largely impact both your salary and living expenses.
Read more: How Much Does It Cost to Have a Baby?
Similarly, significant debt can change your idea of a good salary. According to Experian, mortgage loans, auto loans, and student loans were among the largest sources of consumer debt in 2021. And total consumer debt balances increased 5.4% from 2020 to 2021. More specifically, the Brookings Institution found that approximately 70 percent of college students earning a bachelor’s degree will graduate with up to $40,000 in student loan debt, which could reduce an ideal wage to a comfortable or living wage.
That number might also change depending on other aspects of compensation. In a 2019 survey conducted by Allianz Global Assistance, one in three employees said they would give up a portion of their pay in exchange for unlimited vacation time. In this case, a “good” salary is one that comes with “perks” that don’t hold monetary value, but are equally valuable.
What kind of jobs typically pay a good salary?
As with any job, the more experience you gain, the more you are likely to earn. These five jobs can get you a $75,000 starting salary at entry-level or mid-level.
1. Corporate sales trainer
As a corporate sales trainer, you help sales representatives learn their jobs. Glassdoor reports that this job usually pays about $75,734. Prior experience in sales and a bachelor’s or master’s degree can help you attain this salary.
2. Computer engineer
Entry-level engineers generally make between $71,000 and $75,000, but mid-level engineers boast six-figure salaries.
3. Transportation manager
If you have an interest in transportation and some experience in logistics or operations, you could make approximately $80,554 in this job, which is the national average salary for this role according to Zippia.
4. User experience (UX) designer
In this role, you perform product research, testing, and prototyping to improve people’s experiences. Payscale reports the average salary as $74,239, but this figure could exceed $100,000 with increased experience, an impressive portfolio, and detailed knowledge of specific platforms.
You can make $75,000 coming into this career, but Salary.com reports the average median salary at $84,632. In this role, you examine and diagnose patients with hearing problems. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, you need a doctoral degree and a license to perform this job.
How can negotiating help women get higher salaries?
In 2018, Robert Half reported that 45 percent of women negotiated their salaries. Negotiating and asking for raises can get you closer to a good salary and increase your earning potential, which is the amount of money you can earn over the course of your career. To ensure that you are negotiating effectively, use these specific strategies:
Plan ahead. Give yourself plenty of time to research the standard pay for your position and industry.
Consider your cost of living. Do you want a living wage, comfortable wage, or ideal wage?
Be prepared to back it up. Be ready to talk about how you’ve met goals, exceeded expectations, and positioned your employer for success.
Know the national average. Use this as your baseline then adjust it accordingly to generate a fair number.
Add tax. If you determine that a $50,000 salary is enough for you to live comfortably, ask for $60,000 to give yourself “wiggle room” in your negotiation.
Check InHerSight company reviews. Access other women’s self-reported reviews before asking for a raise. Other useful online resources include Glassdoor, Salary.com, and Payscale.