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  • Writer's pictureMelanie Reinersman

The Salary Kaleidoscope: Reflections Are Mesmerizing

Discussions regarding salary are likely to surface in the work of the career development professional, necessitating an understanding of the many factors. Salary data can be reported and analyzed as entry-level, median, and top, on a monthly, quarterly, or yearly basis, and by age, race, gender, occupation, state and educational background, for example. Anyway you look at it, the numbers are relative and perhaps only by exploring the meaningfulness to the individual client does salary data become informative. Is there really any way to know if the “grass is greener [$$$] on the other side of the fence”?

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FOCUS ON: Competencies and Compensation

The National Career Development Association’s credentialing and training programs state that career service providers must understand and master labor market and occupational information and trends. This competency includes salary, which is often what job seekers want to hear about. Specifically, nearly three-fourths of job seekers want salary information in the first message from recruiters and two-thirds state that money is the number one motivator when looking elsewhere for jobs. Read NCDA for more about competencies and read SHRM for more about the importance of salary.

JOB SEARCHING: High Salary Expectations

A full-time US worker typically earns $60,000, while traditional advice suggests that $89,000 may be needed to live comfortably. Currently the lowest average pay people would be willing to accept at a new job is $81,822. This suggests that job seekers believe they have bargaining power, despite a hiring slowdown. Read more survey results and analysis from this CNBC report.

FOR PRACTITIONERS: The OOH and Career Counselors

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH), the 2023 median pay for career counselors was $61,710 per year or $29.67 per hour. The geographic profile for Educational, Guidance, and Career Counselors and Advisors can be further explored using state data. This shows that the annual mean wage for this occupational group is highest in California at $85,820 followed by Washington ($81,280), Massachusetts ($79,670), New Jersey ($79,030) and Maryland ($76,250). View more overall information and geographic data on the BLS website.

COLLEGES & UNIVERSITIES: Salary Projections for the Class of 2024

The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) released salary projections for the Class of 2024. The good news is that the salary projections at the bachelor's degree level are higher than the Class of 2023’s reported projections. The overall projected average salary is $76,736, with engineering and computer science majors listed at the top. For Social Sciences, the projection is $69,802, up 16.1% over 2023. These are base salaries only and do not include bonuses, commissions, fringe benefits or overtime rates. Read more in the NACE press release.

TOP TEN: Comprehensive Salary Statistics

A comprehensive breakdown of average salaries in the US leads to more than just a “top ten” list. This is due in part to all the factors considered in the analysis, such as age, race, gender, occupation, state and educational background. For example, the average income for people in Massachusetts is $38,792 more than the average in Mississippi. The gender pay gap increased between 2021 and 2022, but decreased in 2023. People between the ages of 35 and 44 earned over 13% more than the national average salary. Read more statistics and analyses collected from over a dozen sources.


"If you make meaning, you’ll make money." ~ Guy Kawasaki

"When somebody says it’s not about the money, it’s about the money. ~ H. L. Mencken
"For I consider brains far superior to money in every way. You may have noticed that if one has money without brains, he cannot use it to his advantage; but if one has brains without money, they will enable him to live comfortably to the end of his days." ~ L. Frank Baum


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