Discussing salary can be a touchy subject. It can be difficult to assess whether you are being paid fairly for your experience – and your age. Salary conversations with friends, family and coworkers are seen as taboo, so how do you know where your earnings fit in the market?
Whether you are applying for a new role or thinking about asking for a pay rise in a current position, finding out where your salary is in relation to the market average will help you.
All other things being equal, there is a positive correlation between the age of an employee and the average salary. The older you get, the more you should be paid – if not only because you can leverage your experience for a higher remuneration package.
It is also worth considering that, year on year, salaries are increasing. The average salary increased by 3%–5% between 2020 and 2021 in both the US and the UK. However, this is not always at the same rate as the cost of living, and pay rises for many industries have not necessarily followed this trend.
There are other ways to assess how your salary compares to your peers, rather than needing to have uncomfortable conversations with friends or colleagues and creating sour feelings.
What Affects Average Salaries?
It is not always the case that you will be paid more the older you get. There are also social, economic and geographical factors that come into play.
Of course, one of the major factors affecting salaries is industry. It is an obvious but important point that different industries offer different levels of salary. You can expect airline pilots and doctors to get paid significantly more than employees in caring and retail.
Some roles have seen a huge growth in salary year on year – like bar staff and welfare professionals in the UK, while a salary decline has been seen in industries like TV, video and audio engineering in the year up to 2021.
Education is another important consideration. In the US, a bachelor’s degree can net an employee more than $30,000 extra per year, while in the UK a degree can be worth almost £10,000 extra a year. A degree usually points a graduate towards management or expert roles in tech or law, for example.
Graduates tend to obtain a degree that points at a specific industry, making them prime candidates for higher-paid roles much quicker than those who have not obtained qualifications.
Gender is a factor in every sector, with women earning just 85% of the salary of men on average in 2020–21. In fact, the only age group where women tend to earn more than men is the 16–19 bracket. The gender pay gap can be up to 15% or more, depending on age, industry and position.
Race can also impact earnings, especially in the US, with the most obvious disparity being between black men and white men, while black women and white women tend to have more equal salaries.
The average earnings in rural areas are lower than in cities, which is to be expected. In the UK, this can be most clearly seen as a north-south divide, with the highest average salary found in London and the lowest in the North-East. It is also worth noting that the cost of living tends to be significantly higher in cities.
Average Salaries by Age
In this age bracket, the average and median salaries are at their lowest, which is unsurprising considering that this is the age range where employees tend to only have summer or weekend jobs, supporting themselves while they study.
The median salary in the US is a little over $26,000 in the 16–19 age bracket.
Age 16–17 is also the only age bracket where women tend to earn more than men. In the UK, men earn almost £300 less per year than women at this age.
In this age bracket, many graduates are leaving university and entering the world of work – some on graduate programs for their chosen career.
In the US, the median salary for the 20–24 age bracket is just over $33,000 – pushed up thanks to the generally higher earnings of graduates.
For the UK, the average salary for this bracket is about £26,000.
This is the age bracket where, in many cases, the career paths of employees are developing, with promotions and pay rises increasing the UK average salary to almost £33,000.
In the US, the median salary for ages 25–34 is about $48,000, rising to $59,000 in the following 10 years or so.
At this stage of an employee’s life, extra training and development have already occurred and some people will have found themselves in management or executive-level positions.
In the UK, this is where the peak of earning ability tends to lie. Many people in this bracket reach the pinnacle of their careers in terms of promotion and pay – with the average salary as high as £36,000. This is also where the gender pay gap is more prevalent in both the US and the UK.
The career peak in the US, however, is slightly later, at between 45–54. The median salary in this bracket is almost $57,000.
What Is the Average Salary by Age?
In this age bracket, average salaries start to decline – not because people start to earn less, but because they begin to work less. Whether due to early retirement or just a switch to part-time, as well as more instances of poor health, the average salary in the UK drops slightly for this age bracket to around £32,000.
In the US, at age 55–64, the median salary is almost $2K less than the decade before – for similar reasons to the UK job market.
Top earners are likely to have retired at this point, and those still in work in this age bracket are more likely to be part-time. The average salary in the UK drops for this age group by almost £30,000 to £29,000.
In the US, this drop is most pronounced for those aged 65+, with salaries dropping to $53,000, due to retirement and older workers transitioning to more part-time positions.
How to Make an Educated Guess About Your Salary
To find out more specific details about the salary you should be earning according to your age, you need to make an educated guess. There are several ways to achieve this using online sources.
You can look at job postings in your area for roles similar to yours. Job descriptions that match your skills, qualifications and experience are a great place to find out what your position is ‘worth’ and are a great visual aid when it comes to discussing your pay if you are looking for a salary increase.
There are a few online calculators that can provide more specific information about your salary relative to others in similar positions.
Glassdoor – Know Your Worth
This tool provides a good range of information about various employers that you might find useful, from average salaries to company reviews. As this data is provided by current and former staff, the details are useful if you are exploring salaries in different roles.
It is an interactive calculator that takes into account various details like your age, experience, the company, your seniority and the position, to provide you with a good idea of what you should be earning based on the user-reported salaries on the site along with other metrics.
This simple calculator is designed to show you what you are worth and what you should be earning.
This searchable US database comprises salary ranges that are searchable by location and experience throughout many different sectors, specific industries and roles. It is a useful tool for seeing where your salary fits in relation to your peers.
This interactive tool takes into account several varied factors to create a comparison so that you can see how much other people are earning depending on their age, gender and education. Specific to the US market, it is simple to use and provides in-depth details.
The UK Monster website is primarily a job board, but there are several tools available that can help you understand the different salaries available for similar roles, see how much you could earn and evaluate the offered wage for a role if you are looking for a new job.
Powered by Randstad, this calculator compares more than 16 million UK salaries for the most up-to-date information.
A similar service offered by Monster, this is also a UK-based job site that provides a lot of information for job hunters, including an idea of average salaries for different jobs, levels and industries.
Earlier, it was mentioned that discussions of salary between friends and coworkers can cause dissatisfaction and sour feelings. However, in some cases it can be a way to ensure that everyone is paid fairly and according to their worth.
Asking someone how much they earn can be uncomfortable. In some industries, salary conversations are frowned upon, but they are not illegal – and pay transparency should mean that salaries are fairer across the board.
If you and your coworkers can have a conversation about what you are earning, you will be able to see where you fit compared to your peers.
The Total Package
Remember that your salary is not the only thing to consider when looking at what you are getting out of your career – the whole package is important.
Whether this includes a pension and other retirement benefits, holiday, retail discounts, life and health insurance, payments towards a vehicle or any number of other additions to your salary, the benefits are an important part of your remuneration.
Your salary is important, and knowing what you are earning in relation to your peers can help you understand your position in the market.
Salary is important for several reasons – not least because the cost of living is always increasing. If you are being paid below the market average for the work you are doing, all other things being equal, then you are in a stronger position to negotiate.
Whether you are looking for a new role and want to be able to leverage your age experience, or you are considering asking for a pay rise, knowing what others in a similar role are earning will help you form a stronger, more coherent argument.
Knowing there are other ways to learn this information rather than having uncomfortable conversations with your colleagues means that you can negotiate and leverage your way into a salary more commensurate with your age and ability.