How Your Salary Ranks Across the Nation

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h2>Find out how your salary compares to national averages in these common occupations.

By Terence Loose

Are you making the salary that you should? Or more to the point: Are you making the money you could?

The average American makes $45,790, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. But the salary for specific occupations can vary widely depending on your state and your particular role.

So we picked a range of common jobs in a crosscut of the nation's industries, from business and finance, to technology, education, and health care. Then we crunched the numbers from the Department of Labor's March 2013 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates to see what these common jobs pay, on average, in various regions of the country. We also threw in salary figures for some similar occupations for a more well-rounded analysis.*

Keep reading to see how your career stacks up against the competition.

Accountant

If you're an accountant, crunch the numbers on your own profession - you'll likely come away smiling. That's because nationwide, the average annual salary for accountants is about $25,000 higher than the national average for all occupations, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. And rightfully so, since accountants do things like check financial statements to make sure they comply with laws, compute taxes, and prepare returns.

"The financial services industry is currently going through a transformation due to the recent recession and stricter regulatory requirements, and so accountants are more valued than ever before," says Ryan Himmel, CPA, founder and CEO of BIDaWIZ.com, an organization that advises businesses about finance and taxes.

Let's take a look at the breakdown of accountant salaries across the nation:

Average Annual Salary Nationwide: $71,040, with the 10th percentile making $39,930, the 90th percentile making $111,510, and the median at $63,550.
States Where Accountants Earn the Most: 1. District of Columbia ($87,370); 2. New York ($85,140); 3. New Jersey ($81,470)
States Where Accountants Earn the Least: 51. North Dakota ($54,620); 49. West Virginia ($57,140); 48. South Dakota ($57,540)

Next step: Click to Find the Right Accounting Program.

Average Annual Salaries Nationwide For Similar Occupations:

  • Financial analyst: $89,410
  • Human resources specialist: $60,660

Education Level: Most accountants need at least a bachelor's degree in accounting or a related field, and a certification in a specific field of accounting improves job aspects, says the Department.

Registered Nurse

The money looks good for registered nurses. Even the lowest-paying U.S. state reports an annual average salary for nurses that is above the national average, according to U.S. Department of Labor (read on to find out which state it is). Nurses work in everything from doctors' offices to large hospitals and do everything from setting up patient care plans to giving patients medicine and treatments, says the Department of Labor.

Nurses will be in higher demand and command higher than average salaries in the future for many reasons, including the fact that health care is one of the fastest-growing occupational clusters, says Nicole Smith, senior economist at the Georgetown University Center for Education and the Workforce, an organization which studies labor market demands, including those of the health care industry.

Here's a snapshot of how they get compensated for their good work:

Average Annual Salary Nationwide: $67,930, with the 10th percentile making $45,040, the 90th percentile making $94,720, and the median at $65,470.
States Where Nurses Earn the Most: 1. California ($94,120); 2. Hawaii ($84,750); 3. Massachusetts ($83,370)
States Where Nurses Earn the Least: 51. Iowa ($54,540); 50. South Dakota ($52,800); 49. North Dakota ($53,250)

Next step: Click to Find the Right Nursing Program.

Average Annual Salaries Nationwide For Similar Occupations:

  • Diagnostic medical sonographer: $66,360
  • Medical records and health information technician: $36,770

Education Level: The Department says these professionals must have a license and usually take one of three paths to pursue their career: a bachelor's degree in nursing (BSN), an associate's degree in nursing (ADN), or a diploma from an approved nursing program.

Applications Software Developer

According to the U.S. Department of Labor salary stats, applications software developers get paid well above the average American. That's because developers of software applications design computer applications for consumers, such as games or word processors, and create programs that people can use over the Internet, says the Department of Labor.

"This is the field to be in if you want good pay and good job security in my opinion, because every business is reliant on computers," says Susan Heathfield, a management consultant and writer of About.com's Guide to Human Resources. She adds that with cloud computing and multiple personal computing devices now common, software developers' value has only increased.

Now let's see how their compensations computes.

Average Annual Salary Nationwide: $93,280, with the 10th percentile making $55,190, the 90th percentile making $138,880, and the median at $90,060.
States Where Applications Software Developers Earn the Most: 1. California ($105,120); 2. Maryland ($104,740); 3. Massachusetts ($102,730)
States Where Applications Software Developers Earn the Least: 51. North Dakota ($66,290); 50. Idaho ($72,380); 49. Wyoming ($73,090)

Next step: Click to Find the Right Computer Science Program.

Average Annual Salaries Nationwide For Similar Occupations:

  • Computer programmer: $78,260
  • Database administrator: $79,120

Education Level: The Department says software developers usually have a bachelor's degree in computer science, software engineering, or a related field. Mathematics is also acceptable, but the Department says a computer science degree is most common.

Elementary School Teacher

We can't argue with the oft-voiced idea that our next generation's teachers should earn more. But the fact is, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, teachers earn more than the average for all occupations by more than $10,000. And summers off too! Elementary school teachers, for example, earn their pay by creating and carrying out lesson plans, and using teaching aides such as computers to help kids learn new concepts, says the Department of Labor.

But there's one catch: Certain areas of the country have higher demand - and therefore higher pay - than others. "The thing with elementary school teachers is that they will have to be willing to follow the jobs, because demand will be regional, as will level of pay," says Heathfield.

Now let's check out how the mentors of our most valuable assets - kids - fair nationwide.

Average Annual Salary Nationwide: $56,130, with the 10th percentile making $35,630, the 90th percentile making $83,160, and the median at $53,400.
States Where Elementary School Teachers Earn the Most: 1. Rhode Island ($74,310); 2. New York ($71,270); 3. California ($69,690)
States Where Elementary School Teachers Earn the Least: 51. South Dakota ($39,900); 50. Mississippi ($41,740); 49. Oklahoma ($42,120)

Next step: Click to Find the Right Elementary Education Program.

Average Annual Salaries Nationwide For Similar Occupations:

  • Kindergarten Teacher: $53,030
  • High School Teacher: $57,770

Education Level: The Department says all states require elementary school teachers in public schools to have at least a bachelor's degree in elementary education, and to be licensed. Other requirements, such as having to major in the subject they teach, vary by state, the Department adds.

Marketing Manager

You could have the best product since the iPhone, but if you don't market it properly, there's a chance no one will ever know about it - which may be one reason why marketing managers see a hefty salary. Marketing managers might do things like instigate market research, plan advertising campaigns, and even direct the hiring of marketing staff, says the Department.

Heathfield says one reason companies pay these workers so well is that they rely on sophisticated marketing campaigns to sell their products. "Marketing has never been so important thanks to social media and the speed with which information is shared," she adds.

As we said, marketing managers, on average, are making well above the average. But let's dig a little deeper.

Average Annual Salary Nationwide: $129,870, with the 10th percentile making $62,650, the 90th percentile making $187,199 or greater, and the median at $119,480.

States Where Marketing Managers Earn the Most: 1. New York ($168,460); 2. District of Columbia ($150,280); 3. New Jersey ($150,000)
States Where Marketing Managers Earn the Least: 51. West Virginia ($83,100); 50. Wyoming ($84,720); 49. Mississippi ($85,130)

Next step: Click to Find the Right Business Program.

Average Annual Salaries Nationwide For Similar Occupations:

  • Public Relations Manager: $108,260
  • Chief Executives: $176,840

Education Level: The Department says that most marketing managers have a bachelor's degree and typically work experience in marketing, promotions, advertising, or sales. They don't specify a major but say classes in business law, management, accounting, finance, economics, mathematics, and statistics are an advantage.

* All salary information from the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2012. The Department of Labor includes the District of Columbia as a state. Similar cccupations for each career selected from the same "Major Occupational Group" listed by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates.

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