Salary Journeys: The income of employees across every industry. From the administrative assistant making $16.50 an hour to the pharmaceutical exec making $203,000 a year.
Salary Journeys" is a series that shows the wagespeople received at different times in their careers.
- The goal is to increase salary transparency and empower workers to achieve fairer wages.
With predictions that a recession is looming, US job seekers may be contemplating switching jobs, asking for the raise they've been dreaming of, or even changing industries entirely.
Some participants feel fulfilled by their journeys: "I'm never going to be a millionaire, but I think I'm well-compensated and that I make a fair wage for the kind of work I do," a pharmaceutical executive making $203,000 annually told Insider.
Meanwhile, others are disheartened by recent trends. "In the midst of the Great Resignation, I seem to be left sorting through the scraps of jobs that no one else wants," said a 59-year-old accounting specialist.
The goal of "Salary Journeys" is to create more transparency around
Insider is looking for more professionals to share their journeys and help paint a fuller picture of what the salary landscape of the American workforce looks like. If you are interested in sharing your salary journey, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, age, occupation, and a description of your salary journey. All submissions are kept confidential and all stories are anonymized.
Administrative assistant, $16.50 an hour
COVID-19 was devastating for this 37-year-old white woman working in the Midwest. She was jobless for nine months and said she didn't receive unemployment for half that time.
Today, she works in a role that she loves and looks back at the experience as a learning opportunity.
"I know how to ask for a raise and adjust to a pay cut," she said. "And I've learned to look out for myself and keep an eye on potential opportunities."
Editor, $46,000 per year
Negotiations have never come easy to this Latina editor in the Southeast, and she fears it could be having a negative effect on her overall career trajectory.
As a result, the 27-year-old said she's never had a negotiation go well and has settled for what she's been offered.
"Working closely with my higher-ups has taught me how replaceable we are to them," she said. "I'm nervous that if I push too hard, I will be out of a job."
Accounting specialist, $50,000 a year
This 59-year old woman found herself unemployed in August of 2021. Even with more than two decades of experience under her belt, she struggled to find a job that would compensate her fairly or offer her a flexible working environment. She finally found a hybrid role and will be making $50,000 annually.
"In the midst of the Great Resignation, I seem to be left sorting through the scraps of jobs that no one else wants," she said. "The places that would give me more money were places I didn't want to work — they didn't offer remote work."
IT manager, $67,000 a year
A 30-year-old white man started working at his current employer in 2010, and made about $32,240 a year. Today, he earns around $67,000, but based on listings for similar jobs, he thinks he should be making closer to $85,000 or $95,000.
"I know that changing jobs is typically the most effective way to increase your salary," he said, "but I have a lot of anxiety about the idea of switching jobs." Growing up, his father bounced between many jobs after leaving the military, creating a feeling of instability.
Social media editor, $70,000 a year
Currently, in her second job, a 24-year-old white woman at a major media company believes she's underpaid by 20-30%. She's currently pulling double duty as an editor and show host for the brand, and says she's built much of the company's social following herself.
"I'm in the process of drafting something telling my company that I need a raise to $85,000 or $90,000, or I'm going to look elsewhere," she said. "Even though I like my job, if another offer came my way that offered better opportunities, I'd take it without hesitation.
Clinical psychologist, $72,000 a year
The COVID-19 pandemic has made this 59-year-old white woman's job as a clinical psychologist even more challenging. She's been working with patients with severe and persistent mental illness for 14 years, and while she loves her work, she feels underpaid and has $32,000 in debt.
"It's really unfortunate because, especially over the past two years of the pandemic, it seems as though everyone has a mental-health problem," she said. "But mental-health providers can't take any more clients."
HR professional, $81,000 a year
For over a decade, a 32-year-old white woman in human resources felt hamstrung by the Great Recession's effects on her compensation. She tried negotiating and asking for more responsibilities, but in the end, the only thing that worked was finding a new job.
Now, she says, her employer pays her fairly and she feels valued by her manager.
"It's clear that the job market is very different from when I first started," she said. "I'm glad to finally be making what I'm worth, with a work-life balance that is comfortable for me."
Telecoms sales, $7,000 a month
After an early stint as an ad executive in radio broadcasting, a 26-year-old Black man living in the South moved into telecommunications sales as an hourly employee.
He is the sole breadwinner for his family, so he was determined to achieve a managerial role within the first year. As it turned out, his dedication and willingness to take advantage of opportunities that came his way led to a promotion offer within the first six months, taking his
Marketing director, $125,000 a year
A 30-year-old Asian American woman who works with influencers says she owes a vote of thanks to social media for her own salary journey.
After realizing she was the lowest-paid director on the team at a former job, she vowed to do her research and make the case at her current company that she deserved more.
"I had heard mention of 'salary adjustments' on TikTok and looked into that," she said. "They're not annual raises but out-of-cycle pay increases that get you where you need to be based on your role and responsibilities."
Data architect, $150,000 a year
Even though he knows he could make more elsewhere, a father of two in the South explains the trade off he makes to keep his work-life balance. He says the job isn't grueling, and it allows him to spend time with his wife and kids.
"The work is interesting, my colleagues are smart, and this company is committed to its workers and its workers' families," he said. "If I ever need to leave work in the middle of the day to pick up my children, my manager or coworkers cover me."
Lawyer, $154,000 per year
Feeling valued at work was never part of the equation for a 36-year-old white male lawyer, until he began making more and noticed it was coming with a cost.
His current job — in-house counsel for an environmental-markets company — has been a radical shift from his grueling prior roles. He described the culture and atmosphere as "life-changing."
"My boss treats me well," he said. "And my colleagues take an interest in me, getting to know my wife's name and asking about my kids' T-ball team."
Software engineer, $183,000 per year
Growing up with two engineer parents and a strong understanding of finance, a 32-year-old white man living on the West Coast talked about feeling underpaid relative to his peers in Big Tech.
"I know I'm incredibly lucky and privileged," he said. "Still, given my field, when I apply for a job, I'm probably not going to settle for less than $220,000 a year, which is closer to what I believe other people in my position are making."
Associate director, $170,000 a year plus a 15% end-of-year bonus
This 42-year-old associate director loves her job working at a biotech company with oncology patients — she's passionate about her work, makes a high salary, and operates remotely. However, as a woman working in STEM, she has had to be bold about asking for what she wants.
"There's more money on the table, and you just need to know how to ask for it," she said. "It doesn't come naturally — it's not a thing that women are socialized to do, but men do it all the time."
Head of employee relations, $170,775 a year plus a $20,000 signing bonus and 25% target bonus
A 31-year-old Black human-resources manager is a proponent of job-hopping, having benefited from the practice herself —today, she's with her fifth employer and earning $212,000 a year.
Since she works in HR, she has a transparent view of salary dynamics and how pay works. She also believes most employees will only see an annual raise of 3% or 5%. The only way to get a significant salary increase is to take a new job, she added.
"Some of my more traditional colleagues look down on job-hoppers and see them as less committed to their organizations," she said. "I don't look at how long candidates stayed in jobs. Instead, I ask: What did they accomplish?"
Property-management sales, $125,000 a year, plus a $75,000 commission
This 38-year-old Black man found himself struggling to build his career in interior sales after signing a non-compete contract with a former employer.
The multiple lawsuits he faced from his former employee were anxiety-inducing at the time, but they eventually led him to real estate—a field he really connects with and loves.
"My parents' generation was staunchly loyal to employers," he said. "As a millennial, I feel a little differently: I feel like I have to do what's best for me, my mental health, and my career path."
Pharmaceutical executive, $203,000 per year
The 25-year salary journey of a white male pharma executive is one of slow and steady increases. Starting as a contractor 16 years ago, he worked his way up the ladder. Today, he makes $203,000 in salary plus bonus, and an additional $25,000 in stock options.
"I'm never going to be a millionaire," he said. "But I think I'm well-compensated and that I make a fair wage for the kind of work I do. At this point, I'd have to be offered an exorbitant amount of money to jump ship to a new company."
Chris Weller contributed to earlier versions of this post.
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