What Is Median Salary? Explanation and Examples

By Jennifer Herrity

Updated December 6, 2021 | Published January 13, 2021

Updated December 6, 2021

Published January 13, 2021

Jennifer Herrity is a seasoned career services professional with 12+ years of experience in career coaching, recruiting and leadership roles with the purpose of helping others to find their best-fit jobs. She helps people navigate the job search process through one-on-one career coaching, webinars, workshops, articles and career advice videos on Indeed's YouTube channel.

Regardless of where you are in your job search, it can be useful to know salary information for a particular field. Average salaries can be calculated and listed using different formulas, most frequently median and mean salary. Median and mean salaries can produce two very different numbers, so it's important to understand the way median salary is determined. In this article, we explain the importance of median salary and the difference between median salary and mean salary, and we provide a list of median salaries for 20 different industries.

What is median salary?

Median salary is a figure that takes many salaries into account and reports the middle number in that set of salaries. When you see a median salary, you know that half of the salaries reported are less than that number and half are higher. You can find median salary information for a variety of jobs and industries on many websites, such as Indeed Salaries and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Why is median salary important?

Knowing the median salary of a specific industry can be useful at any stage of your job search, whether you are beginning to research career options or interviewing and committing to a job. Reliable salary information can help you make informed decisions about earning potential before you begin the process of submitting applications. The median salary of a particular industry can also provide a basis for salary negotiations when you're ready to accept an offer. Although median salary is not a guarantee of a specific salary, it can provide the useful context of many other professionals' income in your field.

Related: How Are Salaries Determined?

Median salary vs. mean salary

When you are researching different jobs you, might see the phrases "median salary" and "mean salary." Although these statistics both provide a rough average of an industry's salary (within parameters such as location and experience), they are calculated differently and offer slightly different results. Here is the difference between median salary and mean salary:

Median salary

Median refers to the exact middle number in a list. For example, if you have a list of the numbers 7, 14, 23, 27, 31, 45 and 71, the median is 27 because half of the numerals are lower and half are higher.

The relative value of those numbers doesn't matter as long as half of them are lower and half of them are higher than the median. For example, if the list was changed to be 7, 14, 23, 27, 153, 549 and 987, the median would still be 27 because it is exactly in the middle of the list.

If a list includes an even number of figures, find the middle two numbers and average them by adding them together and dividing them by two. For example, if you have the list of numbers 7, 14, 23, 27, 153 and 549, you would first identify the two middle numbers as 23 and 27. Then you would add them together. In this case, 23 plus 27 equals 50, and 50 divided by 2 is 25. The median of the list is therefore 25.

Median salaries are calculated the same way. This is important to know because it doesn't matter if some of the salaries included in the list are much higher than others.

Related: What Is the Average Salary in the USA?

Mean salary

Rather than looking for the middle number in the list, the mean uses addition and division to find the average. For example, if you wanted to find the mean of 7, 14, 23, 27, 31, 45 and 71, you would add them together to make 218. You would then divide them by the number of items in the list (7) to get 31.14. Mean figures often include decimals.

Mean salaries are calculated by adding together a list of salaries and dividing by the number of salaries on the list. This is important to keep in mind when researching industry salaries because it means that extremely high and extremely low salaries have the same weight in the final average. Mean salary reporting can sometimes be misleading if the data includes a few unusually high or low salaries.

Median salary for 20 industries

Learning more about median salaries for different industries can help you determine which field you want to enter. The BLS reports the following information about median hourly wages in these industries:

Business and finance

The business and finance industries encompass professions like credit analyst, appraiser, accountant and human resources specialist.

Health care

Health care professions include nurses, doctors, dentists and other specialized medical professionals.

  • Median salary: $32.78 per hour

  • Number of employed professionals: 8,673,140

Health care support

Support positions in health care include assistants, therapists and aides in hospitals, clinics and long-term care facilities.

  • Median salary: $13.69 per hour

  • Number of employed professionals: 6,251,790

Sales

This industry includes sales professionals, telemarketers and cashiers.

  • Median salary: $14.24 per hour

  • Number of employed professionals: 14,371,410

Management

Management professions are jobs such as IT manager, human resource manager and legislator.

  • Median salary: $19.14 per hour

  • Number of employed professionals: 8,054,120

Computer and math

The computer and math industries include jobs like web developer, software engineer and mathematician.

  • Median salary: $42.47 per hour

  • Number of employed professionals: 4,552,880

Engineering and architecture

Engineering and architecture professions comprise titles such as surveyor, cartographer, chemical engineer and a variety of specialized architect roles.

  • Median salary: $39.15 per hour

  • Number of employed professionals: 2,592,680

Social sciences

Social science professions encompass trades such as life scientist, agricultural scientist, epidemiologist and forensic scientist.

  • Median salary: $32.77 per hour

  • Number of employed professionals: 1,288,920

Social service and community

Social service and community professions include counselor, therapist, social worker and mental health professional.

  • Median salary: $22.16 per hour

  • Number of employed professionals: 2,244,310

Law

Some professions included in the legal industry are lawyer, judge, mediator and paralegal.

  • Median salary: $39.34 per hour

  • Number of employed professionals: 1,150,780

Education and library

Education and library professions are often elementary, secondary and post-secondary instructors and library employees.

  • Median salary: $24.42 per hour

  • Number of employed professionals: 8,886,600

Design, art, entertainment and sports

The design, art, entertainment and sports industries comprise a variety of careers such as graphic design, craft artist, musician, screen actor and athlete.

  • Median salary: $24.59 per hour

  • Number of employed professionals: 2,017,810

Protective services

Protective services professions include law enforcement, correctional officer, firefighter and security professional.

  • Median salary: $19.99 per hour

  • Number of employed professionals: 3,498,800

Serving and food preparation

The serving and food preparation industries include server, host, cook, bartender and dishwasher.

  • Median salary: $11.65 per hour

  • Number of employed professionals: 13,494,590

Cleaning and maintenance

Cleaning and maintenance professions include jobs like janitorial worker, grounds maintenance worker, housekeeper and landscaper.

  • Median salary: $13.62 per hour

  • Number of employed professionals: 4,429,100

Personal service and care

Personal service and care industries encompass titles such as usher, recreation attendant, hairstylist, skincare specialist and travel advisor.

  • Median salary: $12.61 per hour

  • Number of employed professionals: 3,303,200

Administrative and office support

Administrative and office support professions include telephone operator, bill collector, bookkeeper, correspondence clerk and human resources professional.

  • Median salary: $18.07 per hour

  • Number of employed professionals: 19,528,250

Forestry, farming and fishing

The forestry, farming and fishing industries comprise agricultural roles such as farmer, rancher, logger, commercial fisherman and conservation worker.

  • Median salary: $13.07 per hour

  • Number of employed professionals: 484,750

Construction

The construction trades include jobs like brick mason, carpet installer, painter, plumber and electrician.

  • Median salary: $22.80 per hour

  • Number of employed professionals: 6,194,140

Transportation

Transportation careers include airline pilot, truck driver, locomotive operator and ship captain.

  • Median salary: $15.60 per hour

  • Number of employed professionals: 12,532,030

Related: Top 12 Jobs in the Transportation Industry With Good Career Outlook

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