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These careers had the highest pay bumps, while others fell behind

Written by:
August 7, 2023
This story was produced by SmartAsset and reviewed and distributed by Stacker Media.

These careers had the highest pay bumps, while others fell behind

Annual pay raises can help workers keep up with the rising costs of goods and services in an economy. But when prices increase faster than wages, a pay bump can end up feeling more like a pay cut.

This was the case for many workers over the last few years when inflation dwarfed wage growth. While average earnings went up 5% during that period, inflation exceeded that at 8.58%.

With this in mind, SmartAsset set out to see which professions had the highest salary increases during that 12-month period by analyzing wage data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for 751 occupations.

Key Findings

  • Sales professions saw up to a 49% increase in wages year over year. Median wages for sales workers increased from less than $30,000 to over $44,000. At the same time, employment within sales professions dropped just as drastically as pay increased. Many media and music professionals, like DJs, broadcast technicians and composers, also saw large pay increases between 28-35% over the last year, while adding workers.
  • Finance jobs see modest wage growth. The median earnings of financial managers – professionals responsible for developing long-term financial goals and directing the investments of their organizations – rose 6.1% between 2021 and 2022 to $139,797. Financial and investment analysts saw wages increase only 3.8% during that time to $95,077, while the earnings of personal financial advisors rose just 1.3% to $95,389.
  • Wages taper for these high-paying tech jobs. While the tech sector has boomed in recent years, a number of high-paying computer-oriented jobs recorded more muted earnings growth between 2021 and 2022. The median wage of computer and information systems managers, for example, increased just 3.1% to $164,070 after rising 5.20% a year earlier. Computer hardware engineers ($132,371 per year) saw an even bigger dropoff in earnings growth, as wages rose just 3.2% in 2022 after increasing 7.2% a year earlier.
  • Kindergarten, preschool and substitute teachers saw 17% pay increases. All three roles (excluding special education teachers) saw the median wage grow from about $30,000 in 2021 to $35,000 in 2022. Meanwhile, the number of employees in this field increased by 6%.
  • Waiters and waitresses get a big pay bump. Earning growth for wait staff outpaced inflation, jumping 12% between 2021 and 2022, while employment grew by nearly 18%. Meanwhile, there were 1.3 million more people working in food preparation and serving occupations in 2022 than in 2021 – the largest addition of workers across all professions.
A table lists 20 jobs and their wage growth from May 2021 to May 2022.
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Professions that added the most jobs

The professions that added the most jobs grew their employment levels by 7% to 11% over the last year. These include food preparation and serving related jobs (added 1.3 million jobs), management occupations (950,000), transportation and material moving occupations (920,000).

The careers that had the highest percent increases in employment levels ranged from creative to pragmatic. Four professions doubled the number of people working in them: Dancers, wood model makers, industrial-organizational psychologists and lighting technicians.

Professions that beat cost increases – and those that didn't

Wages that grew more than the 8.58% inflation rate between May 2021 and May 2022 fared well. When wages slip behind the inflation rate, the dynamic creates an artificial pay decrease.

Some professions that beat inflation, among many others, include:

  • Dental assistants
  • Food processing workers
  • Tour and travel guides
  • News analysts
  • Reporters
  • Journalists
  • Farmworkers
  • Graphic designers
  • Fast food cooks
  • Animal trainers
  • Recreation and fitness workers
  • Marriage and family therapists
  • Small engine mechanics

On the other hand, wages in many professions fell behind inflation, including but not limited to:

  • Actuaries
  • Medical scientists
  • Real estate brokers and sales agents
  • Transit and railroad police
  • Carpenters
  • Massage therapists
  • Lawyers
  • Software developers
  • Psychologists
  • Paramedics

Professions that cut jobs

Some professions, such as some sales occupations, dropped as much as 50% in employment. Other affected industries include forest fire inspectors and prevention specialists (17% decrease in employment), chemical engineers (15%), railroad conductors and yardmasters (15%), computer programmers (13%), medical transcriptionists (13%), and rail transportation workers (11%).

Data and methodology

To find which professions had the largest salary increases in 2022, the study compared median wage data from May 2021 with May 2022 for 751 occupations. Specifically, the study subtracted the 2021 median wages from the 2022 median wages and calculated the one-year percentage change for each occupation. The study then ranked the occupations according to the percentage change. All data comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

This story was produced by SmartAsset and reviewed and distributed by Stacker Media.

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