Americans in these professions get the highest pay raises and cuts

A line of people in different work uniforms stand in a line in a factory.

A line of people in different work uniforms stand in a line in a factory.

Annual wage increases can help workers cope with rising costs of goods and services in an economy. But when prices are rising faster than wages, a pay rise may end up looking more like a pay cut.

This was the case for many workers in recent years when inflation eclipsed wage growth. While average incomes increased by 5% during this period, inflation exceeded this figure at 8.58%.

With that in mind, SmartAsset set out to determine which occupations had the highest wage increases over that 12-month period by analyzing Bureau of Labor Statistics wage data for 751 occupations.

Main findings

  • Sales jobs have seen their salaries increase by up to 49% year-on-year. The median salary for salespeople has increased from under $30,000 to over $44,000. At the same time, employment in sales occupations fell as wages rose. Many media and music professionals, such as DJs, broadcast technicians and composers, have also seen significant pay increases of between 28% and 35% over the past year, while adding workers.

  • Finance jobs are experiencing modest wage growth. The median income of chief financial officers — professionals responsible for developing long-term financial goals and directing their organizations’ investments — rose 6.1% between 2021 and 2022 to $139,797. Financial and investment analysts saw salaries rise just 3.8% during this period to $95,077, while earnings for personal financial advisers rose just 1.3% to $95,389.

  • Salaries are falling for these well-paying tech jobs. As the tech sector has boomed in recent years, a number of high-paying IT-focused jobs have seen more moderate revenue growth between 2021 and 2022. The median salary of computer and information systems managers, for example, rose just 3.1% to $164,070 after rising 5.20% a year earlier. Computer hardware engineers ($132,371 a year) saw an even bigger decline in earnings growth, with salaries rising just 3.2% in 2022 after rising 7.2% a year earlier.

  • Kindergarten, preschool and substitute teachers saw their salaries increase by 17%. All three roles (excluding special education teachers) saw the median salary increase from about $30,000 in 2021 to $35,000 in 2022. At the same time, the number of employees in this field increased by 6%.

  • Waiters and waitresses get a big pay raise. Growth in wait staff earnings has outpaced inflation, jumping 12% between 2021 and 2022, while employment has increased by nearly 18%. Meanwhile, there were 1.3 million more people working in food preparation and service in 2022 than in 2021 – the largest addition of workers across any occupation.

Professions that created the most jobs

The occupations that created the most jobs increased their employment levels by 7% to 11% over the past year. These include jobs related to food preparation and service (addition of 1.3 million jobs), management positions (950,000), transportation and material moving positions (920,000).

The careers that saw the highest percentage increases in employment levels ranged from creative to pragmatic. Four professions doubled their workforce: dancers, wood model makers, industrial-organizational psychologists and lighting designers.

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

Wages which increased more than the inflation rate of 8.58% between May 2021 and May 2022 have done well. When wages slip behind the rate of inflation, the dynamic creates an artificial fall in wages.

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

On the other hand, salaries in many professions have been below inflation, including but not limited to:

Professions that eliminate jobs

Some occupations, such as some sales occupations, have lost up to 50% of employment. Other industries affected 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 transport workers (11%).

Data and methodology

To determine which occupations saw the largest wage increases in 2022, we compared median wage data from May 2021 to May 2022 for 751 occupations. Specifically, we subtracted the 2021 median salaries from the 2022 median salaries and calculated the year-over-year percentage change for each occupation. We then ranked occupations based on percentage change. All data comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Tips to increase your income

  • Open a high-yield savings account. Since inflation reduces the purchasing power of your money, make sure the money you have in the bank is earning as much interest as possible. Our savings account comparison tool can help you find a potentially higher interest rate for your savings.

  • Pay less income tax. Contributing to a 401(k) or IRA is not only a great way to save for retirement, it also reduces your taxable income for the year. If you are enrolled in a high-deductible health plan, contributing to a Health Savings Account (HSA) can also reduce your tax liability. These contributions are tax deductible and can be withdrawn tax-free to pay eligible medical expenses.

  • Work with a financial advisor. An advisor can help you create a personalized plan for investing your hard-earned income. SmartAsset’s free tool connects you with up to three approved financial advisors in your area, and you can interview your advisors for free to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, start now.

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