What Was Your Salary Worth 50 Years Ago?

salaryThe past can teach us many things. We can see how unjust our society was to some people before major Supreme Court cases were decided. We can imagine how simple some aspects of life were before cell phones tethered us to work.

It's also fun to look back and see just how much further a dollar seemed to go back then. Undoubtedly you've heard some relative reminiscing about the days when a nickel would buy you four movie tickets and you'd still have some change left.

For fun, we thought we'd see what some of today's salaries would translate to in 1958 dollars. We're not saying you would've made that exact amount 50 years ago, because many professions were quite different then and not all salaries increased at the same rate. Also, salary surveys weren't conducted as extensively as they are now, so you can't find some financial data from more than a few decades ago. And keep in mind that many of today's jobs didn't exist 50 years ago. Social media consultants and IT administrators weren't job titles anyone had.

Measuring Worth is a Web site that compiles historical salary data from various sources and allows users to calculate different monetary figures such as inflation or purchasing power for specified periods of time. We found today's average salaries and then used Measuring Worth to calculate the monetary equivalent in 1958 based on Consumer Price Index data, which include figures from 1774 to 2008.

Here are 25 contemporary jobs and their current salaries* compared with their monetary equivalent 50 years ago**:


Accountants

2008: $54,440

1958: $7,313


Administrative assistants

2008: $44,471

1958: $5,973


Automotive mechanics

2008: $34,565

1958: $4,643


Chefs

2008: $54,143

1958: $7,273


Construction workers

2008: $36,214

1958: $4,864


Dry cleaners

2008: $22,429

1958: $3,013


Elementary school teachers

2008: $53,020

1958: $7,122


Emergency medical technicians

2008: $35,609

1958: $4,783


Fast food workers

2008: $19,833

1958: $2,664


Firefighters

2008: $52,293

1958: $7,024


Flight attendants

2008: $63,913

1958: $8,585


Grocery store managers

2008: $55,629

1958: $7,472


Commercial painters

2008: $41,120

1958: $5,523


Hospice workers

2008: $46,191

1958: $6,204


Janitors

2008: $25,725

1958: $3,455


Newspaper journalists

2008: $21,963

1958: $2,950


Personal trainers

2008: $46,049

1958: $6,185


Pianists

2008: $64,348

1958: $8,643


Plumbers

2008: $48,591

1958: $6,527


Police officers

2008: $52,801

1958: $7,092


Public relations representative

2008: $72,575

1958: $9,748


Registered nurses

2008: $66,427

1958: $8,923


Sales clerks

2008: $26,844

1958: $3,606


Surgeons

2008: $322,281

1958: $43,289


Veterinarians

2008: $93,685

1958: $12,584


*Salary figures based on data from CBsalary.com, powered by SalaryExpert.com
**Past salary figures based on data from Marketing Worth's calculator for relative value of the U.S. dollar.


Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum

109 Comments

Filter by:
carolocity.carol

Other websites show teachers average salaries to be $40,000. Some are retiring in poverty, losing their homes, and are on welfare.

March 24 2013 at 8:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
joel

Thank you very much , why does everyone thing firefighter and cops are on welfare ...... they actually one of the sfest job , never seen a convoy every time a roofer ,fisherman , lumber jack or traveling sales person get killed on the Job.

January 28 2010 at 7:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
joel

Thanks you "Paul" I understand your frustration and vulgarity.
Please check thr hiring salary for City of Oakland and San Francisco , as far as needing their help for your information over 90% of their call were not fire related but EMS or faulty alarm. the rest of the time is polishing the chrome of the fire engine and laying bacon , another real fact.I do hope for you that you never need the Police in either City,one of the reason of such high crime rate they hide....another proven factor . as far as pay one firefighter managedto make over $150 000 in over time , hoe very simple they only work 8 hopurs shift so if you do call anyone after their shift they get paid 8 hours no matter if they worked only 30 minutes they came to the station they must be paid 8 hours . don't believe it , check it out for yourself it is public information. don't use profanity , you are better than that . have a good day .

January 24 2010 at 3:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Fredric Williams

This reporter is a lazy bum. The figures for 1958 are meaningless -- they do not give actual average income for that year, they are simply today's salaries in 1958 dollars: "**Past salary figures based on data from Marketing Worth's calculator for relative value of the U.S. dollar."

In other words, garbage in, garbage out and a website that is garbage.

January 23 2010 at 10:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
chris

As i said become a teacher in Ny there pushing 70 k after 5 years 100 k after 15 and retire with 80% benefits and only work a half year to start.

January 23 2010 at 8:58 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to chris's comment
carolocity.carol

That just isn't true. Teachers work year round as well. They are required to pay for classes, and do training. Summers are used to catch up on lesson planning. Many work really hard over the summer.

March 24 2013 at 8:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
john morgan

What I'd love to see is a comparison ADJUSTED FOR INFLATION of these same jobs. I'll bet the average worker is about fifty percent behind and the average executive is about five hundred percent ahead.

January 19 2010 at 9:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Cynthia

I'd like to know which airline pays their Flight Attendants 63K/year! I'm making less than I did ten years ago.

January 19 2010 at 8:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Cynthia's comment
Gloria Peters

My wages have been going down too. Pretty soon they'll have us earning third world wages and paying first world rates for taxes, cost of living and banking service fees.

January 19 2010 at 9:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
joel

"paul" actually I have my facts , one firefighter got $ 150 000 in over time pay , want to know the real fact , they are public knowledge enter City salary and do the search Oakland Cps minimum $ 120000 , hiring salary $ 75000 these are facts .

January 19 2010 at 7:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
JIM

SORRY, I DO NOT BELIEVE YOU. I THINK YOU AND THE REST ARE ON THE PAYROLL! YOU DO NOT SAY WHAT YOU ACTUALLY DO!! REMEMBER " IF IT SOUNDS TO GOOD TO BE TRUE, IT PROBABLY IS " !!!
I'M SURE YOU WILL NOT CONTACT ME WITH YOUR NEW CAREER ?

January 19 2010 at 7:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
bossy864

Paul you sound a little angry, but I agree. I can not stand it when you call a company about a bill and the person on the other line can not understand and then they use common names like joe smith. Now if we can only make the president and the senate understand.

January 19 2010 at 7:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Search Articles

Picks From the Web