How Much Do Federal Politicians and Cabinet Members Get Paid?

Payscale

government pay scaleMost people don't earn six figures every year, but they sure would like to. By comparison, members of Congress, in both the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives, make at least $174,000 a year. And, other federal politicians and presidential Cabinet members earn even more. Are these politicos worthy of the big bucks? What if they were just out in the world, trying to earn a living?

Search Job Openings

In Partnership With

Online salary database PayScale.com has run the numbers to answer the question: How do federal politician and Cabinet member salaries compare to the people with whom they graduated from school? According to PayScale.com, some graduated from medical school and could potentially be earning more than they do today, but others only finished high school and are way above their typical fellow graduates in earnings. Let's take a look at what PayScale.com discovered.


What federal politicians and Cabinet members earn

To start, do you know what federal politician and Cabinet members actually earn every year? Here is a breakdown:

  • Congress members (Representatives and Senators): $174,000
  • Senate and House Majority/Minority Leaders: $193,400
  • Cabinet members: $199,700
  • Speaker of the House: $223,500
  • Vice President: $230,700
  • President: $400,000

What Congress and Cabinet members would earn otherwise

There is a mix of results from PayScale.com's research, but the majority of Congress and Cabinet members are doing better than they likely would in the private sector.

Of the 550 U.S. Senate, House of Representatives and Cabinet members that PayScale.com studied, 44 earn a paycheck that is less than or similar to the typical pay they could earn based upon their educational background. Of these 44, 15 hold a doctor of medicine (MD) degree, 24 hold a law degree (JD) and five hold a master's of business administration (MBA) degree. MDs and graduates of a few select law and business schools, like Harvard, Wharton or University of Virginia, are the only ones to take a pay cut in their elected positions or the Cabinet.

According to PayScale.com, the median earnings for people in the Unites States between ages 55-64 (which is the median age of U.S. Congress and Cabinet members) who hold at least a bachelor's degree and work full-time is $73,700. This income is far below what Congress and Cabinet members earn. Perhaps a congressional campaign would be a smart next career move.


What about Obama and Biden?

The commander-in-chief and his right-hand man are both paid well, by most people's standards. Would they likely earn more?

As a Harvard Law School graduate, President Obama has some serious earning power. Obama attended Harvard Law School and graduated with his JD in 1991. For those with the same educational background, the median pay is $198,000, which is much lower than the presidential pay of $400,000. However, the salary for the top 10 percent of earners who graduated from Harvard Law School at a similar time is over $400,000. Thus, the presidential pay is a loss if Obama were in the top 10 percent of earners in his class, and you could argue that as an editor of the prestigious Law Review, Obama should be.

Joe Biden graduated with a law degree from Syracuse University College in 1968. According to PayScale's research, his classmates from law school are earning, on average, about $132,000 a year. That means that his gig as vice president, where he is paid $230,700 a year, has him earning 175 percent of his likely, average earnings. Congrats, Joe. That's a nice outcome after a long political career.


Do Democrats or Republicans earn more?

Do Democrats outpace their peers financially more often than Republicans, or vice versa? No, it turns out. The results are pretty even: 91 percent of Democrats and 92 percent of Republicans are earning more, on average, than they likely would have outside of being members of Congress.

Those with the biggest pay boosts are the 31 senators and representatives who have only a high school diploma, certificate or associate's degrees. Others earning more than expected are the 13 members of Congress with master's degrees in social work, education, or divinity.

Are you curious whether your representative or a particular Cabinet member is earning more or less than they likely would be in the private sector? See PayScale's list of federal politician salaries and how their earnings stack up outside of elected office.


Bridget Quigg

Bridget Quigg

Editor

Bridget Quigg is the web content editor for online salary database PayScale.com.

Located in Seattle, Wash., Bridget specializes in writing and editing content for blogs, websites and feature articles.

Bridget graduated from Stanford University with a degree in English. She teaches creative writing and is also a songwriter who regularly performs music and comedic story-telling in the Seattle area and beyond. Her most recent one-woman show was titled, "Almost Female: A Jockette's Awesome Journey."

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum

11 Comments

Filter by:
mmariecope

Yes the over paid government, is taken more and more of or freedom. Things that need to be voted on right away that could make a difference they argue take long time only not to have the answer. They allow people outside the US come start business and not have to pay taxes for so many years. People can come to the US to have a better life, they get Medicaid, food stamps. And this is a big one I understand churches don\'t have to pay taxes. But look at some of the television ministers. They have over million dollars homes no tax, land, airports, private jets more than one. Son has his own business on the many acres of church land no taxes. The list goes on, but really? How do they say it belongs to the Church.. How do we allow them to go television tell you its all about planting your seed it will come back ten folds, when you can see they are taking more for their personal gain than helping feed the hungry helping the poor, You don\'t need to spend millions to put a million dollar chandelier to bring people to God. Isn\'t that all how the bible says not live.. How do you preach the bible, make money from preaching when you cant live it. Oh and about paying college coaches that kind of money, We shouldn\'t pay pro coaches, or football players that kind of money its still just a game. Middle class people could never afford to take their family to a pro game of anything. And look when a disaster happens, American people come to the aid of these families, cause the insurance they been paying for years, they have to wait on that money. And for the Government to willing pull it out their ass may take mouths, that\'s just to get an ok still will be a little before they see the help. So America I know we sent your jobs over seas so the rich can get richer. But please whatever more or little you can give. Cause you know all us here that run the country we make good money, have a nice warm expensive bed to sleep in. We don\'t have worry about food or paying for gas to get us to our jobs. So for all you families, individual, elderly suffering things will get better, it just takes time hang in there be strong. It just takes time we gotta talk, argue, vote, sign papers, write a 3000 page book, we don\'t know how long it will take. Oh but keep the money coming we need to send other countries money they are in crises the economy hit them hard. How money an power is destroying this world,

June 11 2013 at 5:37 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
NerdCity43

First of all, we should all realize that college football coaches get paid on average over a million dollars a year. Now the people that have to apply to thousands if not millions of constituents, get their jobs by vote, and only have stability for as long as they can regain election, are being told they make too much money? We would pay a college football coach 5.5 million a year (Nick Saban) to coach a college football team, but question the President of the free world getting $400,000 a year with some perks and benefits. Like these college football coaches don't have cars, chartered planes, catered meals and the entire city they live in giving them free stuff all the time with little oversight. If anything these people need a pay increase so more highly qualified individuals pursue high office instead of opting for careers that pay more, but do little to benefit America (70% of all corporate investors, to be generous).

November 20 2012 at 3:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
nobjyc

they are the one's that vote on a raise for themselves and we the people can't do anything about I say get rid of them ,make it so they can only stay for 8yrs and out for good

October 09 2011 at 6:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
cwyo

In addition to all the FREE perks and benefits, is it true they do not pay taxes either? How do they have any insight into the middle class & upper class supporting the poor? Federal politicians make the rules for others to follow, not themselves! Cut the waste, from themselves to all state employees etc. Waste, waste, waste! No government employer worries about waste, just about keeping funding they already have. Even if they have employees doing nothing, lengthy training including hotel stays etc. How about webinars. No private sector employer would send his/ her employees to a 3 month training for a job they have already been doing for 2 years. Pay for meals, hotel etc! Waste, waste, waste! As a new employee in private sector you are lucky to get 1-2 weeks of training etc. Hate the Waste!

August 14 2011 at 3:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
bestguym

they got us in this mess we did nothing . we keep to a fixed budget . and they dont and they have the nerve to make that much money . give me a brake wake up people vote them outttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttt

August 07 2011 at 6:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
bestguym

they are not worth one penny .who ever is in now has to get out . clean house

August 07 2011 at 6:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
dmcircadia

It actually sickens me how much a bunch of suits make to sit in air conditioning all day and bicker. Our soldiers get paid less and they get shot at. Most of the issues politicians debate on are ultimately irrelevant in the grand scheme of things as it does not change the unemployment rates in this country, it doesn't help the elderly or disabled (the people who are not actually able to work in even the most basic of jobs that a high school student could get) pay their bills or put food on their table, it doesn't benefit the average American citizen who is struggling to keep a roof over their head or a 10 year old vehicle running so they can somehow manage to care for their families. Certainly there are important issues, but frankly those issues don't pay the bills. They simply give people with too much time on their hands something to gripe about. You really want to do something about the financial state of this nation? Decrease the pay of all of the above listed politicians significantly (try 100,000 for everyone below VP for starters, maybe even for the VP and President themselves), seriously with all they get for free why do they need all that money? Put all that money they shouldn't be making back in the treasury. Not enough? Tax them and anyone making 100K or more a year out the wahzoo, they can afford it. However they wanna deal with the problem so long as it doesn't make it harder for people living below poverty to actually live or make it harder for poor people to get an education that can give them a chance to get a job and support themselves.

July 29 2011 at 4:52 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to dmcircadia's comment
NerdCity43

Did you see how much A-Rod is getting paid by the Yankees to not even play in the playoffs? That team invested over 100 million dollars over ten years for a guy just to hit a baseball which may or may not generate more revenue for the team. You are arguing that his role as a baseball player in America is almost infinitely more important than the role of our elected officials. That is the problem with America. This is why we can't convince people that we need to raise revenue to have a successful government. Don't you think that if being a Congressman paid better that more young people would see that as a viable career option instead of heading into the financial sector to become a heartless wall street banker? Why would i go through the process of having to expose my entire life to public scrutiny and ridicule over 150,000 a year when i could be a private silicon valley lawyer and make twice that amount? We pay billions of dollars to unknown private entities through campaign spending to put up ads and promote ideas, but don't have the sense to say that our President in this country ought to make more than the NFL league minimum.

November 20 2012 at 3:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
mmariecope

The other sad thing is they glamorize being a soldier, come stand for freedom, lay your life for your country this is everything we offer you. You walk away gaining so much. Well we bring back how many disfigured; limbs missing, post traumatic stress soldiers of all branches and they need to raise money to take care of them, No problem I don\'t have much I am on disability at 47, But Dr,s make good money, nurses do pretty good, do they really need to make more money off these soldiers, just give back to them and don\'t charge anyone.

June 11 2013 at 5:58 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
ken veiga

In total agreement with shado890
comments, except don't forget their well paid further by their lobbyists.
DISGUSTING!!!!!

July 26 2011 at 7:45 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
shado890

$174,000 a year + free health care, their own bank, their barber,....etc, etc Why do the people let them get away with that bullcrap....... all they do is argue,with each other....about time they start doing something for their EMPLOYERS...the AMERICAN PEOPLE

July 21 2011 at 9:30 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Search Jobs

In Partnership With
Keywords:
Location:

Search Articles

Top Companies Hiring

July 20 - July 27

Looking for work? See what companies added new openings this week.

×

Check out our new Map Search

Locate your next job using the new AOL Jobs Map Search!

Pin down your next great opportunity today.