Teenagers desperately want to fit in with their peers, but years later, as adults, they want to be different. They don't want to be just like everyone else. (For proof, tell a chef that her duck á l'orange is average and you'll be banished from her restaurant.) Being average can be an insult at times and something to aspire to at others.
Workers' attitudes evolve in the same way when discussing income. At the start of your career, especially if you're beginning in today's roller-coaster economy, you're thrilled to earn the average American salary. Once you're an industry veteran who's put in decades of work, you probably hope your salary has increased over time. Not because you're greedy but because you'd like to think your years of hard work are being rewarded.
And because the American attitude toward financial issues is that you shouldn't talk about them in public, many people are unaware of what is average pay. Sure, you want to know how much your co-workers or even your next-door neighbors are earning, but you're not going to ask. (Are you?)
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual income for full-time workers in the United States is $36,587. Plenty of workers earn significantly more than this salary, and many earn less. We wanted to get an idea of which jobs pay the same salary as the national average.
Here is a list of 18 jobs that pay salaries in the $36,000-range, according to the BLS.
1. Carpet, floor, and tile installers and finishers
Median annual salary*: $36,843
2. Cement masons, concrete finishers, and terrazzo workers
Median annual salary: $36,270
3. Computer-controlled machine tool operators, metal and plastic
Median annual salary: $36,498
4. Dispatchers, except police, fire, and ambulance
Median annual salary: $36,317
5. Dredge, excavating, and loading machine operators
Median annual salary: $36,275
6. Engine and other machine assemblers
Median annual salary: $36,860
7. Extruding and forming machine setters, operators, and tenders, synthetic and glass fibers
Median annual salary: $36,232
8. First-line supervisors/managers of retail sales workers
Median annual salary: $36,001
9. Forest and conservation technicians
Median annual salary: $36,712
10. Hazardous materials removal workers
Median annual salary: $36,400
11. Logging workers
Median annual salary: $36,202
12. Medical and clinical laboratory technicians
Median annual salary: $36,150
13. Metal-refining furnace operators and tenders
Median annual salary: $36,183
14. Operating engineers and other construction equipment operators
Median annual salary: $36,234
15. Paper goods machine setters, operators, and tenders
Median annual salary: $36,833
16. Rehabilitation counselors
Median annual salary: $36,142
17. Tire builders
Median annual salary: $36,026
18. Tree trimmers and pruners
Median annual salary: $36,005
*Salary figures based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics' median annual income for 2009, the most recent data available.
Anthony Balderrama is a writer and blogger for CareerBuilder.com and its job blog, The Work Buzz. He researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/abalderrama.