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Rankings of Full-Time Occupations, by Earnings, 2000. (Research Summary).(Statistical Data Included)

By Buckley, John E. | Monthly Labor Review, March 2002 | Go to article overview

Rankings of Full-Time Occupations, by Earnings, 2000. (Research Summary).(Statistical Data Included)


Buckley, John E., Monthly Labor Review


In 2000, pay averaged $16.66 an hour for full-time workers in private industry and State and local governments, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics National Compensation Survey. Airplane pilots and navigators averaged $95.80; physicians averaged $61.19. These two salaried occupations topped the list of 427 occupations arrayed by earnings. The average number of annual hours worked by physicians (2,175) far surpassed those of airplane pilots and navigators (1,197). As a result, the average annual salary estimate for physicians was $133,088, compared with $114,673 for airplane pilots and navigators. Because the standard error is high for each of these occupations (especially for physicians), caution must be exercised in making direct salary comparisons.

These results of the 2000 National Compensation Survey are the fourth annual findings of establishment-based surveys in a sample of 154 metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The sample represents the Nation's 326 metropolitan statistical areas (as defined by the Office of Management and Budget in 1994) and the remaining portions of the 50 States. Agricultural, private household, and Federal Government workers are not included in the National Compensation Survey. (1)

High- and low-paying occupations

Top 10 percent. Of the 43 occupations with hourly earnings in the top 10 percent, 38 were in the professional major occupational group; 4 were in the executive group, and 1 was in sales (sales engineers). Of the 38 professional occupations, 22 were teaching positions, paying average hourly earnings ranging from $54.47 for economics teachers to $35.19 for psychology teachers. Workers in 11 of these 22 teaching positions averaged $39.07 or more an hour.

Top 20 percent. The 86 occupations in the top 20 percent of the earnings array were dominated by positions in the professional and executive major occupational groups. (See table 1.) However, workers from other major groups begin to appear in these high-earnings deciles. For example, the service major occupational group is represented by public transportation attendants (with a rank of 51) and police and detective supervisors (78)

In the precision production major group, three occupations were ranked in the top 20 percent--elevator installers and repairers (73); supervisory plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters (80); and supervisory electricians and power transmission installers (82). In the transportation major group, long-shoreworkers ranked 58, with average hourly earnings of $28.91.

Bottom 10 percent. Average hourly earnings ranged from $9.80 to $3.99 for full-time workers in occupations at the bottom 10 percent of the wage ladder. More than one-third of these 43 lowest paying positions were in the service major occupational group; most of the remaining two-thirds were nearly evenly divided among three major groups-handlers, administrative support, and machine operators. The low rate ($3.99 an hour)for waiters and waitresses in the service group may be misleading; the National Compensation Survey does not include tips as part of wages because employers do not pay the tips. Thus, the rate for waiters and waitresses reflects the absence of information on tips. Assistants to waiters and waitresses were ranked 426, with average hourly earnings of $6.16. (Rates for some other low ranked occupations, such as baggage porters and bellhops, bartenders, parking lot attendants, and taxicab drivers and chauffeurs, were similarly affected by the absence of information on tips.)

Earnings dispersion

As seen in table 2, average hourly earnings varied considerably within and among major occupational groups. The following tabulation highlights the percentage spreads within each of the nine major occupational groups. (2)

The huge spread for professional jobs reflects the disparate jobs classified in the professional major occupational group, ranging from airplane pilots and navigators and physicians at the top end of the scale to health record technologists and technicians and substitute teachers at the low end.

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