What does it take to earn a middle-income salary today? The middle class in the United States makes up approximately 52% of the population, which is down from 61% in 1970, according to the Pew Research Center. Although new jobs continue to be added to the economy, it's important to find a field of work with solid growth potential but also pays a good salary.
The latest census numbers (from 2020) indicate what income ranges constitute the middle class. This will depend on family size. For a single individual, a middle-class income ranges from $30,000 - $90,000 per year. For a couple it starts at $42,430 up to $127,300; for a family of three, $60,000 - $180,000; and four $67,100 - $201,270.
We've listed seven jobs that pay a middle-class income along with the training that's needed to land these jobs. The careers outlined have incomes that range from $35,000 to $57,000 per year. All of the information comes from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Occupational Outlook Handbook.
- Electricians earn over $60,000 per year and are responsible for electrical lighting, power, and communications systems.
- Computer support specialists and medical lab technicians make over $57,000 per year.
- Wind turbine technicians are needed for the growing clean energy movement.
- Job growth for industry machinery mechanics and environmental engineering technicians is expected to grow 19% and 8% respectively by 2030.
- Dental assistants round out the list and earn approximately $38,000 per year.
Electricians maintain, repair, and install electrical lighting, power, and communications systems. According to the BLS, the job outlook for electricians is much faster than average. Growth in this industry is expected to grow 9% between 2020 and 2030. There were roughly 729,600 electricians employed in 2020. That figure is expected to increase to 795,700 by 2030.
The median pay was $60,040 per year in 2021. The educational requirements include a high school diploma along with training from a technical school. Training can also entail on-the-job training from an apprenticeship or other programs followed by licensing.
2. Computer Support Specialists
Computer support specialists are help desk technicians who provide consumers or information technology (IT) specialists with help on computer-related issues. A specialist's role might include performing maintenance on network systems by testing and evaluating them. Computer support specialists also troubleshoot internet systems and help companies improve operational efficiency.
The typical specialist earns a median salary of $57,910 per year or $27.84 per hour. The BLS projects an 9% rate of growth in the field through 2030 as more companies need to upgrade their computer software and equipment.
Although there are several different ways someone could break into the field, computer specialists typically need a bachelor’s degree. However, some positions only require an associate’s degree or postsecondary training classes. Specialists can also obtain certification and advance to other IT positions in order to increase their earning potential.
3. Medical and Clinical Lab Technicians
Medical and clinical laboratory technicians take samples and perform tests to analyze tissue, body fluids, including blood and urine. Technicians must be proficient with laboratory equipment such as microscopes. The technicians typically record the findings, log the data into a computer, as well as update the patient's records.
The typical specialist earns a median salary of $57,800 per year. The BLS projects a 11% growth rate in the field through 2030. The aging population in the U.S. is expected to lead to an increased need to test and diagnose health and medical conditions.
Technicians usually need at least an associate’s degree, although there are several levels within the field that might require a bachelor’s degree. Laboratory employees are also required to be licensed, although each state has its own guidelines.
Although the salaries noted are averages listed by the BLS, the earning potential in each field may depend on your location, educational background, and experience.
4. Wind Turbine Technicians
Renewable energy, such as wind, continues to grow in popularity. As technology expands, there's a need for people who can maintain it. This includes wind turbine technicians.
Wind turbine technicians repair, maintain, and install wind turbines. The typical duties include climbing wind turbines to inspect and troubleshoot issues with electrical or mechanical components. Repair and maintenance can often involve replacing old or malfunctioning parts as well as collect data for research and analysis.
As of 2021, wind turbine techs are earning an average of $56,260 per year. The BLS estimates that the number of wind turbine technicians on the job will shoot up by 68%, which is much faster than the average industry. There were only 6,900 jobs in the field in 2020.
Wind turbine technicians usually require a technical school education as well as on-the-job training.
5. Industrial Machinery Mechanics
An industrial machinery mechanic repairs and maintains factory equipment and industrial machinery, which might include production machinery and packaging equipment. Other duties might involve performing tests to make sure that the equipment is running properly. Maintenance can include tasks such as cleaning, oiling, and calibrating the machinery to the needed specifications.
On average, industrial machinery mechanics earn $59,380 on an annual basis. The BLS predicts that the industry will experience a 19% rate of growth through 2030, which is much faster than average.
Industrial machinery mechanics need to have a high school diploma as well as a minimum of one year of on-the-job training.
6. Environmental Engineering Technicians
An environmental engineering technician assists environmental engineers. The technician's responsibilities include testing, operating, and modifying equipment. The technician's role can also involve preventing pollution and helping with the cleanup. Samples often need to be taken and analyzed from the air or groundwater.
Environmental engineering technicians earn an average of $48,390 per year. The BLS sees a 8% rate of growth in this field through 2030, which is slightly higher than the typical growth rate for most jobs in the economy.
Environmental engineering technicians need to have an associate’s degree in environmental engineering technology.
7. Dental Assistants
Taking care of your teeth is a must. Dental assistants perform a wide range of tasks, including preparing patients and work areas, sterilizing equipment, assisting the dentist when needed. Dental assistants also help with processing x-rays and performing lab tasks. Depending on the office, a dental assistant might assist with patient scheduling as well as maintaining dental records for the office.
These professionals earn $38,660 per year. The BLS sees a 11% growth in this field through 2030, which is much higher than the typical growth rate for most jobs in the economy.
Although the education requirements can vary by state, graduating from an accredited program might be required. In other instances, on-the-job training might suffice.
The Bottom Line
Although the seven jobs profiled in this article are all different, they share similar salaries and compensation. Most of these middle-income jobs don't require an extensive amount of education, which is encouraging for someone who may not have a college degree.