Postsecondary Teachers

Summary

postsecondary teachers image
Postsecondary teachers instruct students in a wide variety of academic and vocational subjects beyond the high school level.
Quick Facts: Postsecondary Teachers
2015 Median Pay $72,470 per year
Typical Entry-Level Education See How to Become One
Work Experience in a Related Occupation See How to Become One
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2014 1,313,000
Job Outlook, 2014-24 13% (Faster than average)
Employment Change, 2014-24 177,000

What Postsecondary Teachers Do

Postsecondary teachers instruct students in a wide variety of academic and career and technical subjects beyond the high school level. They also conduct research and publish scholarly papers and books.

Work Environment

Postsecondary teachers work in public and private colleges and universities, professional schools, junior or community colleges, and career and technical schools. Outside of class time, their schedules are generally flexible, and they may spend that time in administrative, student advising, and research activities.

How to Become a Postsecondary Teacher

Educational requirements vary by subject and the type of educational institution. Most commonly, postsecondary teachers must have a Ph.D. However, a master's degree may be enough for some postsecondary teachers at community colleges. In career and technical schools, work experience may be important for getting a postsecondary teaching job.

Pay

The median annual wage for postsecondary teachers was $72,470 in May 2015.

Job Outlook

Employment of postsecondary teachers is projected to grow 13 percent from 2014 to 2024, faster than the average for all occupations. Growth is expected as enrollments at postsecondary institutions continue to rise, although it will be at a slower rate than it has been in the past. Many jobs are expected to be for part time faculty.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for postsecondary teachers.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of postsecondary teachers with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about postsecondary teachers by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Postsecondary Teachers Do About this section

Postsecondary teachers
Professors may teach a wide variety of subjects, such as history, science, business, or music.

Postsecondary teachers instruct students in a wide variety of academic and career and technical subjects beyond the high school level. They also conduct research and publish scholarly papers and books.

Duties

Postsecondary teachers typically do the following:

  • Teach courses in their subject area
  • Work with students who are taking classes to improve their knowledge or career skills
  • Develop an instructional plan (known as a course outline or syllabus) for the course(s) they teach and ensure that it meets college and department standards
  • Plan lessons and assignments
  • Work with colleagues to develop or modify the curriculum for a degree or certificate program involving a series of courses
  • Assess students’ progress by grading assignments, papers, exams, and other work
  • Advise students about which classes to take and how to achieve their goals
  • Stay informed about changes and innovations in their field
  • Conduct research and experiments to advance knowledge in their field
  • Supervise graduate students who are working toward doctoral degrees
  • Publish original research and analysis in books and academic journals
  • Serve on academic and administrative committees that review and recommend policies, make budget decisions, or advise on hiring and promotions within their department

Postsecondary teachers, often referred to as professors or faculty, specialize in a variety of subjects and fields. Some teach academic subjects, such as English or philosophy. Others focus on career-related subjects, such as law, nursing, or culinary arts.

At colleges and universities, professors are organized into departments that specialize in a subject, such as history, science, business, or music. A professor may teach one or more courses within that department. For example, a mathematics professor may teach calculus, statistics, and a graduate seminar in a very specific area of mathematics.

Postsecondary teachers’ duties vary with their positions in a university or college. In large colleges or universities, they may spend their time teaching, conducting research or experiments, applying for grants to fund their research, or supervising graduate teaching assistants who are teaching classes.

Postsecondary teachers who work in small colleges and universities or in community colleges often spend more time teaching classes and working with students. They may spend some time conducting research, but they do not have as much time to devote to it.

Full-time professors, particularly those who have tenure (a professor who cannot be fired without just cause), often are expected to spend more time on their research. They also may be expected to serve on more college and university committees.

Part-time professors, often known as adjunct professors, spend most of their time teaching students.

Professors may teach large classes of several hundred students (often with the help of graduate teaching assistants), smaller classes of about 40 to 50 students, seminars with just a few students, or laboratories where students practice the subject matter. They work with an increasingly varied student population as more part-time, older, and culturally diverse students are going to postsecondary schools.

Professors need to keep up with developments in their field by reading scholarly articles, talking with colleagues, and participating in professional conferences. A tenured professor must do original research, such as experiments, document analysis, or critical reviews, and publish their findings.

Some postsecondary teachers work for online universities or teach online classes. They use websites to present lessons and information, to assign and accept students’ work, and to participate in course discussions. Online professors communicate with students by email and by phone and might never meet their students in person.

Work Environment About this section

Postsecondary teachers
Most classes are held during the day, but some are held on nights and weekends.

Postsecondary teachers held about 1.3 million jobs in 2014.

In 2014, about 76 percent of postsecondary teachers worked for colleges, universities, and professional schools and about 20 percent worked for junior colleges. Much smaller percentages of postsecondary teachers worked in industries such as career and technical schools, business schools and computer and management training facilities, and hospitals.

Many postsecondary teachers find their jobs rewarding because they are surrounded by others who enjoy their subject. The opportunity to share their expertise with others also is appealing to many.

However, some postsecondary teachers must find a balance between teaching students and doing research and publishing their findings. This can be stressful, especially for beginning teachers seeking advancement in 4-year research universities. At the community college level, professors focus mainly on teaching students and administrative duties.

Classes are generally held during the day, although some are offered in the evenings and weekends to accommodate students who have jobs or family obligations.

Although some postsecondary teachers teach summer courses, many do not and use that time to conduct research, involve themselves in professional development, or to travel.

Work Schedules

Many postsecondary teachers work part time. They may work part time at several colleges or universities.

Postsecondary teachers’ schedules generally are flexible. Full-time teachers need to be on campus to teach classes and have office hours. Otherwise, they are free to set their schedule to prepare for classes and grade assignments. They may also spend time carrying out administrative responsibilities such as serving on committees.

How to Become a Postsecondary Teacher About this section

Postsecondary teachers
Some institutions prefer to hire professors who have teaching experience, which can be gained by working as a graduate teaching assistant.

Educational requirements vary with the subject taught and the type of educational institution. Most commonly, postsecondary teachers must have a Ph.D. However, a master's degree may be enough for some postsecondary teachers at community colleges. In career and technical schools, work experience may be important for getting a postsecondary teaching job.

Education

Postsecondary teachers who work for 4-year colleges and universities typically need a doctoral degree in their field. Some schools may hire those with a master’s degree or those who are doctoral degree candidates for some specialties, such as fine arts, or for some part-time positions.

Doctoral programs generally take multiple years after the completion of a bachelor’s degree program. They spend time completing a master’s degree and then writing a doctoral dissertation, which is a paper presenting original research in the student’s field of study. Candidates usually specialize in a subfield, such as organic chemistry or European history.

Community colleges or career and technical schools also may hire those with a master’s degree. However, in some fields, there are more applicants than available positions. In these situations, institutions can be more selective, and they frequently choose applicants who have a Ph.D. over those with a master’s degree.

Postsecondary teachers who teach career and technical education courses, such as culinary arts or cosmetology, may not be required to have graduate-level education. At a minimum they must hold the degree of the program in which they are teaching. For example, the teacher must hold an associate’s degree if they teach a program that is at the associate’s degree level. In addition, work experience or certification may be just as important as education for getting a postsecondary teaching job at a career or technical school.

Other Experience

Some institutions may prefer to hire those with teaching or other work experience, but this is not a requirement for all fields or for all employers.

In health specialties, art, or education fields, hands-on work experience in the industry can be important. Postsecondary teachers in these fields often gain experience by working in an occupation related to their field of expertise.

In fields such as biological science, physics, and chemistry, some postsecondary teachers have postdoctoral research experience. These short-term jobs, sometimes called “post-docs,” usually involve working for 2 to 3 years as a research associate or in a similar position, often at a college or university.

Some postsecondary teachers gain teaching experience by working as graduate teaching assistants—students who are enrolled in a graduate program and teach classes in the institution in which they are enrolled.

Some postsecondary teachers, especially adjunct professors, have another job in addition to teaching.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Postsecondary teachers who prepare students for an occupation that requires a license, certification, or registration, may need to have—or they may benefit from having—the same credential. For example, a postsecondary nursing teacher might need a nursing license or a postsecondary education teacher might need a teaching license.

Advancement

A major goal for postsecondary teachers with a doctoral degree is attaining a tenure—a guarantee that a professor cannot be fired without just cause. It can take up to 7 years of moving up the ranks in tenure-track positions. The ranks are assistant professor, associate professor, and professor. Tenure is granted through a review of the candidate’s research, contribution to the institution, and teaching.

Tenure and tenure track positions are declining as institutions are relying more heavily on part-time faculty.

Some tenured professors advance to administrative positions, such as dean or president. For information on deans and other administrative positions, see the profile on postsecondary education administrators. For more information about college and university presidents, see the profile on top executives.

Important Qualities

Critical-thinking skills. To challenge established theories and beliefs, conduct original research, and design experiments, postsecondary teachers need good critical-thinking skills.

Interpersonal skills. Most postsecondary teachers need to be able to work well with others and must have good communication skills to serve on committees and give lectures.

Resourcefulness. Postsecondary teachers need to be able to present information in a way that students will understand. They need to adapt to the different learning styles of their students and teach students who have little or no experience with the subject.

Speaking skills. Postsecondary teachers need good communication skills to give lectures.

Writing skills. Most postsecondary teachers need to be skilled writers to publish original research and analysis.

Pay About this section

Postsecondary Teachers

Median annual wages, May 2015

Postsecondary teachers

$72,470

Education, training, and library occupations

$47,220

Total, all occupations

$36,200

 

The median annual wage for postsecondary teachers was $72,470 in May 2015. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $37,060, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $154,190.

Median annual wages for postsecondary teachers in May 2015 were as follows:

Law teachers, postsecondary $105,250
Engineering teachers, postsecondary 95,060
Economics teachers, postsecondary 94,000
Health specialties teachers, postsecondary 90,840
Agricultural sciences teachers, postsecondary 90,780
Forestry and conservation science teachers, postsecondary 88,270
Atmospheric, earth, marine, and space sciences teachers, postsecondary 83,150
Physics teachers, postsecondary 82,840
Environmental science teachers, postsecondary 78,770
Anthropology and archeology teachers, postsecondary 77,650
Political science teachers, postsecondary 76,370
Geography teachers, postsecondary 75,400
Business teachers, postsecondary 75,370
Biological science teachers, postsecondary 75,320
Chemistry teachers, postsecondary 75,060
Computer science teachers, postsecondary 74,840
Architecture teachers, postsecondary 73,920
Area, ethnic, and cultural studies teachers, postsecondary 72,300
Psychology teachers, postsecondary 70,260
History teachers, postsecondary 69,400
Sociology teachers, postsecondary 69,230
Library science teachers, postsecondary 67,660
Social sciences teachers, postsecondary, all other 67,490
Nursing instructors and teachers, postsecondary 67,480
Mathematical science teachers, postsecondary 67,170
Philosophy and religion teachers, postsecondary 66,380
Art, drama, and music teachers, postsecondary 65,340
Communications teachers, postsecondary 63,410
Social work teachers, postsecondary 63,390
English language and literature teachers, postsecondary 61,990
Education teachers, postsecondary 61,560
Foreign language and literature teachers, postsecondary 61,380
Criminal justice and law enforcement teachers, postsecondary 58,770

Wages can vary by institution type. Postsecondary teachers typically have higher wages in colleges, universities, and professional schools than they do in community colleges or other types of schools. 

Many postsecondary teachers work part time. They may work part time at several colleges or universities.

Postsecondary teachers’ schedules generally are flexible. Full-time teachers need to be on campus to teach classes and have office hours. Otherwise, they are free to set their schedule to prepare for classes and grade assignments. They may also spend time carrying out administrative responsibilities, such as serving on committees.

Job Outlook About this section

Postsecondary Teachers

Percent change in employment, projected 2014-24

Postsecondary teachers

13%

Education, training, and library occupations

8%

Total, all occupations

7%

 

Employment of postsecondary teachers is projected to grow 13 percent from 2014 to 2024, faster than the average for all occupations. Both part-time and full-time postsecondary teachers are included in this projection.

Growth is expected as enrollments at postsecondary institutions continue to rise, although it will be at a slower rate than it has been in the past.

The number of people attending postsecondary institutions is expected to grow from 2014 to 2024. Students will continue to seek higher education to gain the additional education and skills necessary to meet their career goals. As more people enter colleges and universities, more postsecondary teachers will be needed to serve these additional students.

However, despite expected increases in enrollment, employment growth in public colleges and universities will depend on state and local government budgets. When budgets for higher education are reduced, employment growth may be limited.

Enrollment is expected to decrease in online colleges and universities. As a result, there will be less demand for postsecondary teachers in these types of schools.

Overall employment of postsecondary teachers is projected to increase, but it will vary by field. For example, nursing and health specialties teachers are projected to grow much faster than the average. As an aging population increasingly demands healthcare services, many additional postsecondary teachers are expected to be needed to help educate the workers who will provide these services.

In all fields, there is expected to be a limited number of full-time non-tenure and full-time tenure positions. Many colleges and universities are hiring more part-time positions.

Job Prospects

There are expected to be more job opportunities for part-time postsecondary teachers since many institutions are hiring more part-time than full-time positions.

There will be a limited number of full-time tenure track positions and competition is expected to be high.

Some fields, such as health specialties and nursing, will likely experience better job prospects than others, such as those in the humanities.

Community colleges or career and technical schools may hire those with a master’s degree. However, there are more applicants than available positions in some fields. In these situations, institutions can be more selective, and they frequently choose applicants who have a Ph.D. over those with a master’s degree.

Employment projections data for postsecondary teachers, 2014-24
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Postsecondary teachers

1,313,000 1,490,000 13 177,000

Business teachers, postsecondary

25-1011 106,800 116,200 9 9,400 [XLSX]

Computer science teachers, postsecondary

25-1021 43,400 47,200 9 3,800 [XLSX]

Mathematical science teachers, postsecondary

25-1022 63,500 73,900 16 10,400 [XLSX]

Architecture teachers, postsecondary

25-1031 9,100 9,900 9 800 [XLSX]

Engineering teachers, postsecondary

25-1032 46,000 52,000 13 6,000 [XLSX]

Agricultural sciences teachers, postsecondary

25-1041 12,100 12,800 6 700 [XLSX]

Biological science teachers, postsecondary

25-1042 64,300 74,800 16 10,400 [XLSX]

Forestry and conservation science teachers, postsecondary

25-1043 2,300 2,400 7 200 [XLSX]

Atmospheric, earth, marine, and space sciences teachers, postsecondary

25-1051 13,200 14,300 9 1,100 [XLSX]

Chemistry teachers, postsecondary

25-1052 26,600 30,700 15 4,100 [XLSX]

Environmental science teachers, postsecondary

25-1053 6,700 7,300 9 600 [XLSX]

Physics teachers, postsecondary

25-1054 17,700 20,400 15 2,700 [XLSX]

Anthropology and archeology teachers, postsecondary

25-1061 7,500 8,200 9 700 [XLSX]

Area, ethnic, and cultural studies teachers, postsecondary

25-1062 11,600 13,300 15 1,700 [XLSX]

Economics teachers, postsecondary

25-1063 17,300 18,900 10 1,700 [XLSX]

Geography teachers, postsecondary

25-1064 5,400 5,900 8 400 [XLSX]

Political science teachers, postsecondary

25-1065 21,600 23,700 10 2,100 [XLSX]

Psychology teachers, postsecondary

25-1066 47,300 54,700 16 7,500 [XLSX]

Sociology teachers, postsecondary

25-1067 20,700 23,900 15 3,200 [XLSX]

Social sciences teachers, postsecondary, all other

25-1069 12,900 15,100 17 2,200 [XLSX]

Health specialties teachers, postsecondary

25-1071 210,400 250,400 19 40,000 [XLSX]

Nursing instructors and teachers, postsecondary

25-1072 68,600 81,800 19 13,200 [XLSX]

Education teachers, postsecondary

25-1081 75,700 82,500 9 6,900 [XLSX]

Library science teachers, postsecondary

25-1082 5,600 6,000 8 400 [XLSX]

Criminal justice and law enforcement teachers, postsecondary

25-1111 17,400 21,100 21 3,700 [XLSX]

Law teachers, postsecondary

25-1112 21,100 25,700 22 4,600 [XLSX]

Social work teachers, postsecondary

25-1113 13,700 15,600 14 1,900 [XLSX]

Art, drama, and music teachers, postsecondary

25-1121 120,700 133,700 11 13,000 [XLSX]

Communications teachers, postsecondary

25-1122 36,000 39,500 10 3,500 [XLSX]

English language and literature teachers, postsecondary

25-1123 90,800 100,200 10 9,400 [XLSX]

Foreign language and literature teachers, postsecondary

25-1124 37,200 41,300 11 4,100 [XLSX]

History teachers, postsecondary

25-1125 29,200 32,100 10 2,900 [XLSX]

Philosophy and religion teachers, postsecondary

25-1126 30,700 34,200 12 3,600 [XLSX]

State & Area Data About this section

Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

Career InfoNet

America’s Career InfoNet includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations About this section

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of postsecondary teachers.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help 2015 MEDIAN PAY Help
Anthropologists and archeologists

Anthropologists and Archeologists

Anthropologists and archeologists study the origin, development, and behavior of humans. They examine the cultures, languages, archeological remains, and physical characteristics of people in various parts of the world.

Master's degree $61,220
Biochemists and biophysicists

Biochemists and Biophysicists

Biochemists and biophysicists study the chemical and physical principles of living things and of biological processes, such as cell development, growth, heredity, and disease.

Doctoral or professional degree $82,150
Career and technical education teachers

Career and Technical Education Teachers

Career and technical education teachers instruct students in various technical and vocational subjects, such as auto repair, healthcare, and culinary arts. They teach academic and technical content to provide students with the skills and knowledge necessary to enter an occupation.

Bachelor's degree $52,800
Chemists and materials scientists

Chemists and Materials Scientists

Chemists and materials scientists study substances at the atomic and molecular levels and the ways in which the substances interact with one another. They use their knowledge to develop new and improved products and to test the quality of manufactured goods.

Bachelor's degree $72,610
Economists

Economists

Economists study the production and distribution of resources, goods, and services by collecting and analyzing data, researching trends, and evaluating economic issues.

Master's degree $99,180
Geographers

Geographers

Geographers study the Earth and its land, features, and inhabitants. They also examine phenomena such as political or cultural structures and study the physical and human geographic characteristics of regions ranging in scale from local to global.

Bachelor's degree $74,260
Historians

Historians

Historians research, analyze, interpret, and present the past by studying historical documents and sources.

Master's degree $55,800
Microbiologists

Microbiologists

Microbiologists study microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, algae, fungi, and some types of parasites. They try to understand how these organisms live, grow, and interact with their environments.

Bachelor's degree $67,550
Political scientists

Political Scientists

Political scientists study the origin, development, and operation of political systems. They research political ideas and analyze governments, policies, political trends, and related issues.

Master's degree $99,730
Postsecondary education administrators

Postsecondary Education Administrators

Postsecondary education administrators oversee student services, academics, and faculty research at colleges and universities. Their job duties vary depending on the area of the college they manage, such as admissions, student life, or the office of the registrar.

Master's degree $88,580
Psychologists

Psychologists

Psychologists study cognitive, emotional, and social processes and behavior by observing, interpreting, and recording how people relate to one another and their environments.

See How to Become One $72,580
Sociologists

Sociologists

Sociologists study society and social behavior by examining the groups, cultures, organizations, social institutions, and processes that develop when people interact and work together.

Master's degree $73,760
Zoologists and wildlife biologists

Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists

Zoologists and wildlife biologists study animals and other wildlife and how they interact with their ecosystems. They study the physical characteristics of animals, animal behaviors, and the impacts humans have on wildlife and natural habitats.

Bachelor's degree $59,680

Contacts for More Information About this section

For more information about postsecondary teachers, visit

Council of Graduate Schools

Association for Career and Technical Education

To Become a Teacher

O*NET

Agricultural Sciences Teachers, Postsecondary

Anthropology and Archeology Teachers, Postsecondary

Architecture Teachers, Postsecondary

Area, Ethnic, and Cultural Studies Teachers, Postsecondary

Art, Drama, and Music Teachers, Postsecondary

Atmospheric, Earth, Marine, and Space Sciences Teachers, Postsecondary

Biological Science Teachers, Postsecondary

Business Teachers, Postsecondary

Chemistry Teachers, Postsecondary

Communications Teachers, Postsecondary

Computer Science Teachers, Postsecondary

Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Teachers, Postsecondary

Economics Teachers, Postsecondary

Education Teachers, Postsecondary

Engineering Teachers, Postsecondary

English Language and Literature Teachers, Postsecondary

Environmental Science Teachers, Postsecondary

Foreign Language and Literature Teachers, Postsecondary

Forestry and Conservation Science Teachers, Postsecondary

Geography Teachers, Postsecondary

Health Specialties Teachers, Postsecondary

History Teachers, Postsecondary

Law Teachers, Postsecondary

Library Science Teachers, Postsecondary

Mathematical Science Teachers, Postsecondary

Nursing Instructors and Teachers, Postsecondary

Philosophy and Religion Teachers, Postsecondary

Physics Teachers, Postsecondary

Political Science Teachers, Postsecondary

Psychology Teachers, Postsecondary

Social Sciences Teachers, Postsecondary, All Other

Social Work Teachers, Postsecondary

Sociology Teachers, Postsecondary

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Postsecondary Teachers,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/postsecondary-teachers.htm (visited July 23, 2016).

Publish Date: Thursday, December 17, 2015

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2015 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2015, the median annual wage for all workers was $36,200.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

Work experience in a related occupation

Work experience that is commonly considered necessary by employers, or is a commonly accepted substitute for more formal types of training or education.

Number of Jobs, 2014

The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2014, which is the base year of the 2014-24 employment projections.

Job Outlook, 2014-24

The projected percent change in employment from 2014 to 2024. The average growth rate for all occupations is 7 percent.

Employment Change, 2014-24

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Employment Change, projected 2014-24

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Growth Rate (Projected)

The percent change of employment for each occupation from 2014 to 2024.

Projected Number of New Jobs

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Projected Growth Rate

The projected percent change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

2015 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2015, the median annual wage for all workers was $36,200.