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What was your salary worth 50 years ago?

Anthony Balderrama, CareerBuilder Writer

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The past can teach us many things. We can see how unjust our society was to some people before major Supreme Court cases were decided. We can imagine how simple some aspects of life were before cell phones tethered us to work.

It's also fun to look back and see just how much further a dollar seemed to go back then. Undoubtedly you've heard some relative reminiscing about the days when a nickel would buy you four movie tickets and you'd still have some change left.

For fun, we thought we'd see what some of today's salaries would translate to in 1960 dollars. We're not saying you would've made that exact amount 50 years ago, because many professions were quite different then and not all salaries increased at the same rate. Also, salary surveys weren't conducted as extensively as they are now, so you can't find some financial data from more than a few decades ago. And keep in mind that many of today's jobs didn't exist 50 years ago. Social media consultants and IT administrators weren't job titles anyone had.

Measuring Worth is a website that compiles historical salary data from various sources and allows users to calculate different monetary figures such as inflation or purchasing power for specified periods of time. We found average salaries from 2010 and then used Measuring Worth to calculate the monetary equivalent in 1960 based on Consumer Price Index data, which include figures from 1774 to present.

Here are 25 contemporary jobs and their current salaries* compared with their monetary equivalent 50 years before**:

Accountants
2010: $59,159
1960: $8,040

Administrative assistants
2010: $49,414
1960: $6,710

Automotive mechanics
2010: $47,344
1960: $6,430

Chefs
2010: $60,374
1960: $8,200

Construction workers
2010: $40,165
1960: $8,200

Dry cleaners
2010: $25,064
1960: $3,400

Elementary school teachers
2010: $56,617
1960: $7,690

Emergency medical technicians
2010: $39,303
1960: $5,340

Fast-food workers
2010: $22,078
1960: $3,000

Firefighters
2010: $57,820
1960: $7,850

Flight attendants
2010: $72,951
1960: $9,910

Grocery store managers
2010: $55,188
1960: $7,500

Commercial painters
2010: $44,459
1960: $6,040

Hospice workers
2010: $49,771
1960: $6,760

Janitors
2010: $28,117
1960: $3,820

Newspaper journalists
2010: $21,868
1960: $2,970

Personal trainers
2010: $51,838
1960: $7,040

Pianists
2010: $72,353
1960: $9,830

Plumbers
2010: $51,369
1960: $6,980

Police officers
2010: $58,974
1960: $8,010

Public relations representatives
2010: $59,970
1960: $8,150

Registered nurses
2010: $71,692
1960: $9,740

Sales clerks
2010: $26,765
1960: $3,640

Surgeons
2010: $366,165
1960: $49,700

Veterinarians
2010: $97,404
1960: $13,200

*Salary figures based on data from CBsalary.com, powered by SalaryExpert.com.
**Past salary figures based on data from Measuring Worth's calculator for relative value of the U.S. dollar.

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.

Bing: Consumer Price Index  
Bing:  Inflation rate history



Last Updated: 18/11/2011 - 2:44 PM


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