In our society, all work was thought to have dignity and value. But that doesn't mean we valued it all the same. There were dramatic disparities in what we paid our workers. Different occupations required unequal amounts of training, unequal amounts of responsibility, unequal amounts of creativity, entailed unequal risks and unequal difficulties. None of that mattered much. Our leaders spoke often of how much we prized the selflessness of, say, schoolteachers and police officers. But at bottom, the best indication of what we really valued was the bottom line.

Some Jobs and Their Average Yearly Wage

1Professionals

2Teachers

3Salespeople

4Engineers/scientists

5Construction/mechanics

6Other

6Professional basketball player2,903,000

6Major league baseball player1,720,050

6Professional football player996,000

1Airline pilot133,972

2College economics professor105,643

1Judge86,444

2College physics professor83,948

1Physician80,704

2College theology professor80,350

1Dentist77,896

4Astronomer77,604

1Marketing and public relations manager72,529

3Securities and financial salesperson72,092

1Lawyer71,718

4Nuclear engineer71,052

3Real estate salesperson70,616

2College history professor64,084

1Book author63,502

4Aerospace engineer63,315

2College art, drama or music professor59,550

2High school teacher55,452

2Elementary school teacher54,828

1Pharmacist54,496

2College physical education teacher53,248

4Mechanical engineer52,769

4Atmospheric and space scientist52,041

2College foreign language professor51,500

1Architect49,774

1Speech therapist47,486

6Locomotive driver46,820

3Insurance salesperson46,051

1Editor or reporter45,822

4Agriculture and food scientist45,614

5Aircraft engine mechanic43,825

4Biological and life scientist43,680

6Carpet installer43,638

1Librarian42,848

1Urban planner42,764

1Computer programmer42,494

1Dental hygienist42,036

1Registered nurse41,828

1Public relations specialist41,600

1Accountant41,059

2Kindergarten teacher40,164

6Stevedore39,977

5Elevator repairer39,956

5Plumber39,020

1Police officer or detective38,916

5Telephone line installer38,251

5Electrician38,084

3Advertising salesperson37,169

4Forestry or conservation scientist35,651

3Automobile salesperson37,169

1Respiratory therapist35,110

5Car mechanic34,569

5Carpenter33,924

1Photographer33,176

1Computer repair person32,073

1Social worker31,844

6Printing press operator30,513

1Insurance adjuster30,243

1Firefighter29,660

6Meter reader29,432

6Truck driver28,953

6Prison guard28,620

6Stenographer28,496

5Upholsterer27,996

5Lathe operator27,910

5House painter27,227

6Garbage collector27,019

6Secretary26,686

5Roofer26,083

6Bus driver25,084

1Clergy24,980

3Appliance salesperson23,712

6Telephone operator23,483

6Pest control worker22,297

5Construction worker21,944

6Tailor21,299

2Substitute teacher21,008

3Shoe salesperson20,862

6Butcher20,800

6Data entry keyer20,300

6Receptionist18,547

6Bank teller17,950

6File clerk17,888

6Crossing guard17,700

2Child care worker17,222

6Cashier15,870

6Parking lot attendant14,164