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Illustration depicting the perfect salary of $120k
Rangely García for Money

How much pay would it take to make a Gen Z-er or millennial feel successful? New analysis says it’s much more than what the average American household makes yearly.

Call it youthful idealism or plain-old ambition, a study from the invoicing solutions company Skynova found that workers around the ages 21 to 42 have lofty salary expectations. Most aren’t content with what they’re making now, and on average, they think it will take at least $121,553 annually to feel like they’ve finally "made it."

Skynova analyzed state-by-state salary data and survey responses from more than 1,000 millennial and Gen Z workers. Here's what the company found.

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What the data says

  • The majority of younger workers — 59% of millennials and 53% of Gen Z-ers — say they want more money than they’re currently making.
  • At the same time, more than half (52%) said they haven’t received a pay increase in the last year.
  • The most desired annual salary for younger workers ranges from $71,000 to $80,000 on average. To feel like they’ve “made it,” Gen Z respondents said on average they’d need $124,494, while millennials would need $120,902.
  • That’s a lot more than most American households make — the median U.S. household income was $70,784 as of 2021, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The best-paying jobs for young workers

Annual average salaries for the most lucrative jobs for millennials and Gen-Zers aged 22 to 35 range from about $100,000 to $150,000. Lawyers top the list, according to Skynova, but tech and healthcare jobs dominate the ranking.

  1. Lawyers: $149,646
  2. Securities, commodities, financial services and sales agents: $134,029
  3. Web developers: $120,595
  4. Architectural and engineering managers: $115,875
  5. Software developers: $113,066
  6. Public relations and fundraising managers: $111,071
  7. Physician assistants: $110,986
  8. Other physicians: $110,130
  9. Pharmacists: $105,555
  10. Nurse practitioners: $101,407
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