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Up to 65% of workers with these jobs are middle class—and some don't require a bachelor's degree

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There are a number of jobs commonly associated with high salaries, like doctors and lawyers, and jobs known for low or minimum wages, like food service or customer service roles.

But the middle class may be more occupationally ambiguous, especially since a middle class income can range from $49,720 to $149,160 in the U.S., according to Pew Research's definition and based on the latest Census Bureau income data

Pew defines the middle class as households earning between two-thirds and double the median income, which was $74,580 in 2022, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Since over half of U.S. households were estimated to be in the middle class as of 2022, Pew says, it makes sense the jobs that offer those middle class incomes would vary. But some positions and industries tend to have higher shares of middle class workers. 

Armed forces workers are the most likely to be middle earners with 65% of their households in that income band, according to Pew's analysis of the Census Bureau's 2022 American Community Survey data. 

Here are the 10 occupations with the largest shares of middle class workers, according to Pew:

  1. Armed forces: 65%
  2. Maintenance, repair and production: 64%
  3. Protective and building maintenance services: 62%
  4. Office and administrative support: 62%
  5. Education: 61%
  6. Transportation and material moving: 59%
  7. Construction extraction and farming: 58%
  8. Legal, social services, arts, media and related: 55%
  9. Health care: 55%
  10. Business and finance operations: 54%

Pew determined workers' income tier based on household incomes adjusted for the number of people living in each household and the local cost of living. Shares have been rounded.

Workers in the armed forces category are most likely active duty military personnel who make up 82% of that workforce, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Pay for these occupations varies by rank and years of service and is determined by the Department of Defense.

All members of the armed forces receive basic pay and may be entitled to other compensation, such as housing and living allowances, depending on their family size, assignment duties and location. 

Notably, many of the jobs that are likely to ensure a middle class salary may not require a college education.

A bachelor's degree or higher may help you earn more in nearly any field. But careers that don't require a degree can still earn lucrative salaries. You don't need a degree to join the armed forces, and several jobs in construction, manufacturing and maintenance are in-demand and can pay decently, according to a recent PayScale and ZipRecruiter report.

Plus, salary isn't everything. Careers in the military, education and health care and can help you wipe out student loan debt through Public Service Loan Forgiveness.

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