There is a debate on Canadian Money Forum about teens expectations of earning $90,000 per year by the age of 30. The debate stems from an article in the Moneyville and it appears the argument is fairly balanced.  Moneyville surveyed over 3,000 recent Canadian high school students, most of which were planning post secondary education, about what their salary expectations were in 10 years.  On average, the students expected to earn about $90,000 by the time they were of the age 28 or 29.  Lets round to age 30 as it’s a nice round number and a milestone age.  Adjusting for 2.5% annual inflation over the 10 years, and it’s buying power of about $115,000 in todays dollars.

Reading through the thread on Canadian Money forum, I was surprised at how many believed that it was unrealistic to achieve such a salary by the 30 year milestone.  Yes, $90k for a 30 year old is above average, but it’s certainly achievable by making the right choices and by thinking a little bigger.  To me, if the goal of the student is to have a higher than average salary, then create a plan and go for it.

I know many 28-30 year old’s who make low six figure salaries by making particular career choices and/or by enduring a bit of sacrifice.  One sure fire way is to find a career in the oil patch.  From my own experiences, an Engineer in the Oil and Gas industry can certainly make six figures with a bit of experience.   Although the lifestyle typically involves a fair bit of travel, the compensation is typically higher than average.  I also have friends who are pharmacists, and they can make $50/hr in the retail environment relatively easily.  Other career choices with higher salaries  include trades that are in demand, dental hygienists, or commission based sales positions.

What are your thoughts? Is it realistic for a young student to expect to make $90k by the age of 30?

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I recently turned 30 and my salary is about $95k. I’m an officer in the Canadian Forces, and while this isn’t a career for everyone the salary and benefits are excellent. I also completed my undergraduate and graduate studies and obtained my Professional Engineering lisence at no cost to me. So yes, $90k by 30 with no debt is entirely possible.

For 90% (or more) I don’t think it is realistic at all.

Personally, I had the same ambitions as a teenager. However, at the age of 26 with a BASc. in Mechanical Engineering, an MBA (both from UofT), and in pursuit of the CFA designation, I am finding it hard to find a job, let alone start my career. In addition, the burden of my student loans will make obtaining my savings goals much tougher.

If you’re willing to sacrafice a family for a while… and you don’t mind being single or having long distance relationships… I would look for any job that allots a lot of travel, long hours yet pays for all of it and allows copous amounts of over time … these types of jobs are usually in oil, environmental recovery and clean up, disastor recovery, and construction… you don’t have to do all the manual labor… just be willing to leave at the drop of a hat… you could find it if you want, but it isn’t for everyone.

Possible, yes. Likely, no. I’m 28, making about $85k and looking to break $100k with bonus this year. This is due only to a very lucky opportunity within financial services in the past few years which pushed me up from mid $60k. Prior, I was able to make successive jumps in salary every few years hopping between IT companies, with progressive experience since graduating college.

Out of college (age 21), I made $35k. So +50k in 7 years is incredible and i recognize that’s not the norm. The current salary (and probable future growth), was entirely unexpected and well beyond my wildest dreams. So, while I have it, I’m using the opportunity to pay off as many debts and save as much as possible.

There are ways to do it. Most careers start off low, and gradually increase in salary over many years. Pharmacy is not like this. Once licensed, pharmacists start just a few dollars per hour bellow the norm, and increase over 3-5 years to be making the same as someone in the profession for decades well before age 30. In saturated markets like Toronto this may be 75k, but outside of Toronto, it is 90-120k. For someone who is responsible and starts saving aggressively for retirement right away, this is a great career choice, even if they don’t make quite as much as other professions might in the years closer to retirement, when compounding on savings doesn’t matter so much. This is especially true for hospital pharmacists who, while at the lower end of the salary range, also tend to have an incredible defined benefits pension. For those who are ambitious and want to increase in pay range like other professions, the risk of owning a pharmacy carries the potential for great financial reward. I’m not a pharmacist, but all the ones I know are living pretty well in their 20’s!

I’m 28 years old, and a Police Officer for the Ontario Provincial Police.

I planned since age 16 to make this my career, and, with overtime, I plan to be making in the 90k range by the time I’m 30. It’s a realistic goal, and a career that’s extremely rewarding. Thanks FrugalTrader, been following you since 2009! I’ve had no financial backing since age 18, and I have a crippling student debt from a double major program in University , but I stay frugal and budget appropriately.

Well, I’m already 30 and I know my salary is nowhere near that number. But, I do definitely think it is possible for those people who make good choices, enter a high demand or risky career, and have a little bit of luck.

I did it (but only if you adjust for inflation). I think it is only a realistic goal for a minority of people. But it doesn’t hurt to aim for a goal like this as long as you don’t acrifice too much to get there.

I had a similar goal when I was in high school (about 1995). I planned to go into engineering and make $100K per year within 5 years of graduating. I based this on salary postings in the Toronto Star career classified. Network Admin postings were well north of $100K. I figured an engineer should do even better. When I entered university, (1999) engineers were getting big salaries and signing bonuses. Well, post Nortel-Bust, salaries for IT and engineers have come way down since then when adjusted for inflation.

That said, I think obviously it depends on the job, and not necessarily on the education.

If you become an Air Traffic Controller at Pearson straight out of high school (no post secondary requried) you will easily make well over $100K including over time within 2 years.

If you have a engineering degree, you’ll be very hard pressed to make over $100K (in base salary) by the time you are 30.

If you have an MBA you should make > $100K.

If you are a real estate agent, or comissions sales person, you could easily make over $100K.

If you really want the big bucks, just go to the US.

Starting engineering salaries out here in Alberta are about 70K. Depending on when you graduated, over 90K is very achievable by 30. No travel or work in remote places. Calgary or Edmonton, which compared to Vanc or TO are bargains to live in. Even more so when you consider the relative income.

We recently tried to hire co-op students. There were 450 co-op students available and over 800 positions. I wish the media would shed a little light on how hot the market is out here, all they focus on is doom and gloom.

Just to contribute to the debate I did it. Low 6 figures by 29. Currently 31 and continues to rise. Have a B.Sc.A from the US. Returned to Canada and started in the work force by 22. From 22-27 made 16k to 45k NOT respectively, worked in 5 different cities, and enjoyed less than optimal working conditions before landing my current career job.

It can be done but I have seen many under similar circumstances, in some cases right by my side in the same career and similar progressions, fail somewhere along the way. Some call it luck, I call it will. Can you be “lucky” to have the “will”? ….well, I’d say that’s a matter contoured by your own perspective.

Good luck to all those currently aspiring and attempting their dreams, just remember, for those in post secondary education, obtaining the degree is not enough, and for those that aren’t, a degree isn’t even required! The paths are limitless.

dope, agreed.

mid-80s and am 25 in big four/auditing; i should hit pretty close to 90k this year with bonus.

Possible? Sure. But it isn’t about possible. It’s about AVERAGE. As an average, NO the average wage won’t be 90K.

yes..graduated from university at 24…been making 100k since 26…just turned 30. Business degree and working in sales…made 120k last 2 years. not bragging just adding to opportunities out there…

good luck to everyone trying to get there


The average wage in the public sector is 94,000.
The average wage in the private sector is 46,000.

work for the government if you want a cushy job with good pay

Yes certainly possible. Certainly not “average” but if you work hard and focus on what you are doing (rather than just grabbing any job you can find) you can easily excel and make an “above average” salary. Having “a plan” certainly helps but isn’t entirely necessary as long as you are willing to recognize and grab opportunities when they come along.

I’m a young professional. I started working in my field at 23 making around $23,000 a year (internship). I was hired full-time the next year at $33,000. Through hard work, each of the successive years I was able to be recognized for my efforts and make salary jumps of at least $10k each year. At age 28 I left the “employed” world and became self-employed. I now consult in my field and while my income is now more variable, I am now in my mid-thirties and I have been able to pull in well over $100k since becoming self-employed.

Note however that if you just expect to “coast” into a cushy job you will probably end up working at Wal-mart/call centre/etc. You have to work hard to get what you want.

At 23 I earned 73k (no OT), which was huge for my level of experience and the profession I’m in. Not long after that I took a salary cut when I changed jobs. I basically sacrificed income for stability. In my city, with a stable job, I hope to reach 80k including bonus by the age of 30 (I’m 26 now).

I think this one all boils down to motivation and location. I know lots of talented people who do not have the drive to get them the salary they deserve. These are the people who hand out boilerplate resumes with nothing special on it and don’t network at all. They end up working at small companies earning a small salary and typically enjoy complaining about their job but never acting on it.

Location is another huge one. Can IT guys in Winnipeg average the same salary as IT guys in Toronto? Are you willing to move to get the salary you desire? Do you have the drive to compete in a more competitive market?

Not without some hard work/will power and some luck. At 29, both my wife and I aren’t there yet, but will be shortly. Me at $70k and her new governemnet job at $82k. But both of us are licenced professional engineers, who chose our summer jobs well, and are willing to go the extra mile to produce quality results.

That being said, 5-6 years ago, we were able to get jobs for when we graduated. Those first jobs only paid less than half of what we make now, but we got the experience that we were able to grow with. Never expected to be ‘given’ a high paid job like some classmates of mine.

Depends on the career field – but absolutely possible. I’m 28 and will make 180k this year including bonus / some consulting work. I’m a CA specializing in taxation.

If they’re forecasting enough inflation to make that they average maybe they should go into economics :)

I wouldn’t go so far as to call it unrealistic, but I don’t think the plans supporting that statement will typically live up to expectations. Or they may not be qualifying it by saying they’ll need to have living expenses of $50k with no spare room.

But it’s not just students that have a wild imagination. How many people have reached 60, have barely planned their finances, and expect a retirement that looks like a TV commercial starting in a few short years?

I would say yes, depending on your choice of career, test-taking skills, interviewing skills, and experience. Of course, smarts and good timing never hurts =)

Between the ages of 23 and 36 my salary has ranged from $27K to $130K, excluding bonuses or benefits. I have gone through 3 career changes and went back to school twice since getting my BA in Economics. Each time I graduated I realized a doubling of my base salary. Before I entered university at 19, I pretty much lived at the poverty line.

I don’t know if I am providing an atypical example, but I must say that it is possible if you are wise with your time and money.

If you “plan” to succeed, you will succeed =)

As someone on the wrong side of 30 I can say that is takes great timing and being in the right situation to get to those levels.

What other people have mentioned is that to get to that level you need to have a career plan from high school. I see so many people taking degrees and education or travelling for a year but I see it doable for the top 10%.

It also depends on your location (willing to work in remote locations their are more opportunities for large paydays).

Honestly, it is important to have a stable job and income because by then you will want to start to settle down.

If over half of graduates earn over $90K by 30, it’s worth asking what inflation would be. Sure on an individual basis it’s possible to earn this much, and many do, but in reality very few will get there, the macro situation would never allow it.

Pointing to jobs in Alberta is good, it’s far from clear that level of salary will be around in the next 20 years if population redistributes.

It’s possible if they have the right attitude. My friend is a chartered accountant working in the tax department of PwC (auditing firm.) She makes $80K and is only 25. Of course she did work hard to get to where she is today. I on the other hand had little focus in highschool, graduated with an average transcript. In grade12 I expected to make $40,000 by the time I was 30. But luckily, at 21, I got a job after college making $35,000. And today, in my mid 20s, I make over $40,000 so I feel very fortunate considering how high youth unemployment is right now. I expect my salary to be $60,000 when I’m 30. If I had more motivation in highschool, I think I can pull off $90,000 by 30.

Been there done that. The key is to get into a field that will actually make you a decent wage, rather than spend 4 years getting a degree that doesn’t qualify you to do anything.

I was about $80k by age 30. I have an undergrad degree and work for a big publicly traded Cdn firm. Now closer to $100k at age 36. If you keep pushing forward you can do it. Average will probably be closer to $50k, and even that is no guarantee.

I made 72K as a IT Consultant for a Consulting Company when I was thirty. That was over 10 years ago so if calculate inflation that would be a bit over 90K today so I think it’s definitely achievable if the ambition is there but it’s not going to just be handed to you.

I make around $120k as an IT consultant at age 36, working ~30 hours per week. I’m operating at a pretty senior level, but even intermediate IT contractors make $35-$45 per hour in the Calgary region. Clearly do-able by the time you’re 30, just gotta choose the right industry/career/location.

I did my BSc at University of Alberta in civil engineering co op. I worked relevant civil engineering/construction jobs for my work terms which worked out well when I graduated in 2008. The economy was in the dumps and by February, much of the graduating class did not have jobs lined up. Contrast that with the graduates of 2007 who almost all had jobs lined up by about the same time.

As soon as I graduated I took a job with the government paying in the mid $50’s, 2 years later at 26 I’m making over $70K salary, and will hit close to $90K with OT etc. Also with the government, you are pretty much guaranteed a 5-10% pay increase every year until you hit a ceiling.

I’d say if you are in Alberta, and you replicated what I did, you would have an 75% chance or better of making $90K by the time you were 30.

It is ridiculous.

One only needs to compare “average salary” by “top 10 jobs (or industries) by number of employees” to see that the vast majority of people do not make $90,000, never mind most people below the age of 30.

Is it possible? Sure.

Is it a nice goal to have? I guess.

Is it a realistic assumption upon which to base projections of your standard of living? Not even close.

It is also ridiculous to use readers of this blog as appropriate “case studies” from which to draw a general conclusion.

Readers of this blog have, by and large, been self-selected as folks who are already highly successful. Clearly not the average.


“Readers of this blog” I believe are also representative of a large group of people who are TRYING to be highly successful IMO.


“Readers of this blog” I believe are also representative of a large group of people who are TRYING to be highly successful IMO.

Well, I guess it depends what you think of as “successful”, but my impression is that few people reading and posting here are living off of minimum wage (or even making less than the mean annual salary).

I guess what I’m saying is:

The Median annual salary of HOUSEHOLDS in Canada is less than $90,000 in every single province (NWT is the only exception).

This means, by definition, that fewer than half of households (noteven individuals) are making less than the figure of contention here.

To turn around and say that $90,000 is a reasonable expectation for a 30 year old individual — even for those who “make good choices” is ridiculous.

Possible? Of course.

Realistic? Only for a very small subset of the population


The average wage in the public sector is 94,000.
The average wage in the private sector is 46,000.

work for the government if you want a cushy job with good pay

This is a pretty lame use of statistics. If you want to compare Government vs Non-Government salaries, at least compare salaries for the same job.

There are no minimum-wage burger flippers or Walmart Greeters in the Public Sector, which means simply comparing an overall average salary is apples:oranges — meaningless.

I started at 30K in the Visual Effects industry, at age 25, with 20K in student loans. After 6 years I was debt free and making 100K/year. Hard work and sacrifice in the early years pay off!

I think it is reasonale, but it depends on the individual. If it is a goal, the individual can do all the things necessary to reach the goal.

I am highly educated, but when I got to the real world that did not matter. I discovered that the interviewers noticed my lack of communications skills and I came to the realization that I was not going to be successful as a white collar worker. I always believed I should of taken a skilled trade. I think communication skills plays a HUGE part on your earning ability.

That being said, it is possible to make 90000 by 30 depending on where you live and what type of work you do. I know oilpatch workers with only high school education make over 100000 and engineers who make less than 50000.

Yes, it’s possible. I was making over six figures by the time I turned 30 as a freelance writer, and I did so by avoiding a traditional educational path and instead striking off on my own after CEGEP. I managed to do this despite popular, uninformed opinion that writing is a dead-end career that condemns one to poverty.

Honestly, people who tell other people that something “isn’t possible” are simply people who are too afraid to try and risk failure on their own. That has become abundantly clear to me in business, and in life. Who are we to stomp on someone else’s dreams? How dare we chastise teenagers for dreaming big?

It is possible – but not for everyone. I am a pharmacist and took 7 years to get my education (3 yr undergrad and 4 yrs in pharmacy at UofT). Need to have the right mind set, dedication and intellectual ability. I made 90k as soon as I graduated and now mid 6 figures as a consultant – profession doesn’t encompass only the Shoppers and hospitals it’s quite dynamic. As a previous comment suggested the profits can be quite large depending on the amount of risk willing to take – again though not everyone can do it and I don’t believe would be considered the “average”

Of course it is! It’s not easy, but it’s possible. Being in the top 25% of Rotman or Ivey MBA program will help you land that job in consulting or i-banking – first two years from top tier in both expect $180-260K all in. I know a handful (and stress, handful) that were earning over $1M in top tier consulting firms in downtown Toronto before age 30. No, I’m not kidding.

But it’s all at a price – it’s your decision to decide to play. Sacrifice – 80 hrs+ at business school a week; 80 hrs+ during your first two years. In consulting, get ready to be placed in the backside of nowhere unless you can get your way into financial services where your company bills you at $450/hr and you see a quarter of that.

I’m sure there are many ways in medical services running your own practice you can break $100K also. The price is (a) # hrs (b) stress (c) travel (d) sustainability.


I am an engineer working in the oil patch in Alberta. I am 30 years old and my base salary is $96K. After taxable benefits and bonus I am in the $110K range. I work 8-5, no OT, hardly any travel, and I don’t live in a remote location. Many of my friends are in the same situation as me, so I’d argue that $90K by 30 is definitely achievable.

One point I’d like to add to this discussion is that University degrees aren’t always the answer to making more money. There are many trades that are in extremely high demand, especially in the oil industry, and people in these areas make more money than I do. Having said that, these same people also work longer hours on a less predictable schedule.

My wife, for example, is in the trades. She also works in the oil patch and her base salary is about $85K. After OT, bonus, taxable benefits, shift differential, travel time, etc, her overall compensation is more than mine. In fact, the only year my T4 was higher than hers was the year she went on maternity leave!

If making $90K by the age of 30 is one’s goal, my advice is to go to university if you want to be a professional (doctor, lawyer, engineer, architect, but NOT a teacher). For anything else, go to college and learn a trade. There are exceptions to this, but I think it holds true for most people.

Great topic. Thanks for posting.

Although it is possible to earn such a salary by 30 I think it is wrong to encourage someone to focus entirely on salary (which only a small percentage will achieve anyway, but no harm in trying). I’ve been in the workforce over 20 years (yes I make a good salary) and have worked with no shortage of useless twits who got into my line of work for the money, and then the stress they’ve had trying to hold on to it. Better advice is to focus on career satisfaction and a field/occupation in particular – you’d be amazed at how well the money will follow you when you do something you really like.

This seems a sort of pointless thread but I’m bored so I’ll play along. I made $600k in the year I turned 30, and my close friend made nearer $750k. We both have technical degrees and work in financial services. We work very hard and have had a great deal of luck in our careers.

We all know it’s possible. That’s not the point. The point is that these kids hoping for $90K salaries are in for a rude awakening. Smart and ambitious young workers can work their way up as many commenters have, myself included. But a lack of work ethic/education/initiative/raw intelligence/effort/good career choice (pick one or more) condemns the vast majority to low earnings. These kids will be sorely disillusioned when they get entry level jobs at $36K with no benefits. Ouch. And that’s the other part of the equation. People concentrate on salary, but should look at overall compensation, including all benefits and pension.


The average wage in the public sector is 94,000.
The average wage in the private sector is 46,000.

work for the government if you want a cushy job with good pay”
that’s pretty unfair, and would love to see your stats on that – which public sector are you comparing? Which jobs? Considering that many jobs in the public sector require higher levels of education and professionals than many jobs in the private sector, I’m not surprised that in a number of cases the jobs pay more. Considering that a number of public sector jobs require the holder of the job to put their life on the line (soldier, firefighter, police), I figure the higher pay is compensation for the fact you might lose your life at work.
As for the subject at hand, young people might be able to earn that if that is their goal by entering into fields that are in demand. The trades (but be prepared for cyclical downturns and periods of layoff or no work when the economy is tough or the oilpatch runs dry), health care (except caring for the elderly which we tend to insist be done by low wage care givers for some reason), and then of course there is the good old financial industry where you can be bonused for bringing down the world economy…but that’s another story.

I graduated as a pharmacist at 26, and immediately made over $100k. I live in southwestern Ontario, like a previous poster mentioned wages in Toronto are generally lower. Many new grads will take a contract of 2-4 years to work somewhere a company needs a pharmacist in exchange for a healthy signing bonus and higher hourly rate.
The schooling needed is not for everyone. You need to be able to trudge through a minimum 6 years of university and be able to stomach a ridiculous amount of debt (if you put yourself through school like I did.) But with that wage loans can be paid off fairly quickly.

Depends what you want out of life. I made a lot of sacrifices and worked my butt off since high school. Some people in my cohort want to enjoy their 20s and don’t expect to work hard until they start raising a family in their 30s.


The average wage in the public sector is 94,000.
The average wage in the private sector is 46,000.

work for the government if you want a cushy job with good pay”

So many people are disputing this but seems pretty right on as far as I’m concerned. As a 27 year old civil engineer, starting salaries in Ontario at least seem to be about $50k with a raise of about 3% per year My father is also a civil engineer and was making more money than I am at the same age. You can say that I should relocate, work harder etc, but the truth is that salaries in the private sector in engineering haven’t gone anywhere in 20-30 years despite inflation. Too much competition. On the other hand, someone with a few years experience at a major municipality, regional government, OPG, Hydro1, Bruce Power etc. could easily make over $100k by the age of 30. I’m not sure why these are so out of sync. And I also don’t know why some people on here are taking the above comment as an affront on government workers.

And you can’t say that working overtime is the solution, most EIT’s and Engineers are on salary. I worked about 500 hours overtime last year and I got a bonus for it….but it’s all within the law to not pay any overtime or extra money on top of your salary for “professional” workers. It’s a surprise if you’ll get any bonus at the end of the year at all (like the movie Christmas Vacation?). Engineering in the private sector is overly competitive in Ontario unless you have a government job or go to an oil driven local economy.

I am self-learned in my field. I make $65K base + $8K bonus at 26. Working hard and raising a family now so we can enjoy things later. I expect to jump to $80K base in the next few months with a promotion.

I think that quoting average salaries is an exercise in futility. How about the average salary of working families – excluding both welfare and those that derive their wealth mostly from investments.

$100K in K-W or Toronto goes just as far as $80K in parts of Niagara.

I’m less concerned with how much I am making, and with how much of what I make goes to the basics such as food, shelter and clothing. Right now we pay $1450 rent for an apartment that is substandard (but still immeasurably better than $800-900 slums in the area). It is somewhat expensive at my current income.

So rather than say “how much do you expect to make”, it makes more sense to say “what percentage of what you make do you expect to spend on food? on reasonable, safe, comfortable housing? on clothing?”