Annual salaries for quality professionals are on the rise…finally. In Quality’s 11th Annual State of the Profession Study, respondents indicated that salaries average $78,505 this year, a 6% increase from last year’s average annual salary of $74,028.

Still, that $78,505 isn’t quite enough to cover the $110,000 that Dallas Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban reportedly paid during his team’s post-finals celebration-$90,000 for a bottle of Ace of Spades champagne, plus a $20,000 tip.

Nor is the average quality professionals’ salary anywhere near that of NBA finals MVP Dirk Nowitzki’s $17.3 million, 2011 NBA MVP Derrick Rose’s $5.5 million or Stanley Cup Finals MVP Tim Thomas’ $6 million. And these figures don’t even take into account the millions they make every year from endorsements.

As the NFL lockout drags on, Commissioner Roger Goodell and Jeff Pash, the NFL’s lead labor negotiator, have had their salaries reduced to $1 each while the league’s labor impasse is unresolved. Even with their $1 salaries, I doubt they’re having a hard time making ends meet.

Dream as we might, most of us will never take home anywhere near an athlete’s salary. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary in the United States is $44,410, so while quality professionals take home much less than professional athletes, they still take home 43.4% more than the average worker.

Let’s take a look at the annual salaries from a variety of other industries, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics Web site:

Dentists, $158,770

Lawyers $129,440

Air traffic controllers, $110,280

Nuclear engineers, $101,500

Police officers, $55,620

Elementary school teachers (excluding special education), $54,330

Firefighters, $47,730

Painters, $26,680

Childcare workers, $21,110

Fast food cooks, $18,540

Of course, many people don’t go into a particular career because of the money. They do it because they enjoy the work, want to make a difference in their own way, or they simply have to pay the rent or mortgage.

When I visited the Daimler Trucks North America Cleveland Truck Manufacturing Plant in Cleveland, NC, earlier this year, I spoke with UAW representative Chris Smith. He mentioned that, in part, their contract labor agreement is about doing a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay. When it comes right down to it, isn’t that all we really want-to be paid fairly for the work we undertake each and every day?

Do you feel you are fairly compensated for the work that you do? Share your thoughts with me at[email protected], or with other members of the Quality community at the Quality Magazine LinkedIn Group page, the Quality Facebook page and onTwitter .