SSA logo: link to Social Security Online home212. Earning Social Security Credits

212.1 How do you earn Social Security credits?

You earn Social Security credits by working at a job covered by Social Security.

212.2 How were credits earned for years before 1978?

To earn credits for the years before 1978, you must have:

  1. Earned at least $50 in wages for employment covered under the law in any calendar quarter beginning January 1, April 1, July 1, or October 1;

  2. Earned at least $100 in annual wages paid for agricultural labor for years after 1954 and before 1978; or $50 in wages paid for agricultural labor in any calendar quarter in 1951 through 1954. (See §214);

  3. Earned at least $400 in annual net earnings from self- employment in taxable years 1951 through 1977 (see §215); or

  4. Earned the maximum taxable wages for that year. For maximum taxable wages, (see §1301).

212.3 How do you earn credits for years after 1977?

For the years after 1977, the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration determines the amount of earnings that will equal a credit for each year. The amount of earnings is determined by using a formula in the Social Security Act that reflects a national percentage increase in average wages. The amount the Commissioner determines is published in the Federal Register on or before November 1 of the preceding year.

The table below shows the amount of wages or self-employment income needed to obtain a quarter of coverage:

Year

Amount of wages or self-employment income necessary to obtain a quarter of coverage

1978

$250

1979

$260

1980

$290

1981

$310

1982

$340

1983

$370

1984

$390

1985

$410

1986

$440

1987

$460

1988

$470

1989

$500

1990

$520

1991

$540

1992

$570

1993

$590

1994

$620

1995

$630

1996

$640

1997

$670

1998

$700

1999

$740

2000

$780

2001

$830

2002

$870

2003

$890

2004

$900

2005

$920

2006

$970

2007

$1000

2008

$1050

2009

$1090

2010

$1120

212.4 What is the maximum number of credits you can earn per year?

You may earn a maximum of four credits each year. The credits are based on your total earnings. Total earnings may consist of non-agricultural wages, military wages, railroad compensation, agricultural wages, and self-employment income.

212.5 How is self-employment income assigned?

If self-employment income is not reported on a calendar year basis, it is assigned to each of the calendar quarters in the taxable year. This is done in proportion to the number of months completely included in each calendar year which are included completely in the taxable year. The month that the taxable year ends is considered to be completely within the taxable year.

212.6 What does calendar quarter mean?

The term “calendar quarter” means a period of three calendar months ending March 31, June 30, September 30, or December 31 of any year.

212.7 What do wages and self-employment income include?

The terms “wages” and “self-employment income” do not necessarily include all of your income from employment or self-employment. They may also include pay for work that is ordinarily covered by the Railroad Retirement Act, and special wage credits for military service. Wages and self-employment income are defined and discussed in Chapter 13 and Chapter 12, respectively.

Last Revised: Apr. 19, 2010