Choosing a career can be an overwhelming decision thanks to the vast array of options available to you. So, aiming high and setting a six-figure salary goal could be a smart move — it narrows down your choices and might even help you secure a bright financial future.
To find jobs where you can earn more than $100,000 a year, GOBankingRates analyzed occupations from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) that paid a median salary between $100,000-$150,000 in 2018. In addition, the study found the employment growth outlook and the top-paying metropolitan areas for each job. If shooting for a six-figure salary right out of the gate seems too ambitious, GOBankingRates also compiled a separate section with occupations that have the potential to make over $100,000 annually — once you work your way to the top.
25. Aerospace Engineer
Aerospace engineers earn a pretty penny by keeping their head in the clouds. These engineers design aircraft, missiles, satellites and spacecraft, and they often specialize in products such as commercial airplanes or remotely piloted rotorcraft. This occupation is expected to see a 6% growth in employment between 2016-26, which equates to a gain of 4,200 jobs. You can earn a mean salary of $136,720 per year if you manage to find work as an aerospace engineer in the metropolitan area encompassing Arlington, Virginia; Alexandria, Virginia; and Washington, D.C.
24. Postsecondary Economics Teacher
Postsecondary economics teachers — aka professors or faculty members — teach economics courses at colleges and professional schools, in addition to conducting research in many cases. For the most lucrative positions, head to the metropolitan area centering on the cities of Bryan and College Station in Texas, where you can earn a mean wage of $176,330 per year. Overall employment for postsecondary teachers is expected to grow by a whopping 197,800 jobs between 2016-26, which is an increase of 15%.
23. Computer Hardware Engineer
As a computer hardware engineer, you’ll work on developing computer systems and components such as circuit boards, memory devices, networks, processors and routers. It may come as no surprise, but high-paying jobs in this field can be found in California, around San Jose, Sunnyvale and Santa Clara — the home of Silicon Valley. There, the annual mean wage is bumped up to $144,230. Overall, computer hardware engineers can expect to see employment growth of 5% between 2016-26, which equals an increase of 4,000 jobs.
The optometry field is projected to see impressive employment growth of 18% — or 7,200 jobs — between 2016-26. Beyond prescribing glasses or contact lenses, these professionals diagnose and treat different eye conditions and diseases. In particular, optometrists working in the Hartford, East Hartford and West Hartford metropolitan area in Connecticut earn $203,390 per year, on average, which is significantly more than the mean optometrist salary in the U.S.
21. Air Traffic Controller
Air traffic controllers perform a critical role in coordinating aircraft to maintain safe distances between them in the air and on the ground. These workers can rake in an annual mean wage of $151,960 if they find jobs around the Sacramento, Roseville and Arden-Arcade metropolitan area in California. Overall, this field will likely see employment growth of 3% between 2016-26, totaling 900 jobs.
20. Judge, Magistrate Judge or Magistrate
Judges, magistrate judges and magistrates are taxed with many different duties in a court of law, such as sentencing a defendant in criminal cases or determining the liability of a defendant in civil cases. To become one, you’ll typically need to earn a law degree and gain work experience as a lawyer first. The Sacramento, Roseville and Arden-Arcade metropolitan area in California pays the highest average salary for these positions, at $198,490 per year. Overall, opportunities are projected to grow by 5% between 2016-26 — an increase of 2,200 jobs in this field.
19. Training and Development Manager
Training and development managers coordinate programs that are designed to boost employee knowledge and skills at an organization. Employment is projected to grow by 10%, or 3,600 jobs, between 2016-26. The top-paying metropolitan area for this field is located around San Jose, Sunnyvale and Santa Clara in California — aka Silicon Valley. Training and development managers earn $165,370 per year, on average, in that region.
18. Personal Financial Advisor
Are you passionate about money and making an impact? Personal financial advisors help people manage their finances by providing advice on matters such as college savings, estate planning, investments, mortgages, retirement and taxes. These savvy individuals can earn an average salary of $215,840 per year if they choose to work in the Gainsville, Georgia, metropolitan area. Overall, employment for personal financial advisors is expected to grow by 15%, or 40,400 jobs, between 2016-26.
17. Postsecondary Health Specialties Teacher
These professors or faculty members teach courses in health specialty fields such as dentistry, pharmacy, public health, therapy, veterinary science and more. The Jackson, Mississippi, metropolitan area offers the most competitive pay for postsecondary health specialties teachers, at $191,070 per year. In general, postsecondary teachers can expect to see employment grow by 197,800 jobs — or 15% — between 2016-26.
The pharmacist at your local CVS is in charge of dispensing prescription medications to patients and educating them on the safe usage of their prescribed drugs. Some of the highest-paid pharmacists can be found in the Tyler, Texas, metropolitan area earning $174,870 per year, on average. Employment for pharmacists is projected to increase by 6% — or 17,400 jobs — between 2016-26.
15. Computer and Information Research Scientist
If you’re leaning toward a career in computer and information science, you’re in luck — it’s one of the fastest-growing industries on GOBankingRates’ list. The annual mean wage for these positions in the San Jose, Sunnyvale and Santa Clara metropolitan area in California is $167,990. With employment projected to shoot upward by 19%, or 5,400 jobs, between 2016-26, there’s a good chance that your master’s degree will pay for itself in record time.
Fascination with the physical world can pay off in a big way for physicists, who earn an average salary of $169,550 per year in the Buffalo, Cheektowaga and Niagara Falls metropolitan area in New York. Job growth is solid as well, with a change of 14% — or 2,800 jobs — expected through 2026. As a physicist, you’ll conduct research, develop theories based on experiments and observation and come up with ways to apply physical laws and theories.
13. Purchasing Manager
Purchasing managers oversee buyers and purchasing agents who negotiate contracts, evaluate suppliers and more in order to acquire products and services for other organizations to resell. Managers typically handle more complex tasks, so you’ll need a few years of experience in procurement to become one. Aim for purchasing manager jobs in the Morgantown, West Virginia, metropolitan area if you want to earn the annual average wage of $174,470.
12. Human Resources Manager
If you love working with people, a job as a human resources manager might be right for you — once you ascend the ranks in the field. These professionals serve as the bridge between management and employees at an organization, and they coordinate the company’s staff and human resources activities. For the highest-paying jobs, head to the Bridgeport, Stamford and Norwalk metropolitan area in Connecticut, where the mean wage for human resources managers is $182,230 per year.
11. Postsecondary Law Teacher
These professors and faculty members teach courses in law at colleges and professional schools, sometimes in conjunction with conducting research. The most in-demand jobs for this field can be found around the metropolitan area of Minneapolis; St. Paul, Minnesota; and Bloomington, Wisconsin. There, postsecondary law teachers earn a mean wage of $161,380 per year. Overall, employment for postsecondary teachers is projected to grow by 15% between 2016-26 — an increase of 197,800 jobs.
10. Public Relations and Fundraising Manager
After accumulating years of work experience, you can aim for a position as a public relations and fundraising manager. These professionals create materials to enhance the public image of their employer, and they also direct campaigns to raise donations for their organization. Employment in the field is projected to grow by 10% or 7,700 jobs. The best opportunities are located in the metropolitan area encompassing Arlington, Virginia; Alexandria, Virginia; and Washington, D.C. — the annual mean wage for public relations and fundraising managers in this region is $181,100.
9. Compensation and Benefits Manager
Compensation and benefits managers determine competitive wage rates, devise an organization’s benefits and pay structure, ensure compliance with federal and state regulations and manage benefits vendors, among other responsibilities. Hartford, West Hartford and East Hartford in Connecticut make up the highest-paying metropolitan area for this field, with an annual mean salary of $178,860. Employment for compensation and benefits managers is expected to grow by 5% through 2026 — an increase of 800 jobs.
8. Advertising and Promotions Manager
Creative types who don’t quite fit the mold for public relations and fundraising might want to consider advertising and promotions instead. Employment in both fields is projected to grow by 10% between 2016-26, but there will be a greater number of positions available for advertising and promotions managers — 23,800 additional jobs — and it pays more. Advertising and promotions managers in Silicon Valley sit within comfortable reach of $200,000, as the mean wage for this field in the San Jose, Sunnyvale and Santa Clara metropolitan area in California is $197,130 per year.
7. Natural Sciences Manager
Natural sciences managers can find work in the government and a variety of industries, such as manufacturing and consulting. However, hot jobs in this field are generally located in the Bridgeport, Stamford and Norwalk metropolitan area in Connecticut, where the annual mean wage for natural sciences managers is a whopping $240,800 — over $100,000 more than the U.S. average. Overall, employment in the field is expected to grow by 10% between 2016-26, which is an uptick of 5,600 jobs.
6. Sales Manager
Sales managers direct the sales teams at organizations, which includes setting goals, analyzing data and establishing training programs for sales representatives. Overall employment in the field is projected to increase by 28,900 jobs — a growth of 7%. For high-paying sales manager positions, check out the metropolitan area encompassing New York; Newark, New Jersey; and Jersey City, New Jersey. There, the average salary for these professionals is $195,680 per year.
Lawyers are well-known for their lucrative paychecks, but becoming one isn’t easy — it requires years of law school and passing your state’s written bar examination. However, you’ll be handsomely rewarded in your career, especially if you work in Silicon Valley. Lawyers in the San Jose, Sunnyvale and Santa Clara metropolitan area in California earn an annual mean wage of $207,950. Better yet, overall employment is expected to grow by 8% through 2026 — an increase of 65,000 jobs for lawyers.
4. Financial Manager
Financial managers are tasked with the financial well-being of an organization, and their responsibilities include directing investment activities, producing financial reports and developing long-term strategies to meet the goals of their employers. The job outlook for financial managers is overwhelmingly positive: Employment is projected to grow by a staggering 19% between 2016-26, which means an increase of 108,600 jobs. The highest-paid financial managers can be found earning an annual mean wage of $208,670 in the metropolitan area encompassing New York; Newark, New Jersey; and Jersey City, New Jersey.
3. Marketing Manager
Marketing managers assess the market demand for services and products from an organization and its competitors. They also identify potential customers and develop pricing strategies to maximize their employer’s profits. These professionals are especially well off in Silicon Valley; marketing managers working in the San Jose, Sunnyvale and Santa Clara metropolitan area in California earn an annual mean wage of $197,130. Overall, employment is projected to grow by 10% through 2026, which equates to an increase of 23,800 jobs.
To diagnose and treat complications with the human foot, you’ll need to earn a doctorate in podiatric medicine, complete a three-year residency program and become licensed. However, investing in your education will certainly pay dividends in your career — especially if you work in the Charlotte, Concord and Gastonia metropolitan area in North Carolina. Podiatrists in that region take home a staggering $256,950 per year, which is over $100,000 more than the U.S. average. Overall, these doctors can expect an increase of 1,100 positions in their field between 2016-26 — a growth rate of 10%.
1. Architectural and Engineering Manager
Taking the top spot on GOBankingRates’ list, architectural and engineering managers offer the highest mean pay compared to all the other occupations in this ranking. These professionals are in charge of activities such as proposing budgets, supervising staff, leading projects and reviewing for quality, among other responsibilities, in architectural and engineering companies. Overall, employment in this field is projected to grow by 6% through 2026 — an increase of 9,900 jobs. Generally, the highest-paid architectural and engineering managers can be found earning $199,650 per year, on average, in Silicon Valley.
These Jobs Pay $100K — If You Can Make It to the Top
It’s not easy to land a six-figure salary without extensive education or significant experience in the workplace. While the jobs in the following section didn’t make the cut in terms of average pay, there’s potential for you to earn $100,000 or more if you choose the right employer, work in certain geographical areas or gain a specialization, among other options. Making the right moves in your career — and working hard, of course — could make it possible for you to become one of the top 10% of earners in your field.
Health Diagnosing and Treating Practitioner
This category includes healthcare providers other than physicians and surgeons, such as acupuncturists, naturopaths and orthoptists, who diagnose and treat vision disorders. The bottom 10% of practitioners earn a mean wage of just $40,910, but at the 75th percentile, earnings jump to $109,610, and the top 10% earn $141,330.
In addition to excellent pay, these jobs are plentiful, and they’re increasing at a faster than usual rate. Most opportunities are government positions, but other healthcare practitioners, hospitals and doctors’ offices also employ significant numbers and pay salaries in the upper range. Practitioners working in psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals have the highest mean earnings — $119,880.
Power Plant Operator, Distributor and Dispatcher
The expected job growth for power plant operators, distributors and dispatchers is stagnant at -1%, but this job category made the list because it’s the only high-income one surveyed that doesn’t require postsecondary education. The primary academic requirement is a high school education, and you can qualify for one of these positions after an extended period of on-the-job training.
The 90th percentile of workers holding these positions earn a mean wage of $111,250. Most distributors and dispatchers work at electric power or gas distribution facilities, but other potential employers include paper and pulp mills.
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