35 surprising jobs that pay over $100,000
Dreaming of a 6-figure job? Yacht parties on the weekends, a beautiful custom home, delicious meals, pricey pets — you’re not the only one. Whether those decimal places are your pipe dream or your end goal, they are surprisingly more attainable than you’d think, even if you don’t have the stereotypical “qualifications.”
Here’s a list of the highest paying (but still attainable!) careers for every education level, every location, and every skill.
Mean Income: $67,280
Top 10%: $102,250
- Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Communications, Writing, English, Journalism, or other related fields
- 3+ years of Technical Writing experience
- Data interpretation capabilities
- User Interface/User experience (UI/UX) background
- Knowledge of a specific company product/niche/vertical
Technical Writers must be incredibly detail oriented and knowledgeable about the subject on which they are writing. Usually, you’d be writing instruction manuals, how-to guides, beginners manuals, and other text resources that break down complex and, well, technical topics or actions. This job requires immaculate writing skills and incredibly clear communication skills.
Elevator Installers and Repairers
Mean Income: $73,560
Top 10%: $105,750
- 1-year experience in elevator maintenance/construction
- GED or equivalent degree, possibly an engineering degree
- Valid licensing in the state/states you work in
- Apprenticeship with a recommendation from the mentor
- Possibly owns own equipment/tools
Elevator Repairers and Installers are in charge of installing, repairing, and maintaining elevators, escalators, moving walkways, and other lifts. Hopefully, you aren’t claustrophobic or acrophobic because you’ll be in plenty of tight crawl spaces, 20+ floor elevator shafts, and you may need to be on call 24-hours a day. Fortunately, however, if you get a call in the middle of the night for an elevator repair, the overtime pay is significant.
Mean Income: $77,350
Top 10%: $108,500
- 1-3 years of work experience
- Bachelor’s Degree in Information Technology or Computer Sciences or related degree
- Experience in Quickbooks (or similar platforms)
- Experience in website design platforms
- Problem-solving skills are a bonus
Database Administrators (DBA’s) ensure security on private databases, keep track of incoming and outgoing payments, track financial information, or organize large databases for educational institutions or insurance companies. Many companies look for employees that are result-driven and able to pick up on new systems and platforms easily in order to keep up with and stay ahead of competitors.
Multimedia Artists and Animators
Mean Income: $68,060
Top 10%: $109,370
- Bachelor’s in graphic design, or equivalent
- 2 years experience in work/office setting
- True multimedia artist with innovative creativity
- Expansive portfolio with examples and past projects
- Flexibility in workspaces, hours, and media creations
- Ability to meet deadlines with fully completed documents and designs
Many employers seeking a multimedia artist will specify that they want a true artist, which is another way of saying they want someone who’s good all around, not just a good graphic designer and an okay drawer. Multimedia Artists will create art, animation, and visual effects for digital media and movies/TV shows.
Mean Income: $65,770
Top 10%: $110,210
- Mechanical background or construction inspecting background
- Proper certifications per state
- Physical ability to do manual labor
- Must know and comply with local safety regulations
- IET or PE certifications required for the understanding of labor
- NICET, ICC certifications required for inspections
Transportation Inspectors have a wide range of job responsibilities, some of which include overseeing and managing material production, running various transportation vessels, identifying cost reduction possibilities, and conducting various safety and security checks on public transportation. Some companies require safety inspections and labor compliance regulations, which you need proper certification for, while other companies require more office work than physical labor.
Home Economics Teachers
Mean Income: $68,080
Top 10%: $110,650
- Ph.D. and/or 10 years experience in the field
- Proper licenses and certifications for university-level teaching
- Research experience in related field
- Ability to plan, prepare, and successfully execute lessons
- Personal knowledge and experience in the subject matter
Postsecondary teachers, or college professors, teach subjects about a specific field of study, career, or lifestyle choice. Home Economics professors teach a variety of subjects that pertain to life in the real world — taxes, groceries, nutrition, doctors, budgeting, insurance, real estate, cooking, etc. These courses are vital for college students getting ready for the “real world” who would otherwise not have access to educational resources on these subjects.
Farmers, Ranchers, Agricultural Managers
Mean Income: $70,010
Top 10%: $112,150
- GED or equivalent
- 5 years work experience in harvesting, farm equipment operation, and supervision of planting/sowing
- Ability to do manual labor and work in inclement weather conditions
- Must have reliable transportation or special drivers licenses
- Experience with irrigation equipment
Farmers generally only own land for crops, while Ranchers own land for livestock and smaller, easier crops. Both of these careers require heavy physical labor, outside work, and hands-on tasks, as well as extensive knowledge on the land, weather, and plants. Agricultural managers do office work for the management/ownership of farms and ranches.
Insurance Sales Agents
Mean Income: $62,970
Top 10%: $115,300
- GED or bachelor’s degree in communications
- Public speaking abilities
- Business/Economics knowledge
- Proper licensing by the state
- At least 2 years of sales experience with data to prove abilities
- Drivers license, automobile insurance, and possibly reliable transportation
Insurance sales agents have a people-oriented career where their clients are their job. With each client, it is your job to sell them the insurance that best suits their needs, customize it, and then constantly maintain (or add/subtract) the plan as their life progresses. Many insurance agents also get bonuses per month or at the end of the year if they have high performance and success rates.
Mean Income: $67,960
Top 10%: $115,450
- Bachelor’s degree in business, finance, or economics
- Proper certifications for loan officers
- Strong decision-making skills
- 2-5 years of loan experience
- Ability to handle disgruntled or uninformed clients
- Familiar with FHA, HUD, and government guidelines/procedures
Loan officers are those who make the final decisions on who gets loans at what rate, or who doesn’t. They are present during the whole process to ensure that every relevant piece of information is accounted for in the decision making process. The ability to analyze extremely complex and private financial information is vital to this career path, but don’t let it scare you away!
Writers And Authors
Mean Income: $68,060
Top 10%: $115,740
- Bachelor’s degree in writing, journalism, English, or communications
- Internship or freelance experience
- Published works in a portfolio
- Strong experience with research, collecting data, accurately portraying or presenting information, and connecting with the intended audience
- Ability to cooperate and collaborate with different editing, research, design, and data teams
Writers can get into a pretty wide array of careers with their skills, but some are more difficult than others. Being a biographer, a novelist, a playwright, or a speechwriter can be fairly competitive — especially with how many freelancers there are. Careers in content, copy, technical, or screenwriting can be a fair bit easier if you have the talent and skill.
Mean Income: $74,480
Top 10%: $116,840
- GED or equivalent
- Some casinos require a degree in management or hospitality
- Gaming school certification is required for most official casinos
- Detail oriented and sharp eyesight to keep clients accountable
- Ability to multitask, work late nights, and handling credit
Gaming managers are mostly enforcers of fun and rules. Not only do they encourage risky behaviors and impulsive betting, but they ensure fair play throughout the table (except for themselves, of course). Gaming managers must be able to communicate quickly, effectively, and correctly when describing rules or managing clients, otherwise greedy clients will see a great opportunity to take advantage of them.
Mean Income: $68,170
Top 10%: $117,150
- Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree
- Bachelor’s degree in related field
- A passing grade in the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination (NAVLE)
- A passing grade in the state examination
- Ability to handle aggressive or nervous animals, and overprotective or inept owners
I’m sure most adults once had the fleeting (or long-term) childhood dream of becoming a vet, but this job takes real grit, perseverance, and stamina. Research veterinarians have the option to be regular veterinarians as well, but they prefer to be on the research side testing new products, medications, and treatments for various animal diseases, which means less wrestling with stubborn 100 lb. dogs, and more experimenting.
Captains, Mates, Pilots Of Water Vessels
Mean Income: $71,760
Top 10%: $119,280
- US Coast Guard approved training programs
- Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) and Merchant Mariner Credential (MMC)
- 6 months to 1 year of training, and/or 2 years of boat management experience
- Boat safety experience is a must, along with water safety
- Ability to navigate open waters
Operating, obeying, and maintaining are essentially the only three words you need to describe this job. As long as you operate the vessel properly, follow the chain of command without question, and maintain the safety of all people on board, you’ve got it down. Although these things are all actually really difficult to do and require a lot of training, those that are experienced just make it look so easy. Aye Aye, Captain!
Detectives And Criminal Investigators
Mean Income: $73,010
Top 10%: $119,320
- GED and a 2-4 year degree in Criminal Justice
- Previous work experience in law enforcement or military
- Licensing to be a private investigator
- Ability to work under pressure and identify crime in real time
Private Investigators or Detectives are usually employed by high-level businesses, government businesses, and attorneys. However, since they often don’t have the same authority as police, they must follow the laws as if they were a private citizen. A common detective job can be with the police departments or with retail stores in loss prevention.
Makeup Artists: Theatrical And Performance
Mean Income: $63,710
Top 10%: $120,050
- GED or equivalent
- Cosmetology license from an accredited college
- Physical stamina to stand for long periods of time
- Diverse portfolio with creative and innovate makeup designs
- Ability to stay on top of trends, finding new products, and improving existing techniques
Makeup artists have it hard these days since most come from Instagram and YouTube, and less from personal references or online reviews. To be successful, you need to have an online following to showcase your work to, or else risk being shunned by the wayside. Another way to make it big is to do over-the-top makeup styles with new techniques and to showcase them through paid promotions on other social media accounts.
Art, Drama, Music Teachers
Mean Income: $72,660
Top 10%: $124,880
- Bachelor’s degree in art, drama, history, music, or related fields
- Personal experience in the subject
- Passing a general certification test to be able to teach others
- Be able to pass a thorough background check
Being a teacher is a thankless job at times, but teaching subjects like art, music, and drama can influence a child’s future careers more than any other subject can. This career choice allows you to be flexible and creative with possible funded travel opportunities and lots of field trips. You can teach children, teens, or adults, all of which have pros and cons, but all of which are very rewarding (especially if one of your star students becomes a renowned musician, actor, or artist).
Public Relations Manager
Mean Income: $90,410
Top 10%: $128,101
- Bachelors degree in Communications or related field
- 3-5 years of public relations or press experience
- Successful PR campaigns
- Strong networking, public speaking, and writing skills
- Ability to multitask while organizing and coordinating events
Maintaining the public image and reputation of a company or a client is your overall job, but that requires quite a bit of work in communicating, presenting, evaluating, and preparing. A few good relations with media outlets will give you a boost in this field, but don’t forget that project management and supervision of employees is also required.
Environment, Health, and Safety Engineering Manager
Mean Income: $109,946
Top 10%: $136,324
- 3+ years of managerial experience
- Bachelors degree in related field
- Knowledge or expertise in the related sector
- Knowledge of health and safety regulations and procedures
- Proper certifications and licenses
- Public speaking and presentation abilities required
Evaluating, preventing, and problem-solving abilities are required for this management position, but that’s not all you’ll have to do. The health and safety of your employees (and the environment) are in your hands which means creating an emergency measures plan, updating and regulating all safety procedures, and investigating accidents.
Film And Video Editors
Mean Income: $66,690
Top 10%: $126,250
- Bachelor’s degree in related field
- Experience in film and digital with editing experience in both
- Certifications in specific software like PhotoShop, Adobe Create Cloud, Illustrator, etc.
- Time management skills and ability to meet deadlines is a must
Aside from capturing footage, film and video editors also go through all the media to edit, crop, add, subtract, or enhance features that will put the film’s appearance in line with the director’s vision. Usually, a team of editors and upper management will work alongside you while you edit to ensure the right vibe is achieved.
Education Administrators, Elementary And Secondary
Mean Income: $90,200
Top 10%: $128,660
- Master’s degree in education leadership or education administration
- 5-10 years of work as a teacher
- Certification completion
- Strong disciplinary and leadership skills for both children and staff/faculty
- Plan events for families
- Hold fundraisers and collaborate with key stakeholders
Picture this: You, an elementary school principal, teaching a child how throwing rocks at their peers is not the right way to communicate friendship (even though it worked great for you when you were their age). Being a principal is hard stuff, but the rewards usually show up about 10 years later when you were either a.) right about that one kid, or b.) got through to that one kid, somehow.
Arbitrators, Mediators, And Conciliators
Mean Income: $75,550
Top 10%: $137,570
- Bachelor’s degree in law, communications, business administration, hospitality, or psychology
- Some require law degrees or master’s in business administration
- Proper experience in a specific field
- High emotional intelligence and an ability to pass emotional intelligence tests
Arbitrators are usually experienced attorneys or retired judges who discern disputes between opposing parties, which is occasionally required by law. Mediators also settle disputes, but rather than making decisions; they help facilitate communication for the two parties to come to a mutual compromise. Conciliators are similar to Mediators, but they generally meet with parties separately. Many insurance companies, loan companies, and law offices have a contract or full-time arbitrator and mediator on their teams.
Library Services Director
Mean Income: $108,771
Top 10%: $139,523
- 6 years experience in library management
- Bachelors degree in related field and/or Masters degree
- Strong commitment to user-centered service
- Advanced proficiency in library information systems, databases, and library resources
As the director of a library, you would be supervising library staff, maintaining policy requirements, enhancing procedures, and overseeing customer use of services. You can also update periodicals or purchase/subscribe to new and more relevant services to ensure the library is offering the best services to suit its customers.
Captain/Pilot in Command
Mean Income: $128,063
Top 10%: $139,573
- Airline Transport Pilot License (ATPL)
- 2,500 + total flying time
- at least 1 year of 135 real flight experiences
- Valid passport
- FAA 1st class medical
As the pilot in command, your main job must be to ensure each flight is conducted in the safest manner possible. You would determine flight routes, speed, take off & landing schedules, all while staying within the federal and local flight regulations. More often than not, being the pilot in command required either 5,000 hours of commercial flight experience or 15 years of work experience.
Funeral Service Managers
Mean Income: $79,930
Top 10%: $140,740
- Associate’s degree in funeral service or mortuary science
- Bachelor’s degree is sometimes preferred
- American Board of Funeral Service Education (ABFSE) program completion
- 5-10 years of experience as a service worker
- Detailed planning to ensure services go smoothly
Not many people daydream about being a funeral director, but maybe you should start. With such great pay, a rewarding career like this has quite the undeserved bad rapport. As a funeral director, you would be offering counsel and comfort to mourning families, provide resources, file certificates, and make the necessary preparations for funerals. Not a bad job, as long as you aren’t squeamish.
Mean Income: $93,340
Top 10%: $155,480
- A Ph.D. and a master’s degree in related fields
- At least 5 years of experience
- Some companies prefer you to have at least 3 published works in scientific journals
- Experience with scientific tools and engineering
- Ability to do independent research
So, turns out, being an astronaut isn’t all that glamorous — but an Astronomer? Sign me up! Aside from theorizing space, gravity, and sub-atomic particle happenings, you can also write proposals for research to be done, design scientific equipment, and write scientific papers that may just be the secret sauce to that new sci-fi book you’ve wanted to write.
Broadcast News Analysts
Mean Income: $76,370
Top 10%: $159,530
- Bachelor’s degree in related fields
- At least 2 years of broadcast producer experience
- Multimedia experience
- Strong public speaking ability
- Be able to travel for a specific broadcast story
- Research and find interesting stories or leads
Journalists are different from content writers in the ways that a detective is different than a sergeant. A Journalist will investigate stories, interview people, get facts and opinions, and combine all of these aspects into a cohesive, true, newsworthy story. As a storyteller, the broadcast journalist must be able to present the story in a digestible, audience-pleasing manner without exaggerating or fluffing.
Mean Income: $95,500
Top 10%: $166,620
- BA or BFA/MFA
- 5+ years of work experience in management or directorship
- Diverse portfolio with multimedia examples
- Ability to interpret art and create dynamics that please specific audiences
- Devise plans, events, and presentations for clients and audiences
Art Directors are masters of aesthetics. Their project management skills must be top notch, and they must stay within budget. They also play the part of a psychologist to help the artist determine what approach, style, vibe, and feeling they want to present with their artwork. Art directors must be able to compartmentalize, multitask, and separate different clients’ needs and goals.
Mean Income: $108,600
Top 10%: $169,310
- Bachelor’s degree in related field
- 1-5 years of related work experience
- Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), Human Resources Certification Institute (HRCI), or the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans (IFEBP) certifications
- Experience in conflict management, payroll, issues resolution, and performance tracking
HR Managers are workplace wizards. From organizing, paying, managing, settling, interviewing, recruiting, coordinating, consulting, advising, and planning, they are the keystone component to any successful workplace. The pay is great, but you definitely work for it. Many places require managers to have at least 7+ years of experience in HR, and at least 1-year experience in supervising.
Mean Income: $129,148
Top 10%: $175,563
- Bachelor’s degree in Systems Engineering, Computer Science, Software Engineering or a related technical discipline
- Proficient in code writing
- Work experience in related industries
- Some jobs require active security clearances
- Experience with software architectural tools and technology
Design, develop, run, test, repeat. This, my friend, is your life as a software developer. After analyzing users’ needs and habits, it is your job to develop software to make their experience easier and more enjoyable. Another aspect of your job is to support technical issues regarding your developed platforms or technologies, which, you know, only makes sense.
Mean Income: $91,763
Top 10%: $183,703
- Bachelor’s degree for entry-level positions
- Master’s degree for higher level positions
- Proper state licensing
- Ability to travel and stay overnight in different environments
- Planning, conducting, and writing research proposals
- Extensive knowledge of geology and physics
Geophysicists carry out field studies based on theories and hypotheses they created in labs. A large part of their job is mapping the geographical features of a piece of land, testing rocks and samples from the land, and measuring deposits of natural resources. Other companies may require seismic knowledge in order to analyze data and make predictions.
Mean Income: $106,020
Top 10%: $185,613
- 3-5 years of professional writing and editing experience in relevant areas
- Experience translating technical phrases/situations into easily digestible material
- Ability to craft a well-formulated speech
- Travel experience and ability is typically required for most speech writing jobs
In our opinion, speech writing should be a sport. Not only do you have tight deadlines (some of which are incredibly last minute), but you have to adopt a philosophy and personality; communicate complex ideas, beliefs, and situations in digestible ways; and adapt voice and rhetoric to different audiences, mediums, and publications.
Mean Income: $107,657
Top 10%: $209,000
- Master’s degree in Computer Science, Information Technology, Computer Engineering or a related technical discipline
- Related work experience in designing web-based applications
- Experience in relevant software and technologies
- Knowledge in coding, XML and XHTML
Tech Leads, as you can tell, have extremely complicated careers; but that’s why they get paid the big bucks, right? Not only do they create highly complex systems, but they then continue to make them even more efficient and user-friendly as time goes on. Rather than giving you a description that’s either 1,000 words long or super irrelevant, I’ll leave you with this little nugget of information: Tech Leads are badass.
Mean Income: $76,000
Top 10%: $116,000
- A Master’s Degree in Nursing or related area; and/or equivalent combination of experience/ training
- Registered Nurse license issued by the State of California. BART or BLS at time of hire with commitment to get BART within six months of hire date
- A minimum of three years of relevant inpatient acute care RN experience
- Experience, in-depth and proven success in one or more clinical specialty areas, to include diagnoses, treatments, standards of practice and patient/family educational consulting and resources
Advanced practice registered nurses are highly trained individuals with a higher degree of responsibility and specialization than others in the field. There are four types of advanced practice registered nurses: nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, clinical nurse specialists, and nurse practitioners. These specialties involve an expanded level of independence and responsibility for patient care compared to less trained nurses; they may be wholly responsible for patient care in their field, with only minimal consultation with or supervision by doctors.
Mean Income: $61,075
Top 10%: $120,000
- Previous experience as an administrative assistant, receptionist, bookkeeper or office manager
- Must have an above-average computer, email and Internet skills
- Need to know how to use a fax machine and other office support equipment like copiers and scanners
- A college degree isn’t required for this career, but you may benefit in taking business, computer, and management courses. In addition, you should consider entering a virtual assistant training program
How would you like to set your own hours and choose the clients you work with? You can when you become a virtual assistant. Virtual assistants have the ability to work from home and make great money. They do all the same things an assistant handles in a traditional workplace, however, a virtual assistant performs their job remotely, using the Internet, phone, fax and other technology to communicate and submit work with their employer or clients. Requirements for this job vary widely, as each employer or client requires a different hiring standard.
Air Traffic Controller
Mean Income: $84,146
Top 10%: $122,950
- Controllers employed by the FAA must be U.S. citizens and pass a background investigation and medical examination
- May require military experience as an air traffic controller
- Complete an aviation degree at a college or university through the FAA’s Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative program
- Air traffic controllers work shift work and their job requires total concentration at all times
Air traffic controllers regulate air traffic either within an airport’s airspace or air traffic between airports. They communicate weather changes, visibility issues, wind conditions and nearby aircraft to pilots, using radar, computers or visuals to monitor aircraft in the assigned airspace. Air traffic controllers may give landing and departure authorization and instructions. They may also determine and direct flight path changes as necessary. Controllers supervise ground traffic, such as baggage vehicles, airport workers and taxiing airplanes.
Mean Income: $63,830
Top 10%: $106,005
- Strong interpersonal skills, with the ability to form productive working relationships
- Ability to set priorities, meet deadlines, and work independently
- Strong computer skills, especially proficiency in Microsoft Word
- Must have a strong existing body of written work
A freelance writer works on a contract basis so they don’t belong to any singular company. Specific duties of a freelance writer include gathering information on project-specific areas, editing and proofreading the drafts, working on articles prepared by other freelance writers if required, and coordinating with editing managers and administrative staff. A freelance writer typically reports to an editing manager or the chief editor of the company they’re contracted with.
Don’t Have a Ph.D.?
Most of these careers require Ph.D.’s, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get into a very well-paying career without one. Any engineering career (chemical, petroleum, nuclear, electronics, communications, computer science, aerospace, electrical, materials science, software) is entirely plausible and attainable with only a bachelor’s degree. Many companies will prioritize strong experience over a Ph.D. any day of the week.
Other careers in mathematics, statistics, business and information technology, politics, economics, architecture, aviation, CIS, construction, and biotechnology also have many openings for those with bachelor’s degrees. These positions also allow for growth within the company which can lead to 6 figure pay.
Don’t Have a Bachelor’s Degree?
We get it, life happens. If you didn’t quite make it to/through college, you still have quite a few excellent career options. For example, the USPS has a series of promotions from entry to senior levels that can make you a pretty penny each year, and it doesn’t require a college degree.
Other career options in the $45K-$60K salary ranges are in mail services, real estate, railroad operations, choreography, brick masonry, construction, millwrights, costume attendants, food service managers, painters/artists, telecommunication line installers, steelworkers, subway operators, sheriffs, makeup artists, licensing examiners, gaming managers, police officers, athletes, and financial agents.
Don’t Have A Diploma?
There are STILL tons of options for those without diplomas or GED’s, so don’t get stuck in a dead-end job that you despise. Besides waitressing (which can get you some serious cash), you have options like telemarketing, security, house cleaning, secretary work, landscaping, janitorial services, warehouse work, and nursery work which are all very rewarding and fulfilling jobs.
Many medical careers do not require a diploma, such as jobs in phlebotomy, dental assistants, surgical technology and massage therapy. The same is true for aides in psychiatric, home health and physical therapy, but they still require many classes, certifications, and training.