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America's Most Surprising Six-Figure Jobs

We often associate hefty salaries with corner offices, scalpels and law degrees – but it turns out you can pull in a pretty penny working outside the financial, medical or legal fields. In fact, writers, elevator installers and art teachers are just a few of the professionals who surprisingly can score six-figure paychecks.

Forbes combed through data gathered annually by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a division of the Labor Department, to find the most surprising six-figure jobs. The BLS culls its information from surveys it mails to businesses, and it releases its Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates Data each spring. The report shares information about more than 800 occupations, including hourly and annual wages, total numbers of workers in the profession, and the states and metro areas that pay the best. To make the cut for our list, at least 10% of employees in the profession had to earn more than $100,000 a year.

[More from Forbes: The Best And Worst Jobs For 2012]

It turns out the top earning gaming managers, post-secondary home economics teachers and art directors surprisingly make well over six figures.

Gaming managers, who are responsible for supervising gambling operations, earn a handsome annual income of $74,780. According to the BLS’ Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates Data for 2011, the top 10% really hit the jackpot. These high rollers rake in $116,840 a year. The best-paying state for these professionals is New Jersey.

Home economics instructors who teach at the college level earn a mediocre average annual salary of $68,080—but the top 10% earn a stellar $110,650. These professionals are responsible for teaching courses in childcare, family relations, finance, nutrition, and related subjects pertaining to home management.  California is the best-paying state for post-secondary home economics teachers.

Incomes for art directors and makeup artists (theatrical and performance) aren’t too shabby, either. The mean annual wages for those talented professionals is $95,500 and $63,710, respectively. But the top earning art directors make $166,620, while the top 10% of theatrical makeup artists pull in $120,050. The top-paying state for both professions: New York.

[More from Forbes: The Happiest And Unhappiest Industries To Work In]

Some other surprising six-figure jobs, especially from the perspective of the fragile media industry, include broadcast news analysts, authors, and technical writers. Workers in the top-earning 10% of each of these professions earn more than $100,000, according to the BLS data.

For writers and authors, it is $115,740; for technical writers, $102,250; and for broadcast news analysts, $159,530 – about three and a half times the national average for all occupations, which is just $45,230.

Water vessel captains, mates and pilots also make a boatload more than one might think. The top 10% earn an ample $119,280 a year, but on average they make $71,760. Boat captains in Rhode Island earn $123,580, making it the best paying state.

The list doesn’t end there. There are plenty more surprising six-figure jobs that don’t require a necktie or lab coat. Farming managers, film editors and transportation inspectors are some others we’ve singled out.

[Related: Jobs with high lifetime earnings]

Here are some professions that you might be surprised to learn pay six figures. The top-earning 10% of these professionals earn more than $100,000 a year, on average, according to BLS data.

1. Makeup Artists, Theatrical and Performance

BLS job description: Apply makeup to performers to reflect period, setting, and situation of their role.

Top 10% make $120,050, on average.
Mean annual income: $63,710
Total employed: 2,040
Top-paying state: New York


2. Technical Writers

BLS job description: Write technical materials, such as equipment manuals, appendices, or operating and maintenance instructions. May assist in layout work.

Top 10% make $102,250, on average.
Mean annual income: $67,280
Total employed: 45,120
Top-paying state: California

3. Gaming Managers

BLS job description: Plan, direct, or coordinate gaming operations in a casino. May formulate house rules.

Top 10% make $116,840, on average.
Mean annual income: $74,780
Total employed: 3,570
Top-paying state: New Jersey


4. Home Economics Teachers, Postsecondary

BLS job description: Teach courses in childcare, family relations, finance, nutrition, and related subjects pertaining to home management. Includes both teachers primarily engaged in teaching and those who do a combination of teaching and research.

Top 10% make $110,650, on average.
Mean annual income: $68,080
Total employed: 5,490
Top-paying state: California

[Related: Where Have All the ‘Good’ Jobs Gone?]

5. Captains, Mates, and Pilots of Water Vessels

BLS job description: Command or supervise operations of ships and water vessels, such as tugboats and ferryboats. Required to hold license issued by U.S. Coast Guard.

Top 10% make $119,280, on average.
Mean annual income: $71,760
Total employed: 30,220
Top-paying state: Rhode Island

6. Art Directors

BLS job description: Formulate design concepts and presentation approaches for visual communications media, such as print, broadcasting, and advertising. Direct workers engaged in art work or layout design.

Top 10% make $166,620, on average.
Mean annual income: $95,500
Total employed: 30,680
Top-paying state: New York

7. Transportation Inspectors

BLS job description: Inspect equipment or goods in connection with the safe transport of cargo or people. Includes rail transportation inspectors, such as freight inspectors; rail inspectors; and other inspectors of transportation vehicles, not elsewhere classified.

Top 10% make $110,210, on average.
Mean annual income: $65,770
Total employed: 24,810
Top-paying state: Washington, DC

8. Broadcast News Analysts

BLS job description: Analyze, interpret, and broadcast news received from various sources.

Top 10% make $159,530, on average.
Mean annual income: $76,370
Total employed: 5,200
Top-paying state: Florida

9. Farmers, Ranchers, and Other Agricultural Managers

BLS job description: Plan, direct, or coordinate the management or operation of farms, ranches, greenhouses, aquacultural operations, nurseries, timber tracts, or other agricultural establishments. May hire, train, and supervise farm workers or contract for services to carry out the day-to-day activities of the managed operation. May engage in or supervise planting, cultivating, harvesting, and financial and marketing activities.

Top 10% make $112,150, on average.
Mean annual income: $70,010
Total employed: 3,340
Top-paying state: Kansas

10. Insurance Sales Agents

BLS job description: Sell life, property, casualty, health, automotive, or other types of insurance. May refer clients to independent brokers, work as an independent broker, or be employed by an insurance company.

Top 10% make $115,300, on average.
Mean annual income: $62,970
Total employed: 321,780
Top-paying state: Rhode Island

Click here for the full list of Surprising Six-Figure Jobs.

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