How does a job earning more than $150,000 a year sound? The first step to pursuing a six-figure career is identifying which careers have that earning potential -- even if they don't start at that pay.
"If the potential is there to make six figures, then you can put this career on your list and then decide out of all the careers that have this type of earning potential which one(s) you are most interested," according to Cheryl Palmer, a certified career coach and owner of Call to Career.
If you're looking to get into a career that is growing and pays well, consider these high-paying jobs that have lots to offer.
Average pay: $218,850
Specialist physicians are those who practice a specific branch of medicine. Medical specialties run the gamut from anesthesiology, cardiology and dermatology to neurology, orthopedics and radiology.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) lists physicians and surgeons as the highest-paid occupation in its database, with anesthesiologists earning the most with an average salary of $271,440.
To pursue this career, you'll have to complete four years at the undergraduate level following a pre-med course of study, then four more years of medical school. There are also several more years of residency, possibly followed by a fellowship for one to three years.
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Average salary: $217,100
If you're after a career that's lucrative and growing, add psychiatry to your list for a future job search. Although the BLS projects just 3% growth between 2020 and 2030, the average salary exceeds $200,000. These professionals diagnose and treat mental illnesses through the use of medication, counseling and hospitalization.
As with other health specialties, you'll have to complete medical school and a residency program, then pass a licensing exam and gain board certification to practice as a psychiatrist.
Family and General Practitioner
Average salary: $214,370
A family physician has patients they treat on a regular basis for routine visits as well as common illnesses. The BLS projects an overall 5% job growth for family and general physicians between 2020 and 2030, which equals 6,700 added jobs.
According to the ACP, family medicine education encompasses the care of children and training in areas typically provided in other specialties. These physicians also complete medical school and a residency program following their undergraduate program.
Average salary: At least $208,000
Prosthodontists provide advanced care for dental and facial disorders. While some specialize in cosmetic dentistry, others focus on reconstructive services that restore or replace missing and damaged teeth.
General dentists need a doctoral degree from an accredited dental program and must pass written and clinical exams to qualify for a state license to practice. Specialists like prosthodontists complete additional training via a multi-year residency.
Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon
Average salary: At least $208,000
The BLS lists oral and maxillofacial surgery as one of the highest-paying occupations. These professionals provide reconstructive mouth, jaw, neck and dental surgery and treatment. The more experienced surgeons make approximately $231,276 a year, according to Payscale.
After completing a bachelor's degree, there are four years of dental school and an oral residency program that can range from four to six years. The six-year route involves a medical degree, according to the American Student Dental Association.
Average salary: At least $208,000
U.S. News & World Report has ranked orthodontics as one of the best fields for pay, growth, stress and work-life balance. These professionals fix bite and teeth alignment issues by designing retainers, braces and other mouth appliances for patients -- and are paid more than $200,000 a year on average.
Orthodontists spend a little more time training than general dentists do before they can practice. In addition to an undergraduate degree, orthodontists must go to dental school, followed by two to three years of additional education in an orthodontic residency program and a state licensing exam.
Average salary: $185,950
Top executives like CEOs earn well into the six figures. The big paycheck does come with added responsibility. CEOs oversee entire organizations and make sure they are reaching their goals. Opportunities are expected to grow 8% between 2020 and 2030.
Traditionally, many CEOs have a bachelor's degree in business administration or an MBA. However, this isn't the only way to make it to the top. Some top executives advance from lower-level management positions and can substitute experience for education, according to the BLS.
Average salary: $183,580
For fewer years in school than it takes to be an anesthesiologist but still phenomenal pay, you can opt to be a nurse anesthetist. People in this profession provide anesthesia care and oversee patient recovery from anesthesia. The BLS reports a higher than average growth outlook at 45%.
It takes at least approximately eight calendar years of education and experience to prepare for a career as a nurse anesthetist, according to the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists. Requirements typically include at least a master's degree in nursing, registered nurse licensure, at least one year of acute-care experience in an emergency room or intensive care unit, plus completion of an accredited nurse anesthesia program and passing the national certification exam.
Physicist, Ambulatory Care Health Services
Average salary: $183,420
Physicists look at the ways matter interacts with energy. In an ambulatory care health setting, medical physicists work with radiation technologies and treatments, often specializing in a particular area such as diagnostic medical physics or nuclear medical physics.
Before you can enjoy the luxuries this high-paying career can provide, you'll first undergo rigorous training. Medical physicists need a bachelor's degree in physics or another physical science and a master's degree in physics, medical physics or a related field, plus a residency prior to sitting for an exam to earn board certification, according to the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science. Some medical physicists go on to earn doctoral degrees.
Natural Sciences Manager, Research and Development in the Physical, Engineering and Life Sciences
Average salary: $172,990
Natural sciences managers oversee scientists tasked with activities related to research and development. Projects they manage might deal with manufacturing processes, expanding scientific knowledge or product development, according to the BLS, which notes that demand for these roles is expected to grow 6% between 2020 and 2030.
Natural sciences managers are usually promoted from roles as scientists. In addition to several years of experience as a scientist, managers generally have at least a bachelor's degree in a science field, although many have a master's or Ph.D.
Petroleum Engineer, Management of Companies and Enterprises
Average salary: $167,780
The top 10% of petroleum engineers make more than $208,000, according to the BLS. These workers find ways to extract oil and gas to meet the nation's needs. The demand and pricing for oil will create new job opportunities for petroleum engineers, with the BLS anticipating an 8% growth from 2020 to 2030.
A bachelor's degree in petroleum engineering is preferred, although other engineering specialties are acceptable in some instances. Cooperative-education programs also are encouraged to get class credit and on-the-job experience in the field.
Sales Manager, Finance and Insurance
Average salary: $163,630
A sales manager oversees an organization's sales team, establishing territories, training sales representatives and setting sales goals. The highest-paid sales managers work in the finance and insurance industry.
To work as a sales manager, you'll likely need a bachelor's degree in addition to a proven track record as a sales rep. Job growth is expected to be about as fast as average for all occupations over the coming years, with 7% growth anticipated from 2020 to 2030.
Airline Pilot, Copilots and Flight Engineers
Average salary: $160,970
Airline pilots, copilots and flight engineers are responsible for transporting people and things via airplane, helicopter or other aircraft. The highest-paid are airline pilots, who work in the scheduled air transportation industry, as opposed to commercial pilots, who fly unscheduled flights. Across both specialties, the highest 10% of pilots earned over $208,000 in 2020.
Job prospects for pilots are good, with the BLS projecting 13% growth from 2020 to 2030. To become an airline pilot you'll generally need a bachelor's degree as well as a commercial pilot's license and an Airline Transport Pilot certificate. Most airline pilots start their careers as commercial pilots.
Average salary: $158,940
A promising job future and exceptional pay, including being one of the highest-paid jobs around, make dentistry a hot field to pursue. Dentists keep teeth looking their best by treating tooth decay, cavities, gum problems and more. The demand for dentists is growing, particularly with more studies showing the link between proper dental care and overall health. In fact, job openings are expected to be plentiful, with 7% growth from 2020 to 2030, according to the BLS.
It takes time and commitment to pursue this hot career, however. After college, you have to attend dental school and pass state licensing exams. Dentists in specialized fields must take part in a residency program.
Computer and Information Systems Manager, Information
Average salary: $166,770
Computer information systems managers, also referred to as information technology managers, are accountable for organizations' computer-related activities, from determining technology goals to implementing and securing systems. Although many industries employ computer and information systems managers, the highest-paid work in the information industry.
The top 10% of earners are making more than $208,000 on average. What's great about this career is that it doesn't require years in school. A bachelor's degree in computer or information science and related work experience is typically sufficient, but many do go on to earn a graduate degree, notes the BLS.
Computer Systems and Information Manager, Computer Systems Design and Related Services
Average salary: $157,580
As more and more organizations require professionals to coordinate computer activities, the demand for computer systems and information managers is expected to grow 11% from 2020 through 2030. While those who work in systems design and related services earn over $9,000 less, on average than their information-industry counterparts, their salaries exceed $150,000 by a comfortable margin, and they have better-than-average opportunities for new positions.
Financial Manager, Professional, Scientific and Technical Services
Average salary: $154,790
Financial managers are responsible for the planning and directing of accounting, investing and other financial activities for companies. The average pay might be lower than other hot jobs on the list, but the top 10% of financial managers earn more than $208,000. Jobs in this occupation are growing much faster than average -- with 17% growth expected from 2020 to 2030, in fact. Top earners work in the professional, scientific and technical services industries.
These professionals generally hold a bachelor's degree in finance, accounting, business administration or economics, as well as five or more years of related experience. Today, employers prefer those with a master's degree in a related subject, according to the BLS.
Astronomer, Federal Government
Average salary: $152,230
Astronomers study celestial bodies like planets and stars, design equipment, devise theories and design and conduct scientific experiments. Some astronomers study distant galaxies and phenomena like black holes, whereas others track space debris that could interfere with satellites, according to the BLS. A number of industries, including research and development as well as colleges, universities and technical schools, hire astronomers; however, those who work for the federal government earn significantly more.
The job outlook for astronomers is about average for all occupations, with 8% growth expected from 2020 to 2030. To prepare for a job in federal government, you'll need a bachelor's or master's degree. Positions in business and academia generally require a Ph.D.
Lawyer, Federal Government
Average salary: $152,220
Lawyer pay varies by specialty and area, but the top 10% of earners overall make more than $208,000, according to the BLS, and your best opportunity to join their ranks is a job with the federal government. The job outlook is also good, with employment expected to grow 9% overall, keeping it in line with the national average for all occupations.
Another positive to this high-paying career is that becoming a lawyer doesn't require the amount of schooling it does to become a doctor. After earning a college degree, prospective lawyers must complete three years of law school and pass their state's bar exam.
Marketing Manager, Advertising/PR
Average salary: $150,930
The top 10% of marketing managers earn more than $208,000 on average, according to the BLS. The job involves planning and coordinating marketing programs for organizations, identifying customers and overseeing product development. On average, marketing manager jobs in the advertising and public relations industry pay significantly more than those in corporate management, information or wholesale trade.
Those choosing to pursue this career path have an optimistic job outlook, with the BLS projecting 10% growth between 2020 and 2030. Most marketing managers have a bachelor's degree in marketing, communications, business or a similar field, as well as work experience.
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