This week, as I started to plan future blog posts, I received an alert for a video on ten jobs that pay more than $100,000 per year. There are, of course, thousands of jobs in the economy paying six-figures or more. Many of these are filled by people that are medical doctors, attorneys, or senior leaders and entrepreneurs. The jobs below require, for the most part, demanding technical training, but only one—psychologist—“typically requires a doctorate” according to the Occupational Outlook Handbook. And, it’s interesting to note the psychologist role has the lowest salary on the list.
|#||Title & OOH Link||Average Salary||Median 2020 Salary|
|7.||Computer Network Architect||$119,230||$116,780|
|8.||Air Traffic Controller||$127,440||$130,420|
|9.||PR & Fundraising Mgr.||$135,580||$118,430|
|10.||Compensation & Benefits Mgr.||$137,160||$125,130|
Average vs. Median Salaries
There are many lists of six-figure jobs online, and you will quickly discover Web sites specializing in six-figure postings when you do a search. A question that occurred to me when I watched the video is “what is really a six-figure job?” The three issues to consider, among others, include:
- Average salaries,
- Median salaries, and
- Your salary.
The recruiter used mean, or average salaries in her analysis because, she told me, this information was readily available on US Department of Labor spreadsheets she downloaded from their Web site. An arithmetic average, or mean value, as most of us learned when we computed grade-point averages in school is easily influenced by a few very high or very low values. The median of a number set is its middle value—the value where half the numbers are above and half the numbers are below—so it tends to represent data, including salaries, more faithfully.
With regard to salaries, this means that the average salaries for, say, art directors, would be skewed upward by a few “superstar” art directors.
We found that two of the ten jobs surveyed by CGL Recruiting for their list—psychologists and materials scientists–pay median salaries under $100,000. That does not mean these are less desirable or challenging positions. It’s just a number to be aware of if your criteria for pursuing a job or university degree is that you will earn a six-figure annual income.
In fact, average salaries exceed median salaries for all but two of the ten $100K+ occupations on this list. The two jobs with median salaries that exceeded average salaries were for commercial airline pilots and air traffic controllers.
The Air Traffic Controller job and Commercial Airline Pilot job are largely unionized. According to ALPA, 98% of airline pilots are union members. Air traffic controllers are also civil service workers. Union and civil service jobs typically have well-defined salary structures where high or low “outlier” salaries are unlikely.
Will you earn six figures?
Another problem with six-figure salary lists is that, as the infomercials say “your results may vary.” For example, your salary could be lower than either the average or median based on your industry and your prospective employer’s pay scales. Fundraisers, for example, have high median and average salaries because, according to CGL, many work for consulting firms, and some earn a percentage of the money they raise. On the other hand, fundraisers that work directly for nonprofit organizations may earn much lower incomes, and some even serve as volunteers.
Of course, it is unrealistic to expect a six-figure salary in your first job in most cases, regardless of your job or industry.
Salary should not be your only consideration.
We all need to earn a living, and in certain metropolitan areas an annual income of $100,000 or more is needed for a family to have a “middle class” lifestyle. So salary is important but many of us work to feel emotionally or intellectually fulfilled, too. In other words, we won’t necessarily be happy in a job just because it offers high commissions and bonuses, or a high union wage. If you feel most passionate when you are working on social or environmental problems for organizations that cannot afford high salaries, consider this in your career planning.
The list above may be your starting point for career exploration if your goal is a six-figure job without becoming a medical doctor, attorney, or CEO. Just click on each link in the table for details for each job.
In fact, if you are in career exploration mode, either as a student, new graduate, or career changer, add the OOH to your browser favorites or acquire a copy for your traditional reference shelf. Next week, we will address factors other than salary for you to consider when you plan your next career move.
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