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.
Last updated: Dec. 4, 2019
25. Aerospace Engineer
- Salary: $117,100
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. To get this job, you must hold a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering or another field of engineering or science related to aerospace.
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
- Salary: $117,180
Postsecondary economics teachers — aka professors or faculty members — teach economics courses at colleges and professional schools, in addition to conducting research in many cases. Educational requirements vary based on subject. Typically, postsecondary teachers need a Ph.D., but a master’s degree may suffice for community college-level courses.
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
- Salary: $117,840
As a computer hardware engineer, you’ll work on developing computer systems and components such as circuit boards, memory devices, networks, processors and routers. And in order to get this job, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree from an accredited program.
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.
- Salary: $119,980
Beyond prescribing glasses or contact lenses, these professionals diagnose and treat different eye conditions and diseases. Optometrists must complete a Doctor of Optometry (O.D.) degree program, as well as obtaining a license to practice within the state.
The optometry field is projected to see impressive employment growth of 18% — or 7,200 jobs — between 2016-26. 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
- Salary: $120,830
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.
That said, this job is not easy to obtain. Typically, you need an associate’s or bachelor’s degree from the Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative. Other applicants may have three years of work experience, college experience or a combination of both. In addition to these prerequisites, an Air Traffic Controller must be a U.S. Citizen, submit to medical and background checks, as well as take exams and courses at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) academy.
20. Judge, Magistrate Judge or Magistrate
- Salary: $121,130
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
- Salary: $121,730
Training and development managers coordinate programs that are designed to boost employee knowledge and skills at an organization. To land the job, you typically need a combination of education and related work experience.
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
- Salary: $121,770
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. Typically, personal finance advisors need a bachelor’s degree; however, a master’s degree and certification can improve your chances.
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
- Salary: $122,320
Postsecondary health specialties teachers are professors or faculty members who teach courses in health specialty fields such as dentistry, pharmacy, public health, therapy, veterinary science and more. Like the postsecondary economics teacher, experience varies by subject matter. Typically, you’ll need to obtain a Ph.D., though a master’s may be accepted at certain institutions.
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.
- Salary: $123,670
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. Pharmacists must obtain a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.), which takes four years to complete. You must also become licensed within the state you plan to work.
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
- Salary: $123,850
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.
You’ll need to obtain a master’s degree in computer science or a related field to get the job. But with employment projected to shoot upward by 19%, or 5,400 jobs, between 2016-26, there’s a good chance that your degree will pay for itself in record time.
- Salary: $125,280
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. For jobs in academia and research, you will need to obtain a Ph.D.
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.
13. Purchasing Manager
- Salary: $125,630
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. You need a bachelor’s degree for this position, and since managers typically handle more complex tasks, you’ll also 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
- Salary: $126,700
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. While most positions require a bachelor’s degree, some jobs may require a master’s degree.
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
- Salary: $130,710
These professors and faculty members teach courses in law at colleges and professional schools, sometimes in conjunction with conducting research. Like the other postsecondary teachers on this list, you’ll likely need a Ph.D., and having experience as a lawyer would certainly help.
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
- Salary: $131,570
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. You will also need at least a bachelor’s degree for this position and potentially a master’s degree.
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
- Salary: $132,860
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. Most jobs will require a bachelor’s degree and some related work experience.
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
- Salary: $133,090
Creative types who don’t quite fit the mold for public relations and fundraising might want to consider advertising and promotions instead. Typically, you will need a bachelor’s degree related to advertising, promotions or marketing, as well as related work experience.
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
- Salary: $139,680
Natural sciences managers can find work in the government and a variety of industries, such as manufacturing and consulting. You will need at least a bachelor’s degree for this position. Many natural sciences managers work as scientists before becoming managers, too.
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
- Salary: $140,320
Sales managers direct the sales teams at organizations, which includes setting goals, analyzing data and establishing training programs for sales representatives. Many sales managers need prior sales experience and to obtain a bachelor’s degree.
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.
- Salary: $144,230
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
- Salary: $146,830
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. Typically, you will need a bachelor’s degree for this position, as well as five or more years of experience in a business or financial occupation. This can include prior experience as an accountant, auditor, securities sales agent or financial analyst.
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
- Salary: $147,240
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. A bachelor’s degree is required for most marketing positions, and managers typically have work experience in advertising, marketing, promotions or sales.
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.
- Salary: $148,220
To diagnose and treat complications with the human foot, you’ll need to earn a Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (DPM) degree and complete a three-year residency program to 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
- Salary: $148,970
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. To get the job, you will need at least a bachelor’s degree with considerable experience as an architect or engineer.
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
- Salary: $73,960
This category includes healthcare providers other than physicians and surgeons, such as acupuncturists, naturopaths and orthoptists, who diagnose and treat vision disorders. You need at least a bachelor’s degree, as well as prior work or volunteer experience at a clinic or hospital.
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
- Salary: $83,020
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.
- Salary: $87,930
An expected growth rate of 28% makes physical therapists one of the most in-demand jobs on the list, and high salaries make it a desirable one for employees. The highest-earning 25% of therapists earn at least $100,000, and the mean wage for the top 10% is $123,350. Home healthcare, the fastest growing industry overall in terms of wage growth, brings the highest annual mean wages.
Physical therapists typically require a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree in addition to a license to practice that’s issued by the state. Most work in other health practitioners’ offices or in-home healthcare, hospitals, nursing homes or doctors’ offices.
- Salary: $90,070
High earning potential and a faster than average growth rate of 11% make this job a great choice if your goal is to earn a six-figure income. The top-earning 25% earn a mean wage of $116,060, and the top 10% earns $138,320.
You can start your database administration career with a bachelor’s degree in information or computer science. Most people with this job go on to work in the computer system design industry, but telecommunications, company management and postsecondary educational facilities offer opportunities, too. So does the credit intermediation industry, which also has the highest annual mean wage — $103,250.
Texas has the highest employment level for database administrators, but with an annual mean wage of $110,160, New Jersey has the highest salaries.
- Salary: $91,130
Geoscientists work in the lab and in the field some of the time, so this is a good job choice for scientifically inclined individuals who don’t like being tied to a desk. And with an anticipated growth rate of 14% and median pay of $91,130 — the highest-earning 25% and 10% of geoscientists earn annual mean salaries of $125,450 and $184,130, respectively — the outlook is good for new grads entering the field. You just need a bachelor’s degree to get started.
Most geoscientists work in the oil and gas extraction industry, which also has the highest annual mean wages of the primary industries that hire geoscientists — $152,960. The next-highest mean wages come from support activities for mining. Geoscientists in that industry earn $143,110.
Marine Engineer and Naval Architect
- Salary: $92,560
Marine engineers and marine architects design, build and maintain all sorts of ships, and you can land an entry-level position with a bachelor’s degree in either major. Median earnings for these positions are $92,560 per year, but the top 25% earn an annual mean wage of $115,760, and the top 10% earn $145,550. A growth rate of 12% makes these high-paying jobs worth considering.
All of the highest-paying industries the BLS lists for marine engineers and naval architects have annual mean wages of over $100,000. These industries are:
- Deep sea, coastal and Great Lakes water transportation: $113,970
- Inland water transportation: $107,360
- Employment services: $107,500
- Federal executive branch (government): $105,480
- Management, scientific and technical consulting: $104,270
- Salary: $93,370
You’re in luck if your goal is a career in building trades. This level of success generally requires a bachelor’s degree — preferably one related to construction — as well as construction experience and management skills learned on the job. But with mean annual wages of $161,510 for earners in the 90th percentile and 11% job growth, paying your dues now can pay off big later.
High earning opportunities are best in nonresidential construction and land subdivision, which have annual mean wages of $102,910 and $111,550, respectively. Even residential construction managers earn a mean wage of $96,690.
- Salary: $98,830
With a median annual wage of $93,830 and a much faster than average growth rate of 19%, it’s a great time to become a veterinarian. That’s especially true if you’ll be working in Texas. Five of the 10 highest-paying metropolitan areas for veterinarians are located there.
You will need to obtain a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree, as well as a state license to become a veterinarian. Although the professional, scientific and technical industry has the highest concentration of veterinarians, you can also build a career within social advocacy organizations, museums and historical sites. Specialties include companion animal veterinarians, food animal veterinarians and food safety and inspection vets.
- Salary: $94,110
Atmospheric scientists such as meteorologists earn solid pay in an industry that’s seeing a faster than average growth rate of 12%. Individuals entering this field typically need a bachelor’s degree, although research scientists usually need an advanced degree.
Meteorologists might have the highest profiles among atmospheric scientists, and many atmospheric scientists do work in the radio and TV broadcasting industry. But you might earn more with a job in scientific research and development, where the annual mean wage is $109,870.
Postsecondary Education Administrator
- Salary: $94,340
Postsecondary teachers and other academic industry professionals looking to step into an administrative role won’t be disappointed with the $94,340 salary postsecondary education administrators earn. And with a 10% growth rate, job openings might not be too difficult to come by.
Typically, you will need to obtain a master’s degree for this position, as well as prior experience working in a postsecondary education administrative office. The highest-earning 25% of postsecondary education administrators earn a $132,350 mean annual wage, and the top 10% earn $190,600. Maximize your earnings by working for a college, university or professional school in New Jersey, which is the top-paying state for this occupation.
Information Security Analyst
- Salary: $98,350
Information security analysts protect computer networks and information against threats like security breaches, viruses and data theft. Most positions require a bachelor’s degree in a computer-related field.
Many information security analysts work in the computer systems and design industry, but monetary authorities have the highest concentration of analysts. With an annual mean wage of $127,030, information security analysts working for the wholesale electronic markets, agents and brokers industry earn the highest wage in the industry. Note, too, that information security analysts are one of the most in-demand jobs included in this study, at a growth rate of 28%.
- Salary: $99,730
Not all healthcare jobs are clinical. Healthcare administrators work in healthcare facilities and medical practices to manage health services and help their employers stay compliant with laws and regulations and up to date with technology. You’ll likely need a bachelor’s degree and administrative or clinical background in healthcare to start, but many administrators have advanced degrees.
Jobs for qualified administrators should be plentiful, considering that 20% growth is expected by 2026. With a median pay of $99,730, and the highest-earning 25% and 10% of administrators earning a mean annual wage of $130,730 and $182,600, respectively, the long term outlook is bright for individuals looking to enter this field.
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Methodology: To find the jobs where you can make more than $100,000 a year, GOBankingRates used the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2018 Occupational Outlook Handbook, which utilizes and categorizes the May 2018 Occupational Employment Statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. GOBankingRates analyzed all occupations that had a 2018 median pay above $100,000 but below $150,000. GOBankingRates also found Employment Growth Outlook 2016-26 for each occupation as well as each occupation’s top-paying metropolitan area, both sourced from the Bureau of Labor Statistics 2018 Occupational Outlook Handbook and the May 2018 Occupational Employment Statistics. Data was compiled and is accurate as of Nov. 1, 2019.
About the Author
Daria Uhlig is a personal finance, real estate and travel writer and editor with over 25 years of editorial experience, including past positions with The New York Times Co. and Oxford University Press, where she was a long-time contributor to The Oxford English Dictionary. Her work has been featured on The Motley Fool, MSN Money, AOL, Yahoo! Finance, CNBC and USA Today.