When everyone seems to be making more money than you, the inevitable question is “ok, what exactly do all these people do?” Fortunately, Reddit has the answer. A recent thread discussed what people do to earn six figures, and while some occupations are obvious — doctor, lawyer — there are niche occupations that pay surprisingly well, too. Here’s a look at some of them.
Obvious occupations that earn six figures
- Lawyer: The average salary tends to be well over $US100k, although that depends on your level of specialisation. The trade-off with being a lawyer is years of education and training, with a high rate of burnout. As Reddit commenters put it, “don’t go to law school” and “There are better ways to make six digits.”
- Physician: Another obvious one, but they can make well over $US200k with enough experience. As with the legal profession, there’s a lot of training and education involved. With a boatload of student loan debt upfront, many physicians only get ahead on their finances in their thirties. But the occupation has relatively good job security, too.
- Air Traffic Controller: According to the FAA, the annual median salary is $US127,805 ($175,221) once you’ve been certified. Certification requires a few months of training at the FAA Academy, as well as two to four years of on-the-job training. “Been doing it 12 years, best job ever,” says one commenter.
- Accountant with CPA licence: While entry-level certified public accountants start their careers with an annual salary closer to $US70k, a few years of experience can increase that to six figures. The downside is that it takes you 2-6 years of education to be certified, depending on whether you want an associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate.
- Real Estate Developer: This occupation has an average pay near $US100k, and a top-end salary goes beyond $US200k. In the role, you create new real estate developments or renovates existing ones, promote them, and put them up for sale. You have to know what you’re doing, of course. As one commenter suggests: “You should plan to get your real estate licence. It’s also helpful to have a bachelor’s degree in real estate, business, finance, or a related field. The ability to plan and organise projects, general knowledge of real estate, and an entrepreneurial mindset are all important skills to become a real estate developer.”
Not-so-obvious occupations that earn six figures
- Engineering Project Manager: An engineering project manager will create detailed project plans, propose budgets, and manage staffing and equipment needs. As one commenter puts it: “Being an engineer pays well. Herding engineers pays exceedingly well.” The annual average median salary for this role is $US120,738 ($165,532).
- Elevator mechanic: The top 20% of earners make more than $US100K and no college degree is required. However, you’ll have to pay your dues: an elevator mechanic apprenticeship takes four years and pays closer to $US40k during that time.
- Travelling nurse: Travel nurses help fill gaps in areas where there are nursing shortages, and are therefore in high demand. Depending on your perspective, the travel can be a positive or a negative, but the pay is good — the average annual salary is $US108,070 ($148,164), according to Indeed.com. Perks include non-taxed housing stipends, non-taxed per diems, travel reimbursements, and signing bonuses.
- Lineworker: Lineworkers build and repair overhead and underground electrical power lines, and the pay is good. Most make closer to $US82k annually, but experienced lineworkers can make six figures. However, an apprenticeship is required, and it takes four years to complete in most states. Says one lineworker: “If you are up for the challenge (willing to work in a risky environment), it can be a great career long-term.”
- Government job: “The pay for things like engineers and other careers isn’t the best but for non-STEM it’s outstanding especially. I know plenty of folks making 90k+ a year in jobs that would be 30% less outside of the government.”
- Scrum master: This role requires expertise in scrum project management, a methodology favoured by software developers, and it carries a median base salary of $US95,167 ($130,474). “Highly recommend. Easy certification, in demand in the software field, and it doesn’t require technical knowledge. I’ve been making six figures since I was 23 with this job.”