September 25, 2021

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17 Jobs That Make a Lot of Money

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In high school, my best friend and I looked through a giant book of jobs and their salaries. We wanted to know which jobs make a lot of money. We immediately flipped to the end to find out.

It was an investment banker.

Without a second thought, we both declared we were going to be investment bankers.

Did we have any clue what an investment bank actually did? Nope! We just wanted the highest pay.

I wish I had known how many options I really had. I could have focused on a path that would have been a better fit right from the beginning.

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Turns out, there’s a lot of jobs that pay a lot of money. Whether you’re still in high school or making a career change, you have a lot of options.

The Top 17 Jobs That Make a lot of Money:

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Accountant

An accountant will perform financial calculations for individuals, small businesses, and large corporations. Accountants must know how to examine and prepare a variety of financial reporting forms, helping customers or businesses remain in compliance with accounting rules and laws. Accountants may need to work long hours at certain times of the year, such as during tax calculation time.

  • Requirements: Bachelor’s degree, master’s degree for highest paying jobs;,some licensing and certification
  • Average annual salary: $70,500
  • Top annual earners: $500,000 plus
  • The downside: Some of the work is pretty dull. It’s also rare to reach a seven figure salary compared to other jobs on our list

Business Executive

A business executive could hold a multitude of jobs at a company, including CEO, CFO, or COO. A founder of a business could end up being a CEO, because he or she knows the industry and the business. On the other hand, someone with a formal business degree and business training could move into an executive role to help any business run more efficiently and profitably. With bonuses included, business executives can earn huge annual salaries.

  • Requirements: Bachelor’s degree, master’s degree for highest paying jobs, on-the-job training
  • Average annual salary: $104,980
  • Top annual earners: $5 million plus
  • The downside: Highly stressful jobs, may require decades or more to reach a lucrative business executive position

Computer System and IT Manager

A computer system manager or IT manager will oversee all computer related systems and processes in a company or organization. This can include things like planning out hardware purchases, installing computing software, managing a network, and performing troubleshooting. IT managers need quite a bit of education, including ongoing education, to stay up to date on new techniques and tech products.

  • Requirements: Bachelor’s degree or master’s degree, ongoing education
  • Average annual salary: $142,530
  • Top annual earners: $500,000 plus
  • The downside: Can require long working hours, extensive education, and rare to reach a seven figure salary

Engineer

Engineers can design things like aircraft, cars, boats, spacecraft, satellites, large buildings, bridges, computers, and infrastructure. Chemical engineers will work with fuel and drugs to solve problems in the use of these substances. Other types of engineers may try to solve environmental problems or help people perform jobs more efficiently and safely. Engineers rely on math, physics, biology, and chemistry to perform their work.

  • Requirements: Bachelor’s degree, master’s degree for highest paying jobs, on-the-job training
  • Average annual salary: $80,170
  • Top annual earners: $500,000 plus
  • The downside: Requires a high level of mathematical ability, rare to reach a seven figure salary in this profession versus others on our list

Chiropractor

A chiropractor cares for patients with health problems related to the neuromusculoskeletal system, including the spine. Chiropractors provide specialized therapy that does not include medication or surgery, but still rely on medical-based tests in order to devise and administer the right set of therapies. 

  • Requirements: Bachelor’s degree, Doctor of Chiropractic degree, must pass both national board and state-level tests to obtain a license
  • Average annual salary: $154,245
  • Top annual earners: $265,000 plus
  • The downside: Unlike treatment from a medical doctor, some chiropractic treatments are not covered by traditional employer-sponsored insurance, requiring the patient to pay out of pocket. This limits the patient base, potentially making it difficult to build a practice

Clinical Psychologist

Clinical psychologists provide psychological evaluations and assessments, consultation, therapy, and follow-up. While they cannot prescribe medication, clinical psychologists still provide valuable guidance. Clinical psychologists can work independently in their own private practice or they can work for medical clinics, hospitals, non-profit organizations, or government entities (such as the VA). 

Clinical psychologists can even be employed by corporations as the in-house psychologist helping employees (perhaps with stress management) or as an organizational psychologist identifying ways to increase both efficiency and satisfaction in the workplace.

  • Requirements: Bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, and certifications based on industry or specialization
  • Average annual salary: $79,000
  • Top annual earners: $98,000
  • The downside: While you might be helping people and families through stressful times, which can be very rewarding, the job itself carries a lot of stress

Construction Manager

A construction manager oversees facility design, scheduling, vendor management, and building construction to ensure that the project will be completed on time and under budget and will meet the needs of the client, corporation, or investor. The larger and more complex the construction project, the larger the responsibility and therefore, the higher the salary.

Construction has become more complex over the years. Buildings need to incorporate the latest technologies in order to become more intelligent and efficient, oftentimes by industry regulation or municipal ordinance. This has only added to the knowledge base required of construction managers as they often need to select and juggle hundreds of vendors at once while retaining the highest standards of compliance. 

  • Requirements: Bachelor’s degree, plus at least 3 years of experience in the construction industry
  • Average annual salary: $120,900
  • Top annual earners: $154,00 plus
  • The downside: Employment can be iffy at the moment. Large-scale construction projects have stalled under the pandemic, with uncertainty as to when tenants—and budgets—will return

Geophysicist

President Biden recently signed an executive order aimed at making half of all new vehicles sold in 2030 electric. That’s a lot of electric batteries needed — probably around 7 million if current trends continue. Electric batteries need cobalt, lithium, nickel, and other rare-earth metals, and who are the professionals who source them so that all of us can enjoy a clean energy future?

Geophysicists, of course. These scientists design, plan and execute the extraction of these minerals from the earth. Without geophysicists, we wouldn’t have electric batteries. (We wouldn’t have oil either, as geophysicists have been employed by the oil and gas industry for decades in the exploration and extraction of petroleum and natural gas as well.)

  • Requirements: Bachelor’s degree, usually a master’s degree, in addition to specialized training in the particular natural resource on which the geophysicist is working
  • Average annual salary: $77,132
  • Top annual earners: $106,000
  • The downside: As the work is often project-based, there might be long periods of furlough and uncertainty. Continuing education is required of geophysicists, as new processes, systems, and treatments appear, promising even more efficient extraction of natural resources. Further, they may need to move frequently depending on where the exploration projects are located

Instructional Designer

An instructional designer develops course content and training curriculum for learners within corporations, governments, and universities (and not just brick and mortar universities — think of all of those online programs, too). An instructional designer often consults with subject matter experts to interpret complex material and create compelling (i.e., not boring) learning experiences from which individuals can acquire knowledge and skills, meeting the budgets, timeframes, and requirements of the organization. 

Instructional designers also develop and conduct assessments to analyze and identify new development needs and recommend training methods accordingly. There is also often an HR component, in which the instructional designer must track employee performance and measure training outcomes.

Instructional designers are an in-demand job because employees need training  —and lots of it. According to LinkedIn Learning’s 2021 Workplace Learning report, the top area of focus for learning and development cited was upskilling and reskilling. This means that someone — in this case, the instructional designer — is going to have to develop those courses and get them out the door to learners.

  • Requirements: Bachelor’s degree, additional training depending on specialty, industry or region
  • Average annual salary: $77,000
  • Top annual earners: $93,000
  • The downside: Instructional designers can be victims of downsizing, and as such, often have to reinvent themselves as consultants, This usually means feast or famine, depending on the size and complexity of the assignments.

Entertainment Professional

Jobs like actor, musician, TV or radio show host, producer, and writer can all fit in the entertainment industry. For the most successful professionals in these areas, this job can be extremely lucrative. However, a job in the entertainment industry rarely has a lot of stability. You’re often on your own, working from contract to contract. You’ll also have to hire an agent to negotiate contracts and help you find work. It can also be extremely difficult to break into the industry.

  • Requirements: Mix of schooling and on-the-job training
  • Average annual salary: $40,000
  • Top annual earners: $10 million plus
  • The downside: Highly competitive industries, jobs don’t have much stability, agent fees will eat a percentage of your earnings

Investment Banker

It may not be the most exciting job, and it may not be all that well understood, but an investment banker can make a lot of money each year. In general terms, an investment banker is someone who brokers deals, such as company mergers and acquisitions. Those who broker the largest financial deals receive the largest compensation amounts.

  • Requirements: Bachelor’s degree, master’s degree for highest paying jobs, FINRA licenses
  • Average annual salary: $64,120, plus performance bonuses
  • Top annual earners: $5 million plus
  • The downside: Regular 80+ hour weeks, a lot of stress because of the heavy reliance on performance bonuses

Lawyer

If your idea of a lawyer is someone who is dramatically arguing cases in a courtroom, as happens on TV, this is only a small part of the work. Most of it is spent in research, document review, filing motions,  and editing contracts. Lawyers can work in criminal, tax, patent, corporate, or other types of law, so a lot of specialties exist. Lawyers do have an easier time becoming politicians than other professions, if that appeals to you.

  • Requirements: Tons of extra education, including a law degree, must pass a state bar examination
  • Average annual salary: $120,910
  • Top annual earners: $10 million plus
  • The downside: Extremely competitive profession that requires several years of advanced schooling

Pharmacist

A pharmacist works in a hospital, a medical facility, or a retail store, dispensing prescription medication for customers. A pharmacist needs quite a bit of training in how different medications work, including understanding side effects and interactions with other medications. Pharmacists require formal education and licensing to be able to legally dispense prescription medication.

  • Requirements: Doctor of pharmacy degree, licenses in the state in which they work
  • Average annual salary: $126,120
  • Top annual earners: $250,000 plus
  • The downside: Pharmacists have little chance of earning a seven figure salary unless they own a business, requires quite a bit of on-going education

Physician and Surgeon

Doctors in the American medical system have the ability to make huge salaries, but it can take a while to hit that level. A physician or a surgeon needs tons of education and on-the-job training. The learning never ends for doctors. When starting out, doctors can work some long, strange hours. But once they reach a certain level of expertise, this job is rewarding financially. Physicians and Surgeon’s have the highest average annual salary of all the jobs that make a lot of money featured.

  • Requirements: Long years of extra education including a medical degree and a residency, licenses required
  • Average annual salary: $208,000
  • Top annual earners: $5 million plus
  • The downside: Making life and death decisions on a daily basis is stressful especially in a highly competitive industry with long hours

Professional Athlete

This is one job that kids dream about having that actually also makes a lot of money. Unfortunately, it’s probably the job they have the least chance of achieving. People need some natural talent to succeed in almost any job, but pro athletes may rely the most on natural talent. Beyond receiving millions to play the game, the most well-known pro athletes may receive just as much money for endorsements.

  • Requirements: Being selected after a physical tryout, constant on-the-job training and physical workouts
  • Average annual salary: $50,650
  • Top annual earners: $10 million plus
  • The downside: Extreme physical stress and injuries can take their toll on long term health, professional sports careers don’t last more than a few years for most people

Real Estate Developer

A real estate developer will purchase property and develop it with lucrative commercial and residential projects. These purchases are a bit of a gamble, as a mistake can lead to huge financial losses. You may start as a real estate agent, learning how the markets work, before making your own investments or investing on behalf of others.

  • Requirements: Knowledge of real estate markets and laws through on-the-job training
  • Average annual salary: $50,300
  • Top annual earners: $10 million plus
  • The downside: High rewards come with high risks, choosing the wrong project or making a judgment error about a particular project’s viability could lead to bankruptcy

Software Developer

A software developer will write software, or code, that controls computers and other personal electronics devices. App developers also can be software developers. In fact, someone who develops a highly popular app could make millions off one app. This is another fast growing profession that will need employees in the future. High demand makes this a great option if you’re looking for jobs that make a lot of money.

  • Requirements: Bachelor’s degree optional
  • Average annual salary: $105,590
  • Top annual earners: $5 million plus
  • The downside: Long hours, especially stressful when trying to complete a project

Of all the jobs that make a lot of money: Which is right for you?

Having a list is one thing, picking the right job is a lot harder.

If I was giving “highschool me” some advice, I’d tell him to find a high paying job that’s the best fit. Some jobs are extremely stressful like an investment banker. Others are more routine like an accountant. There’s dozens of different criteria that make up a true dream job.

The best way to figure out which job is the best fit is to develop friendships with people in that field. If you genuinely enjoy spending time with them, that’s a promising sign.

Also look for entry-level roles in those fields to try them yourself. Most of these jobs can be started later on if you discover that a particular path won’t work out.

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