Top Paying Jobs in America - IT, Finance Industries Lead the Way
By Kristina Cowan
As Americans wind down another year of work, some are gearing up for a job hunt. With many expressing concern over finances, searching for top paying jobs in industries that are leading the charge doesn't sound half bad.
According to an analysis of Labor Department figures by Dr. Laurence Shatkin, a career information expert, the industries with the top paying jobs are computers / information technology, science, finance, energy, and the federal government.
An IT Renaissance
Specifically, careers in software publishing (annual median salary: $72,350); computer and peripheral equipment manufacturing (annual median salary: $68,710); and computer systems design and related services (annual median salary: $66,130) head the top paying computer jobs list. These salaries far outpace the median annual salary for all occupations: about $30,400.
John Estes, vice president of Robert Half Technology, a California-based IT staffing firm, says the high salaries reflect a resurgence in the industry since the dot-com crash. Rapid innovation is helping drive the resurgence, he notes.
"The speed of innovation in products is one thing that keeps IT people in such demand, to the point where it's difficult to keep up with the pace of innovation and technology change," Estes says.
Some of the most sought-after IT workers have both management and technical skills, say Estes and Jim Lanzalotto, vice president of strategy and marketing for Yoh.
"Companies are wanting people to speak the language of business more within the IT department. It's not just about building the latest and greatest application, it's about what the application will do for our customers, and the return on investment," Estes explains.
The Wonder of Wall Street
Financial-services jobs also offer sturdy paychecks. The top paying jobs / careers are in securities and commodity exchanges (annual median salary: $58,740); securities and commodity contracts intermediation and brokerage (annual median salary: $57,550); and other financial investment activities (annual median salary: $55,340).
One of the major factors driving large salaries for financial workers are the massive bonuses enjoyed by some on Wall Street, says Brian Drum, president and CEO of New York City-based Drum Associates, Inc., a global executive search firm. Drum says the figures sound fair-depending on where workers live.
"It would be very hard for anyone to live on those salaries in New York City," he says. In some parts of the Midwest the salaries would provide an OK-not great-living, according to Drum.
But others say the numbers sound low, especially when considering six- and seven-figure Wall Street jobs.
Henry Kasper, an economist for the Bureau of Labor Statistics, says it's important to remember the numbers indicate the median.
"If you call Goldman Sachs or read headlines about bonuses in the billions, these numbers in the $40Ks or $50Ks are going to seem low. But keep in mind that half [of the salaries] are above and half are below," Kasper says.
According to BLS data, chief executives-whose median earnings are $145,600 per year-account for less than 1 percent of all workers in the securities and commodity exchanges industry. Meanwhile, 29 percent of workers in that industry are in office and administrative support occupations, and their median salary is $39,208 a year.
More Industries with Top Paying Jobs / Careers
What are the top 10 highest paying jobs? That's a hard question to answer, since it depends on what all is considered in compensation. Here are some more industries with top paying jobs / careers.
Scientific Research (Annual median salary: $62,640)
Pipeline Transportation of Crude Oil (Annual median salary: $56,770)
Electric Power Generation/Transmission/Distribution (Annual median salary: $55,110)
Aerospace Manufacturing (Annual median salary: $55,060)
Wired Telecommunications (Annual median salary: $54,880)
Internet Service Providers & Web Search Portals (Annual median salary: $54,820)
Motor Vehicle Manufacturing (Annual median salary: $53,750)
Internet Publishing & Broadcasting (Annual median salary: $53,070)
Kristina Cowan is the senior writer for PayScale.com. She has over 10 years of journalism experience, specializing in education and workforce issues. Email Kristina Cowan.