Best Jobs in the Future: Six Figure Income Jobs

Best Jobs in the Future: How to Leap to $100K

By Michelle Goodman

Hoping to be in a six figure income job by the end of the decade? Wondering what the best jobs in the future are? Then you need to select your career path wisely because the field you embark on today can greatly affect how much you make 10 years down the line.

Following are a list of six figure income jobs in thriving industries that, according to career experts and data from online salary database PayScale.com, can prime you for a six-figure salary once you’ve paid your dues. All of these six figure income jobs require a bachelor’s or other professional degree, with several requiring additional certification, licensure, or even a graduate degree.

Actuary Salary - $100,408. If you like to put your head down and crunch numbers, this could be the career for you. “You can go as far in the field as your ability and drive will take you,” says Dr. Laurence Shatkin, author of “Your $100,000 Career Plan: Match Your Personality to a Six-Figure Job.” The more certification exams you pass, the higher in the profession you rise, he explains. Actuaries are paid handsomely, with many reaching the six-figure salary threshold after five to eight years in the field; the median annual salary after a decade is $111,000. As an added bonus, the BLS expects job opportunities in the profession -- a majority of which exist in the insurance industry -- to grow by 21 percent this decade.

Marketing Research Analyst Salary - $58,423. Market research is a high-growth field, with job opportunities predicted to increase by 28 percent this decade, the BLS reports. Rather than entering marketing as an administrator or a copywriter, a research analyst who helps companies determine which products consumers want could be better poised for a future in management, Shatkin says. Many marketing managers clear six figures, he adds. And at the vice president level, you’re looking at a median annual salary of $146,000. If you don’t have a business or statistical background, Shatkin says, “you’re going to need some coursework” to pursue this path. According to the BLS, those with a graduate degree in marketing or social science will nab the best opportunities.

Pharmacist Salary - $116,024. “The challenge with pharmacy is you’re often stuck in a retail setting. But you will have lifetime employment,” says Julie Jansen, author of “I Don’t Know What I Want, But I Know It’s Not This: A Step-by-Step Guide to Finding Gratifying Work.” In fact, the BLS predicts that job prospects for pharmacists will increase by 17 percent this decade, thanks to a growing middle-aged and senior population. You also will be well paid; many pharmacists earn well over $100,000 after a decade on the job. To advance in the field, Shatkin says, pharmacists can move into drugstore management (earning $123,867) and sometimes even district or regional management of a chain. As the BLS reports, a Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) degree from an accredited college is required to embark on a pharmacy career, as is passing a series of exams.

Wholesale and Retail Buyer Salary - $52,354. Supply chain management isn’t a career path most college grads consider, let alone know about, Jansen says. But, she adds, more of them should. “Companies are clearly very focused on cost cutting, cost containment, and efficiency,” Jansen explains. “It’s a really good niche to get into.” So good, in fact, that supply chain management directors make $122,000 a year. For those not interested in pursuing an industrial engineering degree, Jansen says, working as a corporate buyer of goods like clothing and electronics is another way to get your foot in the door. According to the BLS, would-be buyers with an undergraduate degree in business or economics will enjoy the best opportunities. Those looking to advance to the managerial ranks will need to earn one or more certifications in the field.

Registered Nurse Salary - $56,763. It’s no secret that nursing remains a sure bet for solid income and job growth. The BLS predicts that this decade will see nearly 600,000 new RN jobs, which it calls “among the largest number of new jobs for any occupation.” Those looking to boost their skills and push their salary to six figures by becoming an advanced practice nurse, like a nurse anesthetist ($141,000), need to obtain a master’s degree. These higher-end nursing jobs offer ample opportunity too, Shatkin says. “There’s an increasing tendency to use nurse practitioners because they’re cheaper than MDs,” he explains.

Electrical Engineer Salary - $72,149. The BLS reports that new engineers are among the highest-earning college grads and that job growth in the field is expected to be steady this decade. But that’s only half the good news: an electrical engineering degree can lead you down many professional avenues, Shatkin says. By acquiring management skills on the job or in a graduate or certificate program -- from budgeting and forecasting to hiring and managing staff -- an electrical engineer might go on to become a vice president of engineering (132,000), a research and development manager ($111,000), or a product development director ($125,000).

Michelle Goodman is a freelance business journalist and author of “The Anti 9-to-5 Guide” and “My So-Called Freelance Life.”

Source: Salary data from leading online salary database PayScale.com. The salaries for the stepping stone jobs listed (in parentheses) are median annual salaries for full-time workers with 5-8 years of experience and include bonuses, commissions, and profit sharing. Salaries for the six-figure jobs described are median annual salaries for full-time workers with 8-13 years of experience and include bonuses, commissions, and profit sharing.


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