Surprising Careers with High Average Pay

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Think you have to go to law or medical school to find a job with high average pay? Think again.

By Jennifer Berry    
Last updated on 8/11/2014

When you picture people with high average pay, who comes to mind? Doctors? Lawyers? It's true that these careers are known for bringing in the big bucks, but they aren't the only ones with potential to pay well.

Rich Feller, a counseling and career development professor at Colorado State University, identifies a few factors of these high-paying careers. "As a rule of thumb, more risk, being around people of high stature or stardom, or having specialized skills in large cities means you will find higher pay."

So which careers have high average pay? Keep reading to find out - and get ready, because some of these jobs might surprise you.

Career #1 - Loan Officer
Average annual salary: $71,800*

You probably know loan officers handle the mountain of paperwork that comes along when people want to buy a house, car, or college education - but did you know that some loan officers could potentially earn an impressive salary to do it?

As a loan officer, you may evaluate loan applications and decide whether to recommend approval for individual or business loans, notes the U.S. Department of Labor.

Loan officers in New York have the highest average salary at $100,110 - which is over $10,000 higher than the next highest-paying state on the list (Rhode Island, whose average salary is $89,300.)*

Why the big bucks? Being a loan officer involves a lot more than just filling out some paperwork. Loan officers deal with money and risk which - as Feller states - generally leads to better pay.

How do I prepare for this career? According to the Department of Labor, you'll usually need a bachelor's degree in finance, business, or a related field. You may receive on-the-job training, as well. It is important that you understand business accounting, and know how to read financial statements in order to decide which loans to approve. A Mortgage Loan Originator (MLO) license is needed to pursue a career as a mortgage loan officer.


Career #2 - Elevator Installer and Repairer
Average annual salary: $76,220*

Related Degrees:**

  • High school diploma or equivalent

When someone says "repairer," do you immediately think of a high salary? Probably not. Surprisingly though, elevator installers and repairers could bring home an average salary of $76K.

As an elevator installer and repairer, you might assemble, install, or replace equipment like elevators, escalators, or moving walkways, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Once it's in place, you might maintain and repair this equipment, or even modernize older equipment to bring it up to current standards.

Do you fancy some island living? Hawaii pays the highest average salary for elevator installers and repairers at $95,580.*

Why the big bucks? "An elevator mechanic is a skilled craftsperson working mostly in cities with high-rise buildings, so wages are naturally higher," says Feller. "There are few places to learn this skill, so finding the network that helps you get the instruction you'll need is limited - thus the higher pay."

How do I prepare for this career? Most elevator installers receive their education through an apprenticeship program that usually lasts at least five years and combines paid on-the-job training with technical instruction, notes the Department of Labor.


Career #3 - Human Resources Manager
Average annual salary: $111,180*

If you think human resources managers simply hire and fire people, you might be surprised to learn about the other important roles they play in today's companies - and the potentially high salary that some can earn for doing it.

HR managers today might consult with top executives about changing policies to enhance worker value. They may also coordinate the work of specialists and oversee the hiring processes, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. As an HR manager, you might also handle employee benefits, mediate disputes, and provide training and development opportunities for workers to improve their skills.

New Jersey has the highest average salary for HR managers at $138,210.*

Why the big bucks? "HR managers in larger companies overseeing large numbers of staff often have higher education and experience requirements," says Feller. "They will naturally get paid more than they would within smaller companies where an HR manager might have started as an entry-level generalist."

How do I prepare for this career? According to the Department of Labor, a bachelor's degree in human resources or business administration is needed, along with several years of related work experience. Candidates may also earn a bachelor's degree in another field and take courses in human resources subjects.


Career #4 - Buyer and Purchasing Agent, Farm Products
Average annual salary: $63,420*

Related Degrees:

Did you know that some people could earn a high annual salary by spending money for a living? If that sounds interesting, you might want to consider a career as a purchasing agent for farm products.

As a purchasing agent for farm products, you'll probably work to get the best deal for your company - the highest quality goods and services at the lowest possible cost, says the U.S. Department of Labor. You may study sales records and inventories of current stock, follow the supply and demand of agricultural products, and identify both foreign and domestic suppliers.

The highest average salary is Massachusetts at $81,270.*

Why the big bucks? "Buyers and purchasing agents of farm products are dealing with large companies," Feller says. "They make large money decisions involving greater risk and pay."

How do I prepare for this career? According to the Department of Labor, education requirements vary by the size of organization and product, according to the Department of Labor. While a high school diploma might be enough for entry into this occupation, large stores and distributors may prefer applicants with a bachelor's degree. Many manufacturing firms might prefer applicants with a bachelor's or master's degree in business, engineering, economics, or one of the applied sciences.


Career #5 - Gaming Manager
Average annual salary: $73,760*

Related Degrees:**

Are you intrigued by the multibillion-dollar world of gaming? You might be surprised to learn that the managers roaming the casino floor don't have to gamble to walk away with a tidy sum of money.

As a gaming manager, you might circulate among tables to make sure gamblers play by the rules of the games - or explain the rules to patrons who aren't familiar with them, the U.S. Department of Labor notes. Your daily responsibilities may also include scheduling station assignments for dealers, or interviewing, training, and evaluating new hires.

Not surprisingly, Nevada, home of the glitzy Las Vegas, pays the highest average state salary to casino managers at $95,170.*

Why the big bucks? "Most jobs dealing with money that involve risk will lead to better pay," says Feller. And what's a casino all about? Money and risk, which means a career as a casino manager certainly fits into this category.

How do I prepare for this career? According to the Department of Labor, education requirements vary by casino. While some casinos may require their managers to have a high school diploma, others may require a college degree. Those who pursue a degree could study hospitality, accounting, or hotel management and take formal management classes.

As you can tell, high-paying careers usually require some type of education. But if you already have a job and other personal responsibilities on your plate, going back to school may seem impossible.

If this sounds familiar, you may want to consider pursuing an online degree. In fact, there are online degree programs out there that could help you prepare to pursue careers with a median annual salary of $70,000 or more. Just keep in mind that online degrees might not work for everyone.


* All salary information comes from the U.S. Department of Labor, May 2013 Occupational Employment and Wages data.

**All related degrees listed from the 2014-2015 U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook. The Department of Labor cites the associated degrees as common, required, preferred, or one of a number of degrees acceptable as preparation for the career referenced. In some instances, candidates might require further schooling, professional certifications, or experience, before being qualified to pursue the career.



Chloe West also contributed to this article by updating the information on 8/4/2014


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