Careers with Significant Earning Potential

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Find out which careers have the potential to lead to big bucks.

By Chris Kyle   

Want the opportunity to earn $100,000? You might be surprised at what careers have the potential to reach that number...

According to a 2011 Newport Beach budget report, more than half of the full-time lifeguards in Newport Beach, California make more than $100,000.

While the idea of making six figures fascinates many, it's important to keep in mind that most careers like this take time to build.

"It's great if you want to make $100,000 as an entry-level graphic designer but it's not going to happen," says Al Lee, director of quantitative analysis for PayScale, a database of compensation data.

However, putting in the time could pay off eventually. Art directors, for example, who often start as entry-level graphic designers, made $94,100 on average in 2010, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

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To provide some insight on industries where the potential to earn is significant, we put together a list of careers where the top ten percent of earners average at $100K. Keep reading to learn more.

#1 - Business

Business may not exactly be booming these days but hiring is trending in the right direction, according to a June 2011 survey from the Business Roundtable, an association of CEOs from leading U.S. companies. In its quarterly survey of top CEOs, the association found that most large companies plan to increase hiring and capital spending over the next six months. Nearly nine in 10 believe sales will rise.

Here are two business careers on the upswing:

  • Management Analyst
    Potential Earnings: $138,790*

    Management analysts, who are sometimes called management consultants, help companies increase profits as well as the overall efficiency of their operations.

    Outlook: Employment of management analysts is expected to grow 24 percent through 2018, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

    Education: A bachelor's degree in an area like business administration or finance could help you pursue an entry-level analyst position, according to the Department of Labor. More senior positions often go to analysts with extensive work experience as well as an MBA.

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  • Financial Analyst
    Potential Earnings: $141,700*

    Financial analysts help companies and sometimes even individuals make smart investment decisions by outlining the risk and reward of various short-term and long-term strategies.

    Outlook: Employment of financial analysts is expected to grow by 20 percent through 2018, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

    Education: A bachelor's degree in an area like finance, accounting, statistics, economics, or business administration is often required by most companies, according to the Department of Labor. A graduate degree, like a MBA that specializes in finance could also help you pursue this career. Depending upon your line of work, you might need to obtain a license as well and periodically renew it.

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#2 - Information Technology

The job market is specialized these days and the IT industry reflects that, says Coy Renick, president of The Renick Group, a staffing firm in Roanoke, Virginia. Renick says that getting certified in a specific area can sometimes help you get hired since many IT positions require a certain kind of technical expertise. Certifications can cover a general area like database technology or a specific product and company like Cisco.

Here are two IT careers that offer the potential to reach significant earnings:

  • Database Administrator
    Potential Earnings: $115,660*

    Database administrators are computer specialists who help store, organize, and manage information for every industry imaginable, though most positions are in the IT sector.

    Outlook: Employment of database administrators is expected to grow by 20 percent through 2018, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

    Education: Most employers seek workers who have a degree in computer science or a related field, according to the Department of Labor. Extensive work experience is required for senior positions.

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  • Computer Systems Analyst
    Potential Earnings: $119,070*

    Systems analysts help organize the way businesses network and use their computers and other IT tools.

    Outlook: Employment of computer systems analysts is expected to grow by 20 percent through 2018, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

    Education: Many computer systems analysts received a bachelor's degree in computer science, information science, or management information systems, according to the Department of Labor.

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#3 - Health Care

Health care is a rare bright spot in today's largely stagnant economy, according to PayScale's Lee. With Americans living longer and healthier lives, he says many well-paying health care positions can be found.

Check out these two rewarding health care careers:

  • Medical Services Manager
    Potential Earnings: $144,880*

    Medical services managers often help oversee the finance, sales, and project management of the health care industry.

    Outlook: Employment opportunities for medical services managers will grow 16 percent through 2018, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

    Education: In addition to a bachelor's degree in an area like health care administration or business administration, many medical managers have an MBA that specializes in health services, according to the Department of Labor. Other medical services managers may specialize in a specific field not unique to health care, like finance or human resources.

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  • Physician Assistant
    Potential Earnings: $117,720*

    Physician assistants provide medical care (like physicals, for example) under the supervision of doctors.

    Outlook: Employment opportunities for physician assistants will surge 39 percent through 2018, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

    Education: To get admitted into a physician assistant program, most applicants need a college degree and some health-related work experience, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. To obtain a license, you will need to complete an accredited program, which usually takes two years, and pass a national exam.**

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*All potential earnings info comes from the U.S. Department of Labor and reflects average income for the top 10 percentile of that occupation.
**Program time to completion reflects averages and will vary by the student, level of commitment, and other factors.

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