High-Paying Jobs For Ambitious People

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If you like the idea of a job where the salary fluctuates, you might want to check out these go-getter careers that pay commissions.

By Terence Loose

Do you like the idea of a job that pays you based on your successes? If so, then you might be cut out to work on commission.

A commission - an amount or fee that your employer agrees to pay you for a certain amount of sales - is often in the form of a percentage, says Laura M. Labovich, president of The Career Strategy Group and co-author of "100 Conversations for Career Success: Learn to Network, Cold Call, and Tweet Your Way to Your Dream Job."

And there are some advantages to this pay structure, says Labovich. "Often, people who are paid on commission can make more than those on salary if they're really good and motivated," she says.

But she warns that the wrong personality type will have a rough time with the lack of security created by not receiving a steady paycheck. "The people who do best in commission jobs tend to have a high sense of urgency, but also a low stress threshold. These are aggressive go-getters who are self-motivating and definitely not clock-watchers," says Labovich.

If that type of independence sounds good to you, check out these five careers that could pay you either entirely or partly on commission.

High-Commission Career #1: Personal Financial Advisor

If you like the sound of getting paid a commission to help people plan for their retirement, save for their kids' college tuition, or even just pick some good stocks, the career of personal financial advisor might be a smart choice for your personal financial plan.

Labovich says that personal financial advisor could be a lucrative career for those who are diligent and trustworthy. "Having someone to handle your money and someone you trust with your money? That's a high-value product," she says. Hence, it has the potential to pay well.

In addition, she says, many times people's retirement and other portfolios are worth a great deal, so the commission or fees to manage them are proportionally higher. Of course, the responsibility is higher as well, so be sure you take it seriously.

So what might these responsibilities include? Well, personal financial advisors help individual clients with financial decisions ranging from stocks or bonds, to retirement plans, to insurance, says the U.S. Department of Labor. Many also sell insurance and provide tax advice. Finally, the Department of Labor says these advisors also monitor the investments of their clients.

Commission and Pay Details*: Personal financial advisors get paid through salary, bonuses, fees, or commissions, depending on the company for which they work, or the products they sell, says the Department.
Median Annual Salary: $67,520
Lowest 10 Percent of Earners: $32,280
Highest 10 Percent of Earners: $187,199

Next Step: Click to Find the Right Finance Program.

Education Needed: A bachelor's degree is typically needed for someone pursuing a career as a personal financial advisor, says the Department. And while employers usually don't require a specific major, the Department says a degree in business, finance, accounting, mathematics, or law is good preparation for the field.

High-Commission Career #2: Advertising Sales Agent

Do you love the fast pace of the media world but see yourself schmoozing clients more than tracking down leads? Maybe the advertising side of that world is a better fit for you. Advertising sales agent is a potentially lucrative commission-based career, but it's also fast-paced, says Labovich.

She says that because the product is a high value to businesses - advertising is seen as a way to solidify credibility and attain visibility - advertising agents can make a lot of money in a short time. "Especially if it's in a news outlet that's very reputable, like a Washington Post or New York Times," she says.

But regardless of who you actually work for, you'll want to make sure you're a people person for this position - as you'll be spending a lot of time meeting with current and prospective clients, and explaining how advertising will help promote their products and services, says the U.S. Department of Labor. This could also involve doing research on customers' products and clients, making presentations, and preparing promotional plans and sales literature.

Commission and Pay Details*: A large amount of advertising sales agents' pay can be performance-based, including commissions and bonuses, says the Department of Labor.
Median Annual Salary: $46,290
Lowest 10 Percent of Earners: $22,930
Highest 10 Percent of Earners: $103,170

Next Step: Click to Find the Right Marketing Program.

Education Needed: The Department of Labor says that typically, a high school diploma might be enough for entry-level sales positions, but some employers prefer a college degree. The Department highlights courses such as marketing, communications, business, and advertising and says these could be helpful in preparing for this career.

High-Commission Career #3: Insurance Agent

Don't let all the stereotypes about insurance agents fool you; this is a service that's appreciated by anyone who's ever needed it. That's why it has the potential to garner high commissions.

"Is there anything more important than your life, or your family's well-being?" asks Labovich. She says that whatever the type of insurance - car, home, life, medical - it's rooted in a very important facet of people's lives, and therefore it's a valuable product. So it can produce not only a high commission income, but one that lasts for years if you can build a loyal client list.

And because these agents typically sell one or many different kinds of insurance - according to the U.S. Department of Labor - as an insurance agent, you could have a few products up your sleeve to sell that loyal client list. In fact, some of the types of insurance they could sell include life, health, long-term care, and property and casualty insurance. The Department of Labor says insurance agents meet with clients to discuss their current insurance coverage, and then they analyze it and suggest products.

Commission and Pay Details*: Insurance agents can be paid by commission only, salary only, or any combination, says the Department.
Median Annual Salary: $48,150
Lowest 10 Percent of Earners: $26,120
Highest 10 Percent of Earners: $116,940

Next Step: Click to Find the Right Business Program.

Education Needed: The Department says that although a high school diploma is the typical requirement for these sales agents, more than one third of them have a bachelor's degree. The Department says that often agents have taken classes in finance, business, or economics. Insurance agents must also be licensed by the state where they sell products.

High-Commission Career #4: Real Estate Broker or Sales Agent

Does helping people attain the American dream of homeownership sound like a nice thing to get paid to do? If so, real estate broker or sales agent could be the career for you. And because it deals with such a big ticket item - a house - it can really pay off, says Labovich.

"Home ownership; how important is that? It's tied up into every emotion, your sense of worth, the feeling that you've accomplished something great, the feeling that you've provided for your family, your sense of autonomy - that's why it's a high value item," says Labovich. And high value items mean higher commissions, she says.

But buying or selling a home can be a complicated endeavor - so that's why people often seek the help of real estate brokers or sales agents (the difference between the two being that brokers are licensed to manage their own real estate business), says the U.S. Department of Labor. Brokers and agents help find buyers for sellers and help buyers find the perfect home, says the Department of Labor. Once they do, they make sure that the terms of the purchase contracts are met.

Commission and Pay Details*: Real estate brokers and sales agents get most of their income from commissions, says the Department.
Median Annual Salary for Brokers: $58,350
Lowest 10 Percent of Earners: $25,620
Highest 10 Percent of Earners: $176,950

Median Annual Salary for Sales Agents: $39,140
Lowest 10 Percent of Earners: $20,700
Highest 10 Percent of Earners: $95,540

Next Step: Click to Find the Right Business Administration Program.

Education Needed: According to the Department, real estate brokers and agents need at least a high school diploma and must also be licensed. Licensing requires a certain amount of hours in real estate classes (it varies by state), and passing an exam.

However, as the market becomes more competitive, employers prefer to hire those candidates with a college degree or some college courses, the Department adds. Courses in finance, business administration, economics, and law can also be valuable, says the Department.

High-Commission Career #5: Sales Engineer

If you have a high-tech, scientific brain coupled with an outgoing, dynamic personality, perhaps the career of sales engineer would fit your job specs. It's a career that combines the understanding of high-tech equipment with good salesmanship. It's also a commission job that pays above average.

The reason this career pays well, says Labovich, is likely tied to the fact that the items being sold make your life or business run much more smoothly. "That's a valuable asset to any business," she says.

She adds that the technical nature of the item usually being sold, as well as its likely high price, drives up the commission. However, there is another price for this - the salesman needs to be that much more knowledgeable to justify his or her income.

Why is having the right knowledge so important to this position? Well, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, sales engineers are the people who "sell complex scientific and technological products or services to businesses." And to sell them, they not only need to know the scientific processes that make them work, says the Department of Labor, but they also need to be able to make presentations and explain how their products and services will help their clients.

Commission and Pay Details*: Sales engineers usually get a combination of salary and commission or bonus, says the Department.
Median Annual Salary: $91,830
Lowest 10 Percent of Earners: $55,660
Highest 10 Percent of Earners: $150,970

Next Step: Click to Find the Right Engineering Program.

Education Needed: Typically, the Department says that sales engineers are required to have a bachelor's degree in engineering or a related field. Some sales engineers have a degree in areas such as science or business and little or no experience in sales. Also, some may have no degree but have previous sales experience coupled with technical experience or training.

* All salary information from the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Employment and Wages data, May 2012. Commission and pay details are from the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012­-2013 edition.

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