The Best Six Figure Jobs (and How to Get Them)

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Want to earn a six-figure salary? Choose your next career path carefully, and get ready to make a serious investment in education. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook, only 55 out of 818 listed occupations offer median salaries of $100,000 per year or more—and 53 of them typically require at least a bachelor’s degree.

The exceptions—Air Traffic Controller and Commercial Pilot—are both projected to grow slower than the average for all occupations over the next decade. So, if you’re looking for a job that pays extremely well and offers some security in the years to come, you’ll need to continue your education beyond high school.

A few other things stand out: high-paying occupations tend to concentrate in industries that value technical expertise and training, such as healthcare and computer/IT. Beyond that, being a manager pays off—13 of the 55 top-paying occupations had the word “manager” in their title.

Of course, a six-figure salary isn’t much use if you can’t get a job. To create our list of the very best six-figure jobs, we selected only occupations with a much-faster-than-average projected growth rate. These are some of the jobs that are most likely to net you a high salary and good job opportunities.

Top 10 Six-Figure Jobs

1. Actuary

Actuaries use mathematics and statistics to assess risk and minimize cost, typically for insurance companies. While this might sound like a dry occupation, actuaries are known for being extremely satisfied with their jobs.

Median Salary: $100,610 per year

Occupational Outlook 2016-2026: 22 percent projected growth; 5,300 jobs added

Current No. of Jobs: 23,600

How to Get This Job: Actuaries must have a bachelor’s degree in a concentration like mathematics, actuarial science, or statistics. In addition, they may want to take coursework in programming languages, databases, and writing. Actuaries are certified by two professional societies: Casualty Actuarial Society, which certifies professionals who work in property and casualty, and The Society of Actuaries, which certifies professionals who work in life and health insurance, as well as retirement and finance.

2. Anesthesiologist

These specialists administer local and general anesthesia during medical procedures, as well as monitoring patient vital signs.

Median Salary: $276,751 per year

Occupational Outlook 2016-2026:* 15 percen projected growth; 106,500 jobs added

Current No. of Jobs: 713,800

How to Get This Job: The American Society of Anesthesiologists recommends beginning preparations for your career as early as high school, by taking advanced classes in biology and chemistry and volunteering in hospital settings. Anesthesiologists must complete four years of college, four years of medical school, one year of internship, and three to four years of residency. Many opt for an additional fellowship year to train in a subspecialty like pain management, cardiac anesthesiology, or critical care medicine.

3. Computer and Information Research Scientist

These scientists solve complex problems using computer software. They create and refine tools and methods, as well as overseeing research projects in fields like medicine and business. Specialties in this field include data science and robotics.

Median Salary: $111,840 per year

Occupational Outlook 2016-2026: 19 percent projected growth; 5,400 jobs added

Current No. of Jobs: 27,900

How to Get This Job: Most private-sector employers want candidates to have a master’s degree; in the public sector, a bachelor’s in computer science is sometimes sufficient.

4. Dentist

Dentists help their patients keep their smiles looking great, as well as preventing and addressing serious health problems related to teeth and gums.

Median Salary: $159,770 per year

Occupational Outlook 2016-2026: 17 percent projected growth; 26,400 jobs added

Current No. of Jobs: 153,500

How to Get This Job: Dentists must have a bachelor’s degree and attend an accredited dental school, as well as passing the required exams for licensure in their state. 

5. Financial Manager

Financial managers work for a variety of organizations, including banks and insurance companies. Their primary role is to develop strategies to ensure the long-term financial health of their employer.

Median Salary: $121,750 per year

Occupational Outlook 2016-2026: 19 percent projected growth; 108,400 jobs added

Current No. of Jobs: 580,400

How to Get This Job: A bachelor’s degree in finance, accounting, or a related subject is generally required; some employers give preference to candidates with an MBA.

6. Internist, General

What’s the difference between internists and family practice physicians? “We're all primary care physicians, but the biggest difference is internal medicine doctors are like adult pediatricians,” said Saju Mathew, M.D., a primary care physician at Piedmont Physicians Group, on the group’s website.

Median Salary: $182,370 per year

Occupational Outlook 2016-2026:* 15 percent projected growth; 106,500 jobs added

Current No. of Jobs: 713,800

How to Get This Job: Doctors must have bachelor’s degrees and graduate from medical school. They then embark on three to seven years of internship and residency.

7. Advanced Practice Registered Nurse

Nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners are known as advanced practice registered nurses. Respectively, they administer anesthesia, provide gynecological care and deliver babies, and perform many of the same functions as a primary care doctor (with or without physician supervision, depending on their state.

Median Salary: $107,460 per year

Occupational Outlook 2016-2026: 31 percent projected growth; 64,000 jobs added

Current No. of Jobs: 203,800

8. Obstetrician/Gynecologist

Gynecologists provide counseling and treatment for their female patients’ reproductive health. Obstetricians care for women before and during pregnancy, and deliver babies.

Median Salary: $230,186 per year

Occupational Outlook 2016-2026:* 15 percent projected growth; 106,500 jobs added

Current No. of Jobs: 713,800

How to Get This Job: OBs and gynecologists must attain a bachelor’s degree, graduate from medical school, and participate in at least four years of internship and residency, as well as being licensed in their specialty.

9. Petroleum Engineer

Petroleum engineers typically work for oil companies, designing and perfecting methods of extracting oil and gas from the earth.

Median Salary: $128,230 per year

Occupational Outlook 2016-2026: 15 percent projected growth; 4,900 jobs added

Current No. of Jobs: 33,700

How to Get This Job: Petroleum engineers typically have a bachelor’s degree in petroleum, mechanical, civil, or chemical engineering. Some students may opt for five-year programs leading to directly to a master’s degree.

10. Software Developer, Applications

App developers create, perfect and debug web-based software applications.

Median Salary: $102,280 per year

Occupational Outlook 2016-2026: 24 percent projected growth; 299,500 jobs added

Current No. of Jobs: 1,256,200

How to Get This Job: Software developers typically have a bachelor’s degree in computer science – although some employers will give a chance to a skilled candidate without a degree. 

Don’t Want to Go to School Forever? Develop Sought-After Skills

If you’re looking at the educational requirements for these jobs and despairing – don’t. While it’s true that the clearest path to a high-paying job may be to acquire advanced education, it’s not the only possible route to take.

Employers pay top dollar for candidates with in-demand skills. The harder those skills are to find, the more likely an employer will be to overlook the lack of formal schooling. This is especially true in tech jobs, where what you can do is more important than owning a piece of paper stating that you can do it.

Web developers, software engineers, and systems administrators, among other occupations, may find high-paying opportunities that pay top dollar. With experience, some of these jobs can approach or surpass six figures.

To get started, you have to upskill yourself. Coding academies and bootcamps can provide a grounding in the required concepts—or you can save yourself the tuition and teach yourself, using free online courses.

* Physicians and surgeons are grouped together in the Occupational Outlook Handbook. Statistics are for the occupational group as a whole.