Top 7 Commission-Based Sales Jobs

How Commission Pay Can Increase Your Earnings

Working at a commission-based sales job can be a lucrative way to earn a living if you have communication skills, sales skills, and the ability to close a deal.

How does commission pay work? Employers have many different methods for compensating workers, including hourly wages, salary, bonuses, merit pay, cost-of-living increases, and commission. Commission systems for compensation reward employees for selling products directly to consumers or other businesses.

The amount of commission earned is based on achieving sales criteria like meeting goals or exceeding quotas.

Different Types of Commission

Depending on the employer, the commission may be paid on top of base pay or salary, paid as a draw against future commission earnings, or paid as a bonus.

  • Straight Commission is the purest form of commission, where workers receive pay solely based on the sales they generate.
  • Draw Against Future Commission provides workers with income that is deducted from commission once it is earned.
  • Salary Plus Commission systems involve establishing a set salary for sales personnel and then adding commission income based on the sales produced.
  • Salary Plus Bonus arrangements for compensation entail the establishment of a set salary that is supplemented by a lump sum when employees achieve specific sales goals.

    How Commission is Calculated

    There are many different structures that employers use as a basis for calculating commission.

    Gross Sale Commission In its simplest form, commission can be based on gross sales volume. For example, a real estate salesperson sells a house and receives 1.5% of the sales price as a commission.

    Percentage of Profit Commission can be based on a percentage of the profit on an item that exceeds the employer's cost. For example, if a car costs the dealer $20,000, an automobile salesperson might earn 5% of the final sales price over $20,000.

    Variable Commission Variable commission systems involve different rates of commission at various levels of sales or upon reaching specific goals. For example, a salesperson might get 3% commission on the first $100,000 in sales, 5% on sales from $100,000–$200,000, and 7% on all sales exceeding $200,000.

    Territory Sales Commission Territory or group sales commission involves rewarding all salespeople in a team if the group meets or exceeds sales goals in their region.

    Top 7 Commission-Based Jobs

    These are some of the commission-based sales jobs with the highest earnings potential based on information provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

    Advertising sales representatives sell advertising space on online, broadcast, and print media platforms to businesses and individuals. Job responsibilities include contacting potential clients, making sales presentations, and maintaining client accounts.

    Salary: The median annual wage for advertising sales agents was $49,680 in May 2017. The lowest 10% earned less than $24,320, and the highest 10% earned more than $108,700.

    Job Outlook: Employment of advertising sales agents is projected to decline by 4% from 2016 to 2026. However, prospects are much better in the digital market. An increasing amount of advertising is expected to be concentrated in digital media, including online video ads, search engine ads, and other digital ads intended for smartphones or tablet-style computers.

    Energy brokers buy or sell energy products on behalf of residential or commercial customers or utilities. They negotiate and oversee contracts for energy sales to consumers and businesses.

    Salary: The median annual wage for energy brokers was $52,510 in May 2017.

    Job Outlook: Employment of energy brokers is projected to grow by 10–14% from 2016 to 2026, faster than the average for all occupations.

    3. Insurance Sales Agent

    Insurance sales agents contact potential customers and sell one or more types of insurance. Responsibilities include explaining various insurance policies and helping clients choose suitable plans.

    Salary: The median annual wage for insurance sales agents was $49,710 in May 2017. The lowest 10% earned less than $27,180, and the highest 10% earned more than $125,190.

    Job Outlook: Employment of insurance sales agents is projected to grow 10% from 2016 to 2026, faster than the average for all occupations. Employment growth should be even stronger for agents selling health insurance, as this segment of the insurance industry is projected to grow faster than others. Employment of insurance sales agents in direct health and medical insurance carriers is projected to grow 28% from 2016 to 2026.

    4. Real Estate Brokers and Sales Agents

    Real estate brokers and sales agents help clients buy, sell, and rent residential and commercial property. Although brokers and agents do similar work, real estate brokers are licensed to manage their own real estate businesses.

    Salary: The median annual wage for real estate brokers was $56,730 in May 2017. The lowest 10% earned less than $24,160, and the highest 10% earned more than $151,660. The median annual wage for real estate sales agents was $45,990 in May 2017. The lowest 10% earned less than $23,130, while the highest 10% earned more than $109,490.

    Job Outlook: Employment of real estate brokers and sales agents is projected to grow 6% from 2016 to 2026. This is about as fast as the average for all occupations. Job prospects are more favorable during periods of economic expansion and low interest rates.

    Sales engineers sell complex scientific and technological products or services to businesses. They must have extensive knowledge of the products’ parts and functions and must understand the scientific processes that make these products work.

    Salary: Median pay for sales engineers in May 2017 was $98,720, with the top 10% earning at least $162,740, and the bottom 10% earning less than $56,940. The highest average sales were paid in the telecommunications, computer systems design services, and wholesale electronics segments of the market.

    Job Outlook: Employment of sales engineers is projected to grow 7% from 2016 to 2026, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Employment growth is likely to be strong for sales engineers selling computer software and hardware. Strong industry growth is also expected in computer systems design and related services.

    6. Securities, Commodities, and Financial Services Sales Agents

    Securities, commodities, and financial services sales agents connect buyers and sellers in financial markets. They sell securities to individuals, advise companies that are in search of investors, and conduct trades.

    Salary: The median annual wage for securities, commodities, and financial services sales agents was $63,780 in May 2017. The lowest 10% earned less than $33,060, and the highest 10% earned more than $208,000.

    Job Outlook: Employment of securities, commodities, and financial services sales agents is projected to grow 6 percent from 2016 to 2026. This is about as fast as the average for all occupations.

    Wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives sell products to businesses, government agencies, and other organizations. A sales representative contacts customers on behalf of the manufacturer or wholesaler, explains the features of the products they are selling, negotiates prices, and answers any questions that customers have about the goods.

    Salary: The median pay in May 2017 was $60,340, with the top 10% earning at least $120,280, and the bottom 10% earning less than $27,760. In this category, sales representatives selling technical and scientific products earned the highest salaries.

    Job Outlook: Overall employment of wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives is projected to grow 5% from 2016 to 2026. This is about as fast as the average for all occupations.

    What’s Next on a Sales Career Path

    How you can you grow your sales career? The next step on the career path for employees who want to advance from a sales role is typically a sales manager position. The median pay in 2017 for a sales manager was $121,060. Employment for this role is expected to grow 7% between 2016 and 2026.