How to make 100k a year
September 12, 2005 12:28 PM   Subscribe

What occupations have the potential to make over 100k+ a year? There seems to be a lot of high income earners all over the world, and I am sure they're not all doctors, lawyers, professional athletes, and famous entertainers. Based on the occupations of people I do know who make this kind of money, the Occupational Outlook Handbook seems demographically inaccurate. Can you potentially make 100k as a hot dog vendor, an eBay seller, or a trapeze artist. Once I get a list, I am going to change careers......
posted by jasondigitized to Work & Money (46 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
First I must caution you against choosing a career based solely on income potential. That said, you can make a lot of money as, for instance, an eBay seller if you're willing to spend a lot of time doing it. Many careers have incomes tied directly to amount of hours expended either through salary or commission. It comes down to a decision as to how much your free time is worth to you.
posted by tommasz at 12:33 PM on September 12, 2005

A UAW autoworker working 60 hours per week would make $100K. (Plus great benefits, no copays, pension, retiree health care, etc., etc.)
posted by pardonyou? at 12:34 PM on September 12, 2005

I'd say almost any profession offers you the ability to make lots of money because within every profession there is a hierarchy. So, do you mean - entry-level? After 10 years? Managerial?

For example, auto mechanics dont necessarily make lots of money but I know one guy who runs his own repair shop and makes over $300k. Likewise, in fields like Sales (say software sales) there are people in the very same job who make anywhere from $60k to $500k - Some are just better at it than others.
posted by vacapinta at 12:36 PM on September 12, 2005

Any industry, just be the leader of it. Be the most in-demand hot dog vendor in your city. Sell the most high-priced items on ebay. Become the most well-known trapeze artist around. Whatever career you chose, for the most part dedication = $$.

Looking for shortcuts to wealth usually backfires, imho.
posted by menace303 at 12:36 PM on September 12, 2005

eBay Seller - I have a cousin that buys shoes at discount stores then sells them online. She makes about $15,000 a month doing this. The downside is that her entire house is filled with shoes and shipping boxes.
posted by puke & cry at 12:36 PM on September 12, 2005

I'm sure you can make over $100K per year selling crap on eBay, but only if you really have an eye for top dollar items.

Senior software engineers and Senior systems administrators can regularly make over $100K a year, particularly in urban areas with higher costs of living. Strippers and escorts can make well over $100K. Professional dominatrixes, too.

The CEO of the American Red Cross pulls in $450K a year in salary, and the other senior managers of that organization make between $150K and $300K per year.
posted by cmonkey at 12:40 PM on September 12, 2005

It's interesting that most doctors, lawyers, professional athletes and entertainers in North America also don't make 100K per year.

In any case, there really are few occupations outside the service sector that don't pay the top of their fields 100K or more. Yes, you could make 100K as a hotdog vendor; I know a guy who retired from the gig after five years. He worked 16-hour days every day, had his wife relieve him a couple of times a day for pee breaks, and then funneled the money into more carts which he hired kids to run.

But if you want to maximize the odds of getting a 100K job, get an MBA and go into IT management. IMHO.
posted by solid-one-love at 12:45 PM on September 12, 2005

Are you looking at the Occupational Outlook Handbook numbers for mean and median wages? Because those will average in entry-level positions, and won't tell you the maximum potential earnings. This page has links to data including percentile wage estimates, which will give you a better idea of where various occupations max out at.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:46 PM on September 12, 2005

Drive a truck in Iraq. Some contractors earn upwards of 35,000 a month.

Of course, how one sleeps at night is up to one's self.
posted by SweetJesus at 12:46 PM on September 12, 2005

The trick is to run your own business. This way you are not tied down to anyone's assignment of salary, you simply get to keep whatever money is left after you've paid the bills.

The downside is there is way more work.
posted by sdrawkcab at 12:49 PM on September 12, 2005

The less boss you have... the more money you can make... and the more enjoyment you can get from making it.
posted by fire&wings at 12:49 PM on September 12, 2005

Echoing what tommasz said- many jobs that pay six-figure salaries also demand a lot of your time. So you could look at it as having one $100,000/year job, or two $50,000/year jobs. Seriously.

If you are looking to change careers, find something that you are passionate about, and if you love it and are great at it, it might just wind up being highly remunerative. And for god's sake, do not go to law school just to make a lot of money. Real money isn't in the professions- it's in business.
posted by ambrosia at 12:52 PM on September 12, 2005

...and the more money you owe when it all goes south.
posted by Mars Saxman at 12:55 PM on September 12, 2005

They demand a lot of your time and also may be physically taxing. That is often cited in why men make more money than women, that there are more men in physically taxing professions. I feel like rendering would pay a lot because it's the worse job on earth.
posted by scazza at 12:59 PM on September 12, 2005

The big downside of running your own business is that healthcare can bite you in the ass big-time. There's no "group coverage" in the US for self-employed people, and the insurance offered by the National Association for the Self Employed is so weak you might as well be on your own anyway. Quite a few self-employeds make too much to get state assistance, but too little to cover surgery bills.
posted by rolypolyman at 1:09 PM on September 12, 2005

Anything beyond entry level for banking or finance industries (assuming you have a non-administrative job) should net you easily 100,000.
posted by geoff. at 1:09 PM on September 12, 2005

... and I should add with the new draconian bankruptcy laws it can be more risky than ever to go it alone. Maybe that's a good reason to go the LLC route.
posted by rolypolyman at 1:13 PM on September 12, 2005

Actuarial work. Whether you want to spend the rest of your life calculating statistical likelyhood of cancer deaths in a given population for insurance work though is debatable.

I am an accountant we make shitloads of money allegedly. But you work your arse for it.
posted by ClanvidHorse at 1:58 PM on September 12, 2005

I believe all sorts of somewhat higher-up positions in Industry, as in factories, power plants, etc. will pay you that much.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 2:10 PM on September 12, 2005

The big downside of running your own business is that healthcare can bite you in the ass big-time.

I'll tell you right now it is a NIGHTMARE. Make sure you have your insurance ducks in a row before attempting to start a business.
posted by sonofsamiam at 2:12 PM on September 12, 2005

$100k per annum is really just $50/hr at 40 hours a week and 50 weeks a year, if you think about it. Lots of jobs pay that. Learn to give massages. Become a chef. I'm sure accountants can make that much. Programmers can make 50/hr pretty easily. I would focus on the $50/hr number more than the $100k number.

Also, try not spending so much money. An extra dollar you earn is really an extra 65-80 cents after tax, depending on income tax bracket and state taxation levels. A dollar you don't spend is completely yours. Save more money and invest it.
posted by evariste at 2:14 PM on September 12, 2005

I know several people who make over $100k/year: doctors, lawyers, programmers. They all hate their jobs. They all envy me. I make $42k/year, but I only work 35 hours a week; I don't take my job home with me; I have incredible flexibility regarding hours, wardrobe, etc.; I get to work out in the country; I'm no accountable to anyone else.

I have a close friend who is a doctor. She's been in school for a hell of a long time (she's 31), is brilliant, and is only just now getting a job. She has massive debt. She's going to make upward of $250k/year, I bet, but she's worried about the debts she has to pay off.

I have a closer friend who is a lawyer. He owns his own firm. He makes over $100k/year, but has less disposable income than I do. Why? Because I have less debt. I don't have school loans to repay. I don't need to maintain an expensive storefront (remember: my business is out in the country). What's more, my lawyer friend works insane hours. Counting travel time, he works from 5am to 7pm five days a week. He often works weekends. Sure he makes a lot of money, but who cares?

I have another close friend who is an accountant, and makes $100+k/year. He's in better shape than the above two because he's paid off all his debts. Still, he works insane hours, especially during tax season.

I could be programming for big bucks right now. I tried it for a year. I hated it. Hated hated hated it. Money is not the only thing. Nor is it the main thing. Happiness is more important.
posted by jdroth at 2:14 PM on September 12, 2005

On the other hand, reading over your past questions, I'd guess you probably already make $100k/year programming and are just looking for another job that will allow you to maintain your lifestyle. You're probably already aware of the risks/rewards involved, so never mind my previous response!
posted by jdroth at 2:19 PM on September 12, 2005

Be careful of the people who tell you that all rich people work insane hours and are miserable and the ones with regular jobs have it made. Everyone has justified their own choice and that will paint their opinions with bias. It all depends on you. Do something you like. You don't have to be passionate about it, not everyone finds that at work, just make sure it's something you can stomach. Every career has $100k+ potential. But if you hate it, you won't make it to the top unless you're a masocihst.
posted by Idiot Mittens at 2:22 PM on September 12, 2005

I'm not positive, but I think that nurse managers can make close to that (in the SF Bay Area at least). The hours would be regular and your chances of getting a job are high as there is a bit of a supply and demand problem right now. But you have to work hard getting the experience to qualify you for the position. It's not something that happens quickly.
posted by quadog at 2:38 PM on September 12, 2005

I am with JDROTH on this one. Quality of life is a huge thing. Your personal time away from work when you do the things you enjoy is very valuable. Income to debt ratio is a very good thing to keep in mind too.
I have a few friends who went through medical school and are now enslaved by their loan repayment plans.
Do what makes you happy if you can. AND PRAY FOR LOTTO!!!
posted by a3matrix at 2:40 PM on September 12, 2005

Be careful of the people who tell you that all rich people work insane hours and are miserable and the ones with regular jobs have it made.

What I'm trying to say is this: not everyone who makes $100k/year is rich. Not everyone who makes $30k/year is poor. There's more to the equation than income. Idiot Mitten's core advice — "do something you like" — is spot-on, though.
posted by jdroth at 2:49 PM on September 12, 2005

Oh yea, you could outsource your job.
posted by scazza at 2:57 PM on September 12, 2005

Be wary of $100k in salary vs. $100k being self employed (or eBay selling). The obvious factors, stated above, are health care, as well as benefits such as employer paid social security (they pay half) and 401k benefits. Also, if you have an employer, they are responsible for making payroll, not you.

I have heard from friends in sales that if you can't make $100k doing it, then you're not cut out for a sales job.
posted by jonah at 3:24 PM on September 12, 2005

Sales. If you are good at selling and willing to work hard, you can make excellent money. Doesn't require a specific degree. May require that you sell your soul, depends on the company.
posted by theora55 at 3:24 PM on September 12, 2005

Evariste -- most contract work requires additional unbillable time for administration and account management. This means those people are making less than $50 an hour.
posted by acoutu at 3:48 PM on September 12, 2005

University professors, at least ones in highly competitive fields (law business, medical, and engineering in particular). Of course, for just about all of them, they could make far more money outside of teaching. Of course, they have to spend some time writing grant proposals, doing administrative work, and teaching, but most of the time they get to do what they love, which is research.
posted by gyc at 3:53 PM on September 12, 2005

The average, full-time real estate agent makes much less than $100k (Depending on location), but if you're good, you can easily make way more than that your first year in the business.
posted by growabrain at 4:28 PM on September 12, 2005

Go to your local library and check out "The Millionaire Next Door". Most true millionaires (who are actually wealthy [high net worth], not just rich [large income]) are NOT doctors, lawyer, and such. Most are small business owners and other people who make a lot of cash in the private sector without having to invest a lot in overhead or "prestige" purchases (e.g., all real estate agents HAVE to have a sweet looking car in order to do their job).

So - Income is only half of the equation. My Dad made 250K a year, or more, but was cash poor his whole life because his bills exceeded his income.
posted by crapples at 4:46 PM on September 12, 2005

JDROTH: You beat me to the explanatory punch. I am currently living in Bermuda, 100k+ tax exempt, doing IT analyst / programmer work. But at this point in my life, I ready to move on and do something new.

I subscribe to most everyone's philosophy here, including finding a healthy work balance, doing what you love, and "money does not buy happiness". But in the immortal words of Frank Sinatra, "I've been rich, and I been poor, and rich is better!".

I really like my current compensation. It affords me the ability to travel, have a nice place, have some nice things, show generosity to others, and buy that $35.00 steak when the mood should strike me.

I have always been told that if I ever wanted to make money, I should either be an entrepreneur or get into sales. I guess I was just wondering if I could possibly make $60/hr., working 35 hours a week, training trapeze artists to sell hotdogs on Ebay.
posted by jasondigitized at 6:31 PM on September 12, 2005

I've heard people say that 60% of their budget for employees is fringe benefits, so I'd be wary of anything without benefits. Of course, that also depends on you. For some people, having the best health insurance is more important than making a good wage, for others, it's fairly irrelevant.

But really -- it depends on where you're at in your profession. Presumably if you're looking to change career paths you're looking at something where you can make a lot in the entry-level, but I will say that even though librarians, for example, are horribly underpaid given their education, the position of Librarian of Michigan recently opened up and it was close to $100k/year.
posted by dagnyscott at 7:47 PM on September 12, 2005

Sorry this is less applicable to your question about making $100K right off, but I found this site really inspirational: "So, what do you want to do with your life?" Interviews with entrepreneurs about what to do in/after college
posted by fourstar at 8:38 PM on September 12, 2005

Cocktail waitress. Or any server at a fancy restaurant. Once you get the best shifts (which takes a few years to build seniority), making $50/hr is possible at the right restaurant.

Pros: flexible hours, relatively little training required.

Cons: most lucrative hours are at times you would rather be doing something else, dealing with people, physically and emotionally taxing.
posted by mai at 9:12 PM on September 12, 2005

Okay, so you already have it 'made', and you want to find something else to do, preferably something fun. That makes it a bit of a challenge. I was thinking you were someone entering collage trying to figure out what to do with your life.

I was going to agree with ClanvidHorse, Actuarial work pays mad bouku dolars and you don't even really need to look for work. Pass the test, and you've got the job. If you've got a good faculty for math without a graphing calculator like a ti-89 then you can get a job for sure. But I don't think that would be more fun then being a programmer in Bermuda.

How much money do you have saved up? You could start speculating in the real-estate market. Buy houses, fix 'em up and sell 'em. It could be fun, I guess.

You could always become a rap star. Those guys seem to have a lot of fun.

Really though, for you the best thing might be to start a business. It would provide some excitement while you work your way up. Think of something you like doing and then do it.

By the way, $100k tax free in Bermuda would be more like $200k salary in the US.
posted by delmoi at 9:16 PM on September 12, 2005

i thought employers paid 15% for social security, not 50%.
posted by centrs at 10:44 PM on September 12, 2005

For social security, the total combined tax rate is 12.4 percent. You, as the employer, pay 6.2 percent, and you withhold 6.2 percent of wages from your employee's paycheck for a total of 12.4 percent. You do this for wages up to $87,000 in 2003, up to $87,900 in 2004, and up to $90,000 in 2005. To learn more about social security tax and benefits, visit Social Security Online.
posted by jonah at 11:04 PM on September 12, 2005

That is to say, if you are self employed, you get to pay the full 12.4 percent
posted by jonah at 11:08 PM on September 12, 2005

Yeah, I know this is going to sound idiotic, but it works.

Deal. In the drugs.

Undesirable lifestyle? Check. Easy to do? Check. Money to be made? Check. Unromantic danger? Check.

Keep your job. Use others for distribution. Start small. Use middle men as much as possible. Keep an eye on the market.

Like starting real self employment, without the red tape or taxes. If you do it with some modicum of intelligence...

Just saying.

Course, you just pay taxes to different sources.
posted by converge at 2:10 AM on September 13, 2005

network or security person in IT sector. of course it may take you ten years before you hit the 100k mark. depends on how much experience you can pick up, how much time you dedicate to learning both at and outside work, how much training you can get, and how ruthless you are in demanding more money

remember also that 100k is worth more or less, depending on your locale's cost of living
posted by poppo at 7:41 AM on September 13, 2005

I was going to agree with ClanvidHorse, Actuarial work pays mad bouku dolars and you don't even really need to look for work. Pass the test, and you've got the job.

It's not pass the test, it's pass the 8 or 9 tests (depending on which actuarial society path you pursue) The first 4 tests are half-day tests, after that they turn into all-day essay-fests. About essoteric insurance concepts. I'm pretty sure actuaries are the only people out there who are actually jealous of the bar exam. Add to that that each exam requires anywhere from 300-500 hours of study time, and you do most of that outside of work hours while holding down a full-time job.

Going by the DW Simpson actuarial salary survey (this the one we all go by, so I'm assuming it's pretty correct) you need either a bunch of exams or 10-15 years of experience to make it to six figures. Either way, getting to a point where you're making "bouku dolars" is a multi-year investment.

I don't mean to scare people away from the profession, I really love what I do, but there's a lot more to it than just passing a test and cashing in your paycheck.
posted by antimony at 7:10 PM on September 14, 2005


thank you.
posted by fishfucker at 4:25 PM on September 28, 2005 [1 favorite]

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