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High-Paying Occupations with a Few Superstars

My most recent book, Your Guide to High-Paying Careers, is my first for my new publisher, Meyer & Meyer. Here is a brief excerpt, giving you a peek at some occupations where the sky is the earnings limit--for a few outstanding workers.

Have you ever fantasized about winning the lottery jackpot? Some occupations have a few jackpot positions that pay extremely well. You’re certainly familiar with movie stars who earn the millions that most struggling actors can only dream about. The radio plays songs by musical superstars who bring home more than the combined earnings of 100 bar bands.

Among the occupations included in this book, some offer extremely high earning opportunities for a relatively small subset of workers. You can’t tell which occupations these are by looking at the median wage figure or even at the range of the middle 50 percent of earners. But I have a way of identifying these occupations for you.

Imagine this situation: Five friends are sitting around a restaurant table having lunch. They all earn roughly the same amount:


For the group, the median earnings figure is $52,000 (half earn more, half earn less). If you calculate the mean earnings (add them all up and divide by 5), you’ll get the same figure, $52,000. But let’s say Mike gets a phone call telling him that he was just promoted to vice president and is now earning $150,000. Note that the median for the group has not changed, but the mean has jumped to $71,200. Because there is now one superstar earner in the group, the mean is now 37 percent higher than the median.

For the 173 occupations in the book, I calculated the difference between the median earnings and the mean earnings. (The BLS reports both figures.) The following list includes those occupations in which the mean is at least 15 percent higher than the median. They are ordered by how much the mean exceeds the median. For each occupation, I list both earnings figures.

What might cause you to be among the highest of the high-paid workers? Here are some possible reasons:

  • You have an outstanding talent. Maybe you were born with some ability that few other people have.
  • Through hard work or study, you have developed outstanding skills. Whether these are physical or mental skills, they can put you ahead of the pack.
  • You use mass media to reach a very large paying audience. Think about how much more a TV chef can earn compared to a one-restaurant chef.
  • You find a specialization or a geographic location that causes you to be in high demand but have no competition. This advantage may be only temporary, but you may be able to command high earnings as long as you are the go-to person for your narrow field or community.
  • You go into management.

Whether you look at the following list as a collection of nice fantasies or as possible roadmaps to your future, the list makes for interesting reading.

High-Paying Occupations with a Few Superstars

Median Earnings
Mean Earnings
Securities, Commodities, and Financial Services Sales Agents
Agents and Business Managers of Artists, Performers, and Athletes
Real Estate Brokers
Personal Financial Advisors
Producers and Directors
Health Specialties Teachers, Postsecondary
Advertising and Promotions Managers
General and Operations Managers
Art, Drama, and Music Teachers, Postsecondary
Health Diagnosing and Treating Practitioners, All Other
Loan Officers
First-Line Supervisors of Non-Retail Sales Workers
Geoscientists, Except Hydrologists and Geographers
Biological Science Teachers, Postsecondary
Art Directors
Business Teachers, Postsecondary
Financial Analysts
Law Teachers, Postsecondary
Area, Ethnic, and Cultural Studies Teachers, Postsecondary

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