Money isn’t everything when it comes to choosing a career. But what if you could find a field you love, and make at least $100,000 a year?
Sounds ideal? If you’re deciding “what you want to be when you grow up,” you might as well look at careers that can make you rich. While you can become a millionaire by saving money and investing diligently, certain careers lend themselves better to accumulating wealth.
Getting a degree in one of these areas is not a guarantee that you’ll strike it rich. There’s a disparity in earnings even within the same occupation. How much you make will depend on where you live, who your employer is and what specialization you chose.
You’ll also need to manage your money well and save so you can enjoy long-term benefits from your career choice. Let’s dive into the best jobs to get rich — and how to get them.
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What Careers Make the Most Money?
If you’re looking for the careers that make the most money, you should consider a college major that will get you on the right track. Certain careers have a higher starting salary that will get you more quickly (or immediately) over the six-figure threshold.
The top career choices for making the most money are being an investment banker or physician. Engineer and pharmacist are good options as well. If you’re looking for other ideas, check out the list below.
Best Jobs to Get Rich
These jobs can help you get to a six-figure salary quickly. However, keep in mind that these fields are competitive. Additionally, some of them require extensive schooling.
Six-figure incomes can often mean six figures in student loans. While these may be the best jobs to make top bank, some also require getting a graduate degree. Make sure you weigh the pros and cons of each before deciding on what career to pursue.
1. Investment Banker
If you’re looking for one of the best jobs to get rich, becoming an investment banker is at the top. According to Glassdoor, the average base pay for investment bankers is $114,631 as of the date of this writing.
However, if you look at salary plus bonus, the average associate makes between $150,000 and $350,000 in the first year, according to WallStreetOasis.com. Salaries for vice presidents top out at $1.5 million and managing partners can make more than $20 million.
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It’s by no means easy money, though. Investment banking hours are notoriously long. And while getting an entry-level analyst position requires a bachelor’s degree, many investment bankers pursue graduate degrees. Most finish an MBA program but some get other graduate degrees such as a law degree.
You’ll have better success at getting a high-paying investment banking position if you attend a top-tier school. Many investment banks recruit heavily from Ivy League schools such as Harvard and Columbia. While you can go to a less prestigious institution and still succeed, choosing the right school can give you a leg up on the competition.
What do investment bankers do? Often, they help companies raise capital. They review an organization’s financial health, capital needs, and goals, and recommend the best strategy to achieve them.
If you’re good at science and enjoy helping people, becoming a doctor is a good career option. Salaries vary depending on specialization. However, even on the lower end, you’ll end up with a six-figure income.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 2017 median pay for physicians and surgeons was $208,000 per year. However, that doesn’t account for the much higher pay for many physician subspecialties.
The more specialized you are as a physician, the higher your compensation. For example, a heart surgeon will make significantly more than a general practitioner, though they’ll also have to go through more extensive schooling. According to Salary.com, the average compensation for a surgeon is $274,000, while cardiologists make an average of $326,000.
To become a doctor, you’ll need to complete a four-year college degree, then take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) and apply for medical schools. Going to medical school takes four years and admission is highly competitive.
After medical school, the minimum residency is three years to become a general practitioner. Specializations such as surgery or cardiology can tack on several more years.
All of this schooling can get very expensive, but you can pay some of your own way. Here are some of the best jobs for making money in college.
If you’re good with both kids and adults, consider becoming an orthodontist. According to Glassdoor, the average pay for an orthodontist is $243,120 a year, putting it at the number three position in the best jobs to get rich. How much you make as an orthodontist greatly depends on where you live geographically.
To become an orthodontist, you first must complete a four-year college degree. Some dental schools accept undergraduates without a bachelor’s degree if they’ve studied in a pre-dental program for at least two years.
Once you’ve graduated from college, you must take the Dental Admission Test (DAT). From there, you’ll need to apply to accredited dental schools and complete a four-year program.
After dental school, an aspiring orthodontist must complete an orthodontics specialty program, which typically takes two years. Some orthodontists also complete a master’s degree program or a doctoral dentistry program in orthodontics.
Before you can begin practicing as an orthodontist, you must pass state licensing exams. This will give you the right to practice as an orthodontist in that particular state.
As an orthodontist, you’ll examine, diagnose and treat misaligned teeth. In addition, you’ll treat health-related orthodontic issues such as misaligned jaws, facial abnormalities, overbites, underbites, open bites and crossbites.
If you don’t want to go through the additional schooling to become an orthodontist, you can still make six figures as a dentist. Per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for dentists is $158,120 a year. Glassdoor.com pegs dentist compensation at an average of $142,279.
Becoming a dentist requires a bachelor’s degree in addition to specialty training. As noted previously, some dental schools accept undergraduates without a four-year degree if they’ve studied in a pre-dental program for at least two years.
To get accepted to dental school, you’ll need to take and pass the DAT. Dental school programs take four years to complete. Just like orthodontists, dentists must be licensed in the state in which they work. This often requires passing written and practical exams.
As a dentist, you’ll diagnose and treat problems with patients’ teeth, gums and other related parts of the mouth. In addition, you’ll counsel patients on how to take care of their teeth and gums.
One of the best fields to get rich with just a four-year college degree is engineering. Becoming a doctor or orthodontist requires extensive schooling before you can reap the benefits of a six-figure salary.
And even many investment bankers have master’s degrees. Most engineering jobs, on the other hand, only require a bachelor’s degree.
However, not all engineering specialties pay the same. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, petroleum engineers are the highest paid, with a median annual salary of $132,280. Glassdoor.com shows the average compensation a bit lower at $118,428.
Petroleum engineers focus on figuring out the best methods for extracting oil and gas from deposits below the earth’s surface. They also focus on how to maximize oil and gas production from older wells.
Another option if you’re good with technology is becoming a computer hardware engineer. The median salary for this engineering specialty is $115,120 per the BLM. You’ll need a four-year college degree from an accredited program.
6. Air Traffic Controller
Looking for one of the best jobs to get rich without a four-year degree? That honor goes to air traffic controllers. The median pay for this job in 2017 was $124,540 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Glassdoor.com reports higher average earnings at $129,963.
To become an air traffic controller, you’ll need an associate’s degree, although some programs may require a bachelor’s degree. You’ll need to attend an accredited Air Traffic Collegiate Initiative school and pursue a non-engineering aviation degree.
Additionally, you must be a U.S. citizen, pass all medical and background checks, and take exams and courses at the Federal Aviation Administration Academy.
What do air traffic controllers do? They are responsible for coordinating the movement of aircraft to maintain safe distances between planes. Air traffic controllers work in control towers, approach control facilities, or route centers. This can be a stressful job since maximum concentration is required at all times.
If you’re looking for a career in the medical field but don’t want to be a doctor, becoming a pharmacist may be a good option. Pharmacists fill medication prescriptions and offer advice on their safe use and side effects.
You may also advise patients on general health topics like diet, exercise, managing stress and health conditions, and so on.
The median annual salary for pharmacists in 2017 was $124,170 per the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Glassdoor.com reports a slightly higher average compensation at $127,516. The aging baby boomer population will ensure demand continues for this career field.
Becoming a pharmacist requires first completing at least three years of college and, in many cases, getting a bachelor’s degree. All pharmacists must earn a Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) degree from an accredited school to practice.
You must also pass the Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT) and apply to PharmD programs, which take four years to complete. Upon graduation, you’ll need to get licensed to practice pharmacy by passing the North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination (NAPLEX).
Becoming a lawyer is also on the list of best careers that can make you rich. Lawyers work in a variety of settings from corporate law to private law firms. Geography and specialization can also greatly impact your income prospects.
Per the most recent data from the BLM, the median pay for lawyers was $119,250 in 2017, while Glassdoor.com reports a similar number at $117,188. General counsel salaries average $207,358, according to Glassdoor.com. Lawyers who specialize in certain types of law such as pharmaceutical patents can expect higher compensation.
Becoming a lawyer requires a four-year college degree and additional higher education. After college, you’ll need to take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) and apply for law schools.
Just getting into law school is highly competitive, and then it takes three years to complete. Upon graduating from law school, you’ll need to take the bar exam for the state where you plan to practice law.
If you want to specialize in a certain area of law that will result in higher earnings, you’ll likely need even more school. For example, becoming a pharmaceutical patents lawyer would require getting a graduate degree in biochemistry in addition to law school.
9. Airline Pilot
Are you interested in airplanes? Becoming an airline or commercial pilot may be a good option for you. According to the BLM, the median pay for pilots in 2017 was $111,930 per year, while Glassdoor.com reports a similar figure at $113,709. Glassdoor says that first officers can expect to make an average of $195,199.
Airline pilots typically begin their careers as flight instructors or commercial pilots. To become a commercial pilot, you’ll need a high school diploma or equivalent and a commercial pilot’s license from the FAA. Becoming an airline pilot requires a four-year degree as well as an FAA-issued Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate.
The job of airline and commercial pilots involves navigating airplanes, helicopters and other aircraft. Pilots usually work variable schedules, with overnight layovers being more common for airline pilots than commercial pilots.
The Bottom Line
Choosing the right degree can have a big impact on your earnings over your lifetime. There are a number of professions in diverse fields that can get you over the six-figure mark. Keep in mind, though, that many require advanced degrees as well as passing licensing exams.
The extra schooling also means taking out additional student loans as well as delaying the start of your professional earning career. However, starting with a six-figure salary after graduation can offset some of those negatives and help you get ahead quickly.
Additionally, some of the jobs to get rich only require a four-year degree, and in the case of air traffic controllers, only an associate degree. Make sure you align your financial goals with your interests, so you can decide on the career with the best balance between pay and stress.
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