Careers That Make You Rich High-Paying Jobs & How to Get Them

According to the Pew Research Center, approximately 19 percent of Americans make enough money to be considered rich, or in the upper-income echelon of all households. While average incomes vary by location, individuals are typically classified as “rich” if they earn at least twice the median national household income per year. In 2017 this number was $61,372, meaning a household needed to make at least $122,744 to fall into the upper-income/rich category. For the purpose of this guide, however, “rich” will be defined as anyone who earns a salary of around $100,000 or more per year.

This guide can be a resource for anyone in the beginning or early stages of their careers, who want to plan for their future by not only selecting a lucrative career right out of college, but also take steps toward maximizing their earning potential in the long-term. Midlife career-changers may also find this guide helpful if they wish to explore a new industry or field. Keep reading to find a career that can make you rich.

Careers That Make You Rich

A wide variety of high-paying careers for graduates of all degree levels exist, but individuals must know where to look for and how to pursue them. The following three sections take a look at the top paying jobs for those who have (or intend to complete) a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral/professional degree.

To come up with each list of careers, we looked at how experience, education, location, and ongoing training affect earning potential so job seekers could see how salaries fluctuate. Special attention was paid to ensuring a wide variety of job types and industries were represented. Data and information was collected from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. Department of Labor, and PayScale. When reviewing these jobs, keep in mind that starting salaries vary significantly based on location, type of industry, and employer. For instance, an individual working in marketing for a nonprofit will likely earn less than someone in the same role at a large corporate entity. Readers should also note that some jobs require several years of experience before salaries begin to rise significantly.

High-Paying Careers That Require a Bachelor’s Degree

Chief Executive Officer

Working at the helm of a company, CEOs oversee all departments, receive reports from departmental heads, set strategic goals, monitor budgets, make high-level decisions, lead all staff, and, in some cases, report to a board of directors. Most hold a business or business-related bachelor’s degree and significant work experience in other roles.

Salary Per Years of Experience
0-5 Years 5-10 Years 10-20 Years 20+ Years
$120,000 $154,000 $193,000 $229,000

Computer & Information Systems Manager

Professionals in this position oversee the technological needs of their companies and ensure employees receive proper equipment and training. They also oversee maintenance, installation of hardware/software, network security, and other computer professionals in their departments. Most hold a bachelor’s degree in computer science or information technology and several years of work experience.

Salary Per Years of Experience
0-5 Years 5-10 Years 10-20 Years 20+ Years
$70,000 $90,000 $122,000 $132,000

Architectural/Engineering Manager

Acting as project managers, these professionals oversee the work of architects or engineers in a wide variety of industries. They manage workflow, make decisions about staffing, train staff, maintain budgets, report to other senior-level staff, and create strategic goals. Most hold an architecture or engineering bachelor’s degree and significant work experience.

Salary Per Years of Experience
0-5 Years 5-10 Years 10-20 Years 20+ Years
$114,000 $141,000 $153,000 $154,000

Pilot

Whether navigating small charter planes, military helicopters, or commercial jets, pilots fly planes to all corners of the earth carrying both passengers and cargo. They monitor flight conditions, check the plane for safety, communicate with their copilots and air traffic control, and ensure the plane flies smoothly. A bachelor’s degree and training to receive a license and Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate are required.

Salary Per Years of Experience
0-5 Years 5-10 Years 10-20 Years 20+ Years
$69,000 $91,000 $129,000 $197,000

Petroleum Engineer

Working alongside other engineers and natural resource professionals, petroleum engineers devise safe and effective means of extricating oil and gas from new and existing wells. They may work to design equipment, create work plans for drilling fields, or oversee the installation and running of these tools. These professionals must possess a bachelor’s degree in petroleum engineering.

Salary Per Years of Experience
0-5 Years 5-10 Years 10-20 Years 20+ Years
$97,000 $120,000 $140,000 $177,000

Marketing Manager

Marketing managers can be found in every industry. They create marketing plans to achieve business goals, oversee staff, develop and monitor budgets, liaise with other departments, and review market research. Most possess bachelor’s degrees in marketing or advertising and have worked their way up the ranks.

Salary Per Years of Experience
0-5 Years 5-10 Years 10-20 Years 20+ Years
$85,000 $97,000 $112,000 $119,000

Financial Manager

Sometimes referred to as CFOs, financial managers oversee the financial viability of their companies. They oversee budgets, set financial goals, develop reports for company leadership and/or boards, look for ways of cutting costs, and direct others on their team. Most hold a bachelor’s degree in finance, accounting, or another business-related field.

Salary Per Years of Experience
0-5 Years 5-10 Years 10-20 Years 20+ Years
$100,000 $128,000 $142,000 $142,000

Sales Manager

In this leadership role, sales managers oversee efforts to sell a company’s products or services to clients. They train sales associates, set monthly and yearly targets, review sales data, create sales training programs, review customer satisfaction data, create projections, and set special pricing plans. Most hold a bachelor’s degree in marketing, advertising, or a business-related subject.

Salary Per Years of Experience
0-5 Years 5-10 Years 10-20 Years 20+ Years
$70,000 $102,000 $124,000 $127,000

Compensation & Benefits Manager

Working in concert with human relations staff, these professionals oversee programs that provide compensation and benefits to employees. They set wages for individual roles, oversee payroll, ensure their company is following state and federal regulations, create and maintain budgets, and work with vendors to create benefits packages.

Salary Per Years of Experience
0-5 Years 5-10 Years 10-20 Years 20+ Years
$89,000 $103,000 $109,000 $105,000

Natural Sciences Manager

Sometimes known as laboratory managers, these scientists oversee research and development conducted by natural scientists. In addition to research responsibilities, they also oversee lab budgets, create research goals, ensure researchers possess the training and equipment needed, and oversee proposal development. A bachelor’s degree in a natural science and work experience is typically required.

Salary Per Years of Experience
0-5 Years 5-10 Years 10-20 Years 20+ Years
$75,000 $101,000 $117,000 $125,000

High-Paying Careers That Require a Master’s Degree

Nurse Anesthetist

Working alongside anesthesiologists, doctors, and other nursing and healthcare professionals, nurse anesthetists administer anesthesia, evaluate patients, consult with care providers, review medical histories, and ensure patients receive correct dosages of anesthetics. They must hold a master’s degree in nurse anesthetics and receive licensure as an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN).

Salary Per Years of Experience
0-5 Years 5-10 Years 10-20 Years 20+ Years
$133,000 $149,000 $157,000 $167,000

Political Scientist

Political scientists have many career opportunities available to them. Some go into academia to train the next generation, while others work as researchers studying political data and the changes in political trends. Still others decide to work with political candidates to hold office or lend their services to government agencies. A master’s degree in political science is required.

Salary Per Years of Experience
0-5 Years 5-10 Years 10-20 Years 20+ Years
$56,000 $61,000 $99,000 $147,000

Computer & Information Research Scientist

With an eye to thinking outside the box, these professionals work on designing new technologies to address pressing needs in various industries. They address ongoing issues and solve problems, improve existing technologies, conduct experiments, and share findings in trade and academic journals. Most possess master’s degrees in computer science or related subjects.

Salary Per Years of Experience
0-5 Years 5-10 Years 10-20 Years 20+ Years
$93,000 $101,000 $102,000 $111,000

Physician Assistant

PAs work alongside doctors and other medical professionals to examine patients, diagnose them, and create plans of treatment. They order and review tests, provide prescriptions, educate patients and their families about options and best care practices, and monitor the patient throughout the process. They must complete a master’s level physician assistant program that includes direct patient care and receive licensure.

Salary Per Years of Experience
0-5 Years 5-10 Years 10-20 Years 20+ Years
$89,000 $100,000 $105,000 $106,000

Nurse Practitioner

Working as Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs), these professionals oversee other nurses, coordinate care, liaise with other medical professionals, conduct or order tests, review results, administer medicine and/or treatment, and monitor patients while in their care. They must hold a master’s in nursing with clinical experience and pass a licensure exam.

Salary Per Years of Experience
0-5 Years 5-10 Years 10-20 Years 20+ Years
$90,000 $97,000 $101,000 $105,000

Mathematician

Individuals with master’s in mathematics enjoy diverse careers. Some work in research areas to develop new theories and concepts, while others use their knowledge to teach others about the rules and techniques of the discipline. Still others support organizations or companies in mathematical functions.

Salary Per Years of Experience
0-5 Years 5-10 Years 10-20 Years 20+ Years
$62,000 $77,000 $85,000 $102,000

Economist

Whether working in research, academia, or for an individual company, economists study how products, resources, and services are created and distributed. They review existing data, conduct surveys, research trends, and compare all the data against current economic issues. They may present findings to clients or publish research. Most hold a master’s in economics, though some possess a doctorate.

Salary Per Years of Experience
0-5 Years 5-10 Years 10-20 Years 20+ Years
$63,000 $89,000 $102,000 $119,000

Nurse Midwife

Working with expecting and new mothers, nurse midwifes coordinate the care for both the mother and child before, during, and after delivery. They liaise with other medical professionals, monitor vital statistics, create birthing plans, and support the patient and their families along the way. They must hold a master’s in nursing, specific experience in midwifery, and licensure.

Salary Per Years of Experience
0-5 Years 5-10 Years 10-20 Years 20+ Years
$87,000 $95,000 $92,000 $108,000

Industrial-Organizational Psychologist

For those who don’t want to complete a doctoral degree, industrial-organizational psychology roles allow them to use their skills and knowledge, earn high salaries, and avoid additional education and potential student loans. These professionals work with companies either as an employee or consultant to improve employee and production outcomes, develop policies, review HR practices, and train senior-level workers. They must hold a master’s degree in psychology.

Salary Per Years of Experience
0-5 Years 5-10 Years 10-20 Years 20+ Years
$64,000 $91,000 $112,000 $131,000

Education Administrator

These professionals, also known as principals, oversee elementary, middle, and high schools by providing leadership for teachers and administrative staff. They set budgets, liaise with the school board, oversee disciplinary measures, meet with parents, develop and monitor curricular standards, and create professional development opportunities. They often hold master’s degrees in education administration.

Salary Per Years of Experience
0-5 Years 5-10 Years 10-20 Years 20+ Years
$51,000 $61,000 $73,000 $80,000

High-Paying Careers That Require a Doctorate or Professional Degree

Anesthesiologist

These medical professionals administer local and general anesthesia to patients undergoing routine and major surgeries. They work in concert with doctors to ascertain the amount of medicine needed and monitor patients throughout. Anesthesiologists must possess an advanced medical degree and complete internships and residencies to receive licensure.

Salary Per Years of Experience
0-5 Years 5-10 Years 10-20 Years 20+ Years
$244,000 $286,000 $300,000 $313,000
2017 Median Annual Salary In excess of $208,000 annually

Orthodontist

Orthodontists focus their dental care in treating issues requiring braces or other devices to help straighten teeth and maintain overall dental health. They monitor progress, make adjustments as needed, and create long-term plans of care to maintain changes after removing the braces. In addition to completing postgraduate work at a dental school, orthodontists must undertake a residency lasting two to four years and gain licensure.

Salary Per Years of Experience
0-5 Years 5-10 Years 10-20 Years 20+ Years
$152,000 $189,000 $189,000 $200,000
2017 Median Annual Salary In excess of $208,000 annually

Judge/Magistrate

Working in a variety of court settings, judges hear cases, weigh arguments and evidence presented, maintain procedures, and reach verdicts based on information available and the existing laws. They may work at the local, state, or federal level. All judges must obtain a Juris Doctor and the vast majority possess experience clerking and/or working as a lawyer.

Salary Per Years of Experience
0-5 Years 5-10 Years 10-20 Years 20+ Years
$49,000 $59,000 $98,000 $94,000

Pharmacist

Pharmacists take prescriptions given to patients by doctors and provide approved medications. They review instructions with individuals, ensure no interactions with other drugs the patient is taking, handle insurance forms, and manage pharmacy technicians working under them. They must hold a doctor of pharmacy degree and a license to practice.

Salary Per Years of Experience
0-5 Years 5-10 Years 10-20 Years 20+ Years
$109,000 $118,000 $120,000 $121,000

Lawyer

Lawyers work with individual clients, as in-house counsel for corporations, and on-staff at government agencies. They argue cases before courts, research and provide legal advice based on established laws and precedents, file legal documents, and work with other lawyers when preparing a case. They must hold a Juris Doctor and pass their state’s bar exam.

Salary Per Years of Experience
0-5 Years 5-10 Years 10-20 Years 20+ Years
$70,000 $98,000 $119,000 $139,000

Physicist

Physicists study the interactions of matter and energy in order to develop further understanding of the natural world. They may use this knowledge in the classroom to teach others, in the laboratory to conduct experiments, or for scientific organizations to analyze data. They most often possess a doctoral degree in physics.

Salary Per Years of Experience
0-5 Years 5-10 Years 10-20 Years 20+ Years
$72,000 $89,000 $114,000 $135,000

Optometrist

These medical professionals help improve eyesight issues affecting their patients, diagnose diseases and injuries, prescribe sight-improving aids such as glasses and contacts, create treatment plans, and provide guidance on proper eye health and care. They must complete a doctor of optometry degree and receive state licensure.

Salary Per Years of Experience
0-5 Years 5-10 Years 10-20 Years 20+ Years
$99,000 $108,000 $112,000 $118,000

Astronomer

With a focus on studying the universe beyond earth, astronomers seek to learn more about the planets, stars, and other objects within the solar system. In addition to observing the universe through telescopes, they also work with other space professionals to develop tools and vehicles that explore planets and expand their understanding. They must possess a Ph.D. in astronomy.

Salary Per Years of Experience
0-5 Years 5-10 Years 10-20 Years 20+ Years
$97,000 $82,000 $87,000 $120,000

Engineering Professor

With their extensive knowledge of both the practical and theoretical aspects of engineering, professors in this field teach students at all degree levels and prepare them to work in the field. They typically concentrate their knowledge in a particular area (e.g. electrical, computer, or nuclear). Professors often continue their research and contribute to academic journals or write books. They must possess a doctoral degree in the majority of cases.

Salary Per Years of Experience
0-5 Years 5-10 Years 10-20 Years 20+ Years
$60,000 $71,000 $86,000 $99,000

Biochemist/Biophysicist

Whether focusing their efforts on chemistry or physics, scientists in these lines of work conduct research in labs, perform tests to learn new findings, oversee the work of laboratory technicians, confer with other scientists and clients about their findings, and write papers. Some may work in academia as well. They frequently need to possess a Ph.D. in biochemistry or biophysics for the most lucrative roles.

Salary Per Years of Experience
0-5 Years 5-10 Years 10-20 Years 20+ Years
$75,000 $85,000 $91,000 $102,000

Other Ways to Get Rich

  • Pursue an advanced degree

    According to data from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, those with bachelor’s degrees received lifetime earnings of $2.3 million while those with a master’s degree averaged $2.7 million. Those with doctorates (excluding professional degrees), meanwhile, earned $3.3 million. Undertaking another degree could be your ticket to higher earnings.

  • Get certified

    In many industries, certificates can help individuals specialize their knowledge in a subfield, stand out from the competition, and confirm their expertise to existing and new employers. Most certificates can be finished in less than two years of study and often result in the ability to command higher salaries after completion.

  • Learn a new skill

    No matter the industry or area of work, individuals don’t necessarily need to complete a full degree or even a certificate program to increase their earning potential. If you’re looking to gain a new skill, look at the schedules for local universities and community colleges. You can take a few classes in-person or online to boost your value while still keeping your current job.

  • Seek a promotion

    Even without gaining a degree or certificate, individuals working hard in their jobs frequently receive promotions after a few years of hard work and demonstrated achievements. If you haven’t been promoted recently, sit down with your supervisor and have a frank but respectful conversation about your next steps in the company and what you can do to set yourself up for a raise in the upcoming quarter.

  • Find a side hustle

    If you’ve exhausted income boosting ideas at your current job, consider picking up a side hustle to add to your wages. You may decide to teach a local class at your gym or community center, nanny on nights/weekends, find freelance clients for tasks such as writing or virtual assisting, or create objects and sell them on websites such as Etsy.

  • Invest

    If you’re able to save money with no clear spending purpose, consider investing it. Depending on your investment plan, how long you plan to use the money for that purpose, and how the market behaves during that time frame, you can increase your wealth via the return on investment.