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America’s Most Surprising Six-Figure Jobs

From animator to gaming manager, here are some startling ways you can make more than $100,000 a year.

You probably wouldn’t expect it, but the best paid boat captains in the U.S. are in Tennessee. According to data from the Department of Labor, water vessel captains, mates and pilots make more there than in any other state. In fact, the average in Tennessee is a full $27,000 more a year than the national average for the job.
The top 10% of earners among ship captains nationwide make at least $108,120 a year. Not bad. You might even get a bonus anytime you perform one of those last-minute shipboard weddings.
Gaming managers, the people who supervise gambling operations, also pull in a pretty penny at the top. Pennsylvania pays its gaming managers better than any other state, but it’s only got about 30 of them, compared with 340 in California and 590 in Nevada, the second- and third-best-paying states for the job.
The information for our list of surprising six-figure jobs comes from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics‘ Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, which are compiled from 2008 data.
Of the 15 jobs we’ve singled out, human resources manager and pharmacist are the only two where not only some but most people make six figures; to make the cut, at least 10% of the people doing the thing must earn more than $100,000. Music directors and composers make a solid $107,280 or more in the top decile, but on average they pull down just $54,840. Pharmacist is the job on the list that the most people do–about 266,000 of them in the U.S.
Astronomers fall just $270 a year short of averaging six figures, and the top earners in their modestly sized group of 1,280 rake in $156,720 or more.
You might also be surprised to hear that arbitrators and mediators make the six-figure cut for top earners. Their work might sound like just helping settle other people’s arguments, but it’s also about helping people avoid astronomical legal fees. Most states have no requirements for entering the field of mediation, except in a few cases like handling child custody battles in California, so it could be a relatively easy line of work to get into.
So might transportation inspector. Only 14.8% of people with that job have a college diploma. Only 24% of gaming managers do.
Other six-figure possibilities: art director, police supervisor and video editor.
Job prospects are slim just about everywhere right now. But at least some jobs, when you get them, pay well.


By Klaus Kneale


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Six Surprising Six-Figure Jobs: No Degree Required

How can you find a steady job that makes six figures without a four-year or associate’s degree? You may think first of typical blue collar trades, like electrician or plumber. But, there are some other options that will surprise you. Would you believe that court reporters can make over $100,000 a year?

Online salary database PayScale.com has come up with a list of six no-degree, six-figure gigs that you might not have considered. PayScale’s director of quantitative analysis, Al Lee, says, “All of these jobs require a lot of on the job training and experience to get to high levels of pay. But, if you’re the kind of person who can’t stand to sit in the seat in school, they may be a great way to get there.”

Lee adds that the jobs below are all fairly resistant to the ups and downs of the economy. And, they serve up regular income, so you have the big earnings of a business owner without the risk of running your own business.

If finishing your college degree isn’t something you either want to or can do any time soon, check out the list below for some inspiration on where to take your talents to fill up your bank account. The following list shows earnings for workers with at least five years of experience who are in the ninetieth percentile for median earnings among their peers.

1. Air Traffic Controller
Median Annual Salary: $159,000

Air traffic control work is often featured in films as high pressure and highly stressful. It is. It requires strong mental focus, a lock-tight memory and good decision-making skills. There are a number of routes to a career in air traffic control. To work for the FAA, as most controllers do, all applicants must pass through training at the FAA center in Oklahoma City, Okla. The process is rigorous and takes several months to complete. But, it can pay off. And, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects a wave of retirement in the coming years that should open up more positions to younger controllers.

— Find Air Traffic Controller Jobs

2. Nuclear Power Reactor Operator
Median Annual Salary: $128,000

From brightly-lit computer screens to blinking street lights, your work as a power plant operator makes you a vital part of everyone’s day. According to the BLS, you’ll likely start as an equipment operator, eventually receiving more on-the-job training, getting licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and moving into a senior operator position. This job is also high pressure, as you are responsible for equipment that affects power to the reactor itself.

— Find Nuclear Power Reactor Operator Jobs

3. Director of Security (Physical, Personnel, Grounds, et al.)
Median Annual Salary: $123,000

If you have a mind for thinking of the worst possible scenario and how to prevent or control it, you may be the right person for a career in security. Once you arrive at the director level, you’re responsible for anticipating trouble before it comes and making sure that your staff is well-trained and managed. The BLS notes that competition for jobs at this level of security work is stiff and the conditions can be hazardous, but security management is likely to stay in demand in the future.

— Find Security Jobs

4. Elevator Mechanic
Median Annual Salary: $109,000

Elevator mechanics may have some of the best job security around. Most people dislike heading for the elevator, only to see that it’s broken and they have to take the stairs. And, this work cannot be outsourced. Elevator repair jobs are expected to be more and more in demand in the future, according to the BLS. Most repair people learn their skills through a four-year union apprenticeship.

— Find Elevator Mechanic Jobs

5. Court Reporter
Median Annual Salary: $105,000

Like the jobs listed above, a court reporting gig requires you to take on a great deal of responsibility. Court reporters must prepare accurate and complete legal records of conversations, most commonly court proceedings. Job prospects for this work are expected to be good, as demand for closed-captioning and real-time translation services for the deaf and hard-of-hearing grows. This career requires a good deal of training, which can be had through a technical school or the National Court Reporters Association. Some states require licensure, according to the BLS, and others may require court reporters to be notary publics.

— Find Court Reporter Jobs

6. Fire Chief
Median Annual Salary: $121,000
To get to the position of fire chief, you’ll likely need to put many years in to fighting fires, exposing yourself to dangerous, stressful situations and staying in tip-top shape. And, you’re still not assured a chief spot because, as the BLS data shows, there are plenty of qualified applicants for firefighting jobs so the competition is tough. The BLS notes that fire fighter applicants with some postsecondary education are more and more preferred these days, but the opportunity is still available to candidates with only a high school degree.

By Bridget Quigg for AOL.com

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