Unexpected Jobs That Can Earn You Six Figures
When you think of high-paying jobs, traditional roles like doctors, lawyers, and executives come to mind. However, some of the highest-paying gigs out there are roles you’ve never even heard of. My own sister, for instance, is something called a “fire protection engineer.” If I’ve learned anything from her career path, it’s that the more niche your title, the more money a company will pay to keep you around.
Of course, it’s not easy to earn a six-figure income—you’ll typically need a unique set of skills and specialized knowledge. (Or a healthy serving of nepotism.) Even still, it’s worth learning about the lucrative opportunities that can be found in unconventional or generally overlooked fields. Here are just some of the not-so-obvious jobs that can help you achieve a six-figure income, so long as you know where to look.
In the age of big data and artificial intelligence, the role of a data ethicist has emerged as a critical one. Companies are increasingly concerned about the ethical implications of their data practices. Data ethicists guide organizations in navigating complex ethical dilemmas, ensuring that data collection, analysis, and utilization align with moral and legal standards. With the demand for responsible data management on the rise, professionals in this role can earn substantial salaries; ZipRecruiter lists a national average pay of $160,723 per year. Read more about the path to becoming a data ethicist here.
User experience (UX) researcher
User experience researchers analyze how people interact with products and services to enhance usability and satisfaction. By conducting user tests, surveys, and interviews, they provide invaluable insights that shape design decisions. According to Salary.com, the base salary for a UX researcher ranges from $101,035 to $124,591 with the average base salary of $111,637. Here’s more information on the path to becoming a UX researcher.
Another gig at the intersection of tech and data! Ethical hackers, also known as penetration testers or “white hat” hackers, help organizations identify and fix security vulnerabilities. By simulating cyberattacks, they expose weaknesses that malicious hackers could exploit. As cyber threats become more sophisticated, the need for ethical hackers has soared, with the pros earning an average salary of $106,290 according to Salary.com.
Medical science liaison
Medical science liaisons (MSLs) act as bridges between pharmaceutical companies and healthcare professionals. They provide up-to-date information about medical products, research, and clinical trials to doctors, researchers, and other healthcare stakeholders. With a deep understanding of medical science and strong communication skills, MSLs can earn impressive salaries while contributing to advancements in healthcare. The average salary for a Medical science liaison in U.S. is $157,091 per year, according to Glassdoor.
MSLs need advanced scientific training and academic credentials generally consisting of a doctorate degree (PhD, PharmD, or MD) in the life sciences. Here’s more on how someone can pursue becoming a medical science liaison.
As drones continue to revolutionize industries like agriculture, construction, and filmmaking, skilled drone pilots are increasingly sought after. According to the latest numbers from Glassdoor, the estimated total pay for a drone pilot is $120,772 per year in the United States area, with an average salary of $89,181 per year. It’s important to note that salaries vary depending on the industry and location; drone pilots who work in mapping and surveying, for instance, earn far more than those in film and video. Operating drones for tasks like aerial photography, surveying, and mapping requires specialized training and certifications that you can read about here.
Travel nurses help fill gaps in areas where there are nursing shortages, and are therefore in high demand. Depending on your perspective, the travel can be a positive or a negative, but the pay is good—the average annual salary is $119,635, according to Indeed.com. Perks include non-taxed housing stipends, non-taxed per diems, travel reimbursements, and signing bonuses.
Engineering project manager
Engineers make good money; engineers who manage other engineers make really good money. An engineering project manager will create detailed project plans, propose budgets, and manage staffing and equipment needs. The annual average median salary for this role is $148,206.
While traditional high-paying careers remain viable options, some of the most lucrative jobs aren’t exactly what you remember from your high school career fair. Even if a career change isn’t in your future, you could help steer a young professional in your life to explore lesser-known opportunities.