It's no secret that doctors, lawyers and senior executives at large corporations typically earn six figures or more. But where are the $100,000 jobs for the rest of us -- the 140 million American workers who lack the inclination, the aptitude or the tolerance for student debt to go for the classic big-money careers?
It turns out that in the 2000s, there are quite a number of six-figure occupations. Here are just a few worth your consideration:
Developing nations may graduate more engineers than the United States, but we've still got enough jobs to keep salaries generous, at least in some specialties. According to May 2009 Bureau of Labor Statistics data, the top 10 percent of electrical engineers posted median salaries of nearly $127,000 and half of engineering managers earned median salaries in excess of $117,000.
In interactive specialties such as Web design, information architecture and usability, "there's an absolute dearth of talent with three to five years of experience," says Allison Hemming, president of staffing firm Hired Guns.
Senior Web producers can earn $85,000 to $110,000. "Interactive feels very 1999 right now," Hemming says. "It's a real opportunity for people who may have left the field and come back or are just out of college."
Can production workers approach six figures? They can if they're in the right high tech specialty. According to Jack Dolmat-Connell, president of compensation consulting firm DolmatConnell & Partners, some semiconductor fab technicians can make up to $90,000 with overtime.
Professionals involved in the provision of bread-and-butter financial services -- not just those ensconced on Wall Street -- often earn six figures. "Producers [salespeople] in insurance and branch managers -- those can average $120,000 to $125,000," says Dolmat-Connell.
Real estate may be suffering from an overabundance of new entrants, but long-term prospects for high earnings in pricey markets are still bullish. "Real estate agent -- that's one of those quiet little jobs where you can make a boatload of money," says Bill Coleman, senior vice president for compensation at Salary.com. An agent who participates in the sale of 12 or 14 half-million-dollar homes per year -- easy to do in big-money markets like the Northeast -- is likely to hit $100,000 in commissions.
Entertainment and Hospitality
Can a worker ascend from burger flipper to six-figure earner? Not every day, but it happens. Restaurant managers can earn $100,000 at high-end restaurants and resorts," says Coleman.
For those who live near a casino, big earnings may be within reach, even without a college education. "The top 25 percent of casino pit managers earn over $100,000, with just high school and five years of experience," says Dolmat-Connell.
Security and Hazard Duty
Run-of-the-mill security guards generally earn low pay, but well-placed security professionals can do much better. "Security guards for celebrities can earn six figures," says Coleman. These jobs are concentrated in New York and Los Angeles, but sports superstars may have security based in their teams' hometowns.
Less-glamorous gigs can pay equally well, if work conditions warrant a premium. Oil rig workers must cope with hazardous and remote work sites, so high-ranking crew members earn up to $100,000.
If you're a six-figure aspirant, the federal government may be one of the last employers to come to mind. But Uncle Sam is looking for thousands of professionals at this level each year.
"Retirement rates for midlevel managers are high; more and more, the government is hiring people from the outside directly into management," says Kathryn Troutman, author of Ten Steps to a Federal Job and former Monster contributor.
And middle-management jobs in government may be better compensated than their private-sector counterparts. "Midrange professional salaries are much higher, and the flexibility and benefits are much better," says Troutman. These jobs generally fall into the GS-14 and GS-15 grade levels.