CNNMoney recently came out with a feature profiling ten folks who perform relatively simple jobs who happen to be making a bunch of money. If we pull back the curtain, though, do most folks in these occupations make similar coin? Here's a breakdown of some of the six-figure salary workers from the article, along with our research into what the typical salary is for that position.
Jeff McGee,Semi-truck mover Salary: $160,000 Hometown: Duluth, MN
When you think of "transporter," you might think of the action-packed Jason Statham movies, but turns out that you can make a decent salary moving things the legal way. According to the CNNMoney article, Jeff McGee was overworked as a regular truck driver, earning about $45,000 a year, but now he picks up semi trucks straight out of the factory and drops them off at individual dealers. "I love it. I drive 600 to 700 miles a day, have my own vehicle, get as much vacation time as I want and the company flies me to each factory and puts me up in a nice hotel," says McGee.
Truck driving is still a growing industry, even during these economic hard times -- it is expected that over 2.1 million drivers will be employed in 2018, compared to 1.7 million in 2008. But does the salary match the opportunity? According to Bureau of Labor statistics, a typical truck driver makes about $18 an hour, and most semi-truck driver salaries according to Payscale.com are going in the $45,000-$60,000 range (overtime pay does add quite a bit to that number, which is where McGee might be getting his 160k from).
Verdict: We don't doubt that McGee got a great deal, but you may have to temper your expectations if you think you'll get something similar.
John Williams, Life coach Salary: $108,000 Hometown: Portland, Ore.
Say the words "life coach" and you might think of a Mike Meyers comedy, but John Williams makes a good living at it. A Latin teacher coming out of school, he quickly discovered that he could earn $135 for each 50-minute session coaching students, or in his words "helping them with everything from leadership, beliefs, communication and learning styles." According to Salary.com, Williams' salary fits right in with what a person of 10-18 years of experience can expect to make.
Verdict: If you're just starting out as a life coach, you'll probably be looking at the $40-50/hour range -- not bad if you can get a good list of clients going.
Steve 'Ya-Man' Brangle, Live sports TV camera man Salary: $100,000 to $150,000 Hometown: Apex, NC
Steve Brangle certainly paid his dues -- he starting his filming career at North Carolina State University shooting "agricultural stuff," and struggled as a freelancer for a while, but now regularly films college basketball, college football, NBA, NFL and the Little League World Series for networks such as ESPN. We found from the Department of Labor that the median salary for a camera operator is around $50,000, so to get to Brangle's level, you'll definitely have to put some heavy hours in.
Verdict: Shooting sporting events sounds like the life, but be prepared to put a lot of long hours in to reach six figures.
Angela Fugate, New home sale associate Salary: $250,000 Hometown: Colorado Springs, CO
Angela Fugate's specialty is helping servicemembers and veterans purchase homes -- she got her real estate license at age 18 and had a brief stint in the Air Force before starting her current career. Can we recommend being a real estate agent as a career in the current climate, though? According to salary.com, the median salary for a real estate agent is around $37,000, and with vast differences in the real estate market depending on where you are, you could have a tough go at it. We do applaud Angela for helping out military families, though.
Verdict: The current real estate market might not be ideal if you're starting out as an agent, but if you find yourself in the right location and circumstances, you have a shot at a good salary.
Derek Teed, Freight train conductor Salary: Expecting $100,000 or more Hometown: Aberdeen, SD
Those who read our Workin' on the Railroad article last week know that the railway industry has some decent job opportunities for veterans, and Derek Teed, a former Army medic who served two deployments in Iraq, certainly found one. "I'm used to a tough lifestyle and am good at working away from home and at all hours -- and that's why the railroad pays you so much," he says. "As a conductor, you're responsible for the whole train -- the cars, communicating with the dispatcher and making sure everything is set up and in order. You're the one out there making sure you have the right-of-way on a track, so that two trains coming at each other don't hit."
It's not an easy gig -- Teed has to be ready to go at a moment's notice when he gets the call, and 12-hour shifts are not uncommon, but his financial rewards have made it worth the effort. According to simplyhired.com, a typical train conductor gets an average salary of $33,000, and according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a railroad conductor/yardmaster gets about $25 an hour, which comes out around $80,000 if you factor in 60-hour workweeks.
Verdict: You can definitely attain a salary level like Teed's, you'll just have to work hard to get it, like he has.