100 jobs that bring the highest salaries

Surprise, surprise, designer is not among them, art director is at No. 63.


ummmm… I don’t see “fork lift operator” on that list either. Two of my friends are doing just that working for a civilian contractor at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan unloading cargo aircraft (not exactly an intellectual pursuit), take home pay (there is no U.S. income tax withheld); $175,000USD. 6 months on, six months off… which basically translates to $350,000 per annum (and all the small arms fire you could ask for).

Somebody is always going to make more than you do, and somebody is always going to make less… . . .

How much for the forklift?


Lew, this reminds me of a good friend here in town who was a Marine back in the day, after he retired he was asked to take on a 3month on, 1 month off tour at the first serious US weapons destruction facility, located on Johnston Island in the Pacific. His position was administrative but his Marine clearance was the qualifier to get the job. His pay (and this was 1991) was well into the six figures with no Federal or State tax to be paid, in addition, he was given Hazard Duty pay for every day on the island (in addition to his salary). Midway into each 3 month stay he signed up for a location for them to drop him at for his 1 month off. He didn’t have to pay for any of the flights to or from. I got a lot of postcards from all around the world as he enjoyed 30 days here, 31 days there. He used to say it was a pretty good gig except for having to wear the gas-mask at all times on the island and wondering when the sirens would go off indicating a leak/malfunction/drill.

After 3 years there he retired again :wink: Owns a few rentals and a mini golf course now.

Forgot this link about Johnston - good reading; Johnston Atoll - United States Nuclear Forces

What caught my attention was that Richmond, VA is the second highest paying market for Art Directors. What major companies can you think of are located in Richmond? Does Hamilton Beach pay that well?


That’s the deal Scott. These guys have been harping on me to come with them and “give it a try”. That kind of money is tempting; my secret clearance would be easy to re-up, I hold a security clearance to work in nuclear power plant facilities, and I hold a TWIC card, so it would be relatively easy to get started. “Free” room & board, laundry service, entertainment (I can’t imagine what qualifies as ‘entertainment’). Phuket, Bo Phut or wherever with all expenses paid sounds great. But wearing a side arm 24/7 (not required but ‘suggested’), an occasional mortar round coming over cantonment wall, and the unceasing stress of wondering what if … I don’t think so.

Where you want to be on that list is up to you…

There are lots of salary discussions that pop up and the reality is job salaries come down to a lot of things. Supply and demand, background education, quality of life.

I have a friend making $200k+ working on oil rig off Dubai. 200k a year is pretty sweet…except he doesn’t have any friends, and he spends most of his time on a piece of metal in the middle of the gulf. So…you know would I trade $100k a year in cash to see my friends and family? Yeah probably.

The top of that list is dominated with doctors and the PhD likes…sure they’re making lots of money. They also spent an extra 5 years in school plowing at least $250,000 into college debt and not earning any money, so right off the bat it makes you feel like my $80k of state funded design school education wasn’t such a bad investment after all. Will I ever be a rich as a doctor in the long term? No. But blood freaks me out and I won’t ever get a multi-million dollar malpractice lawsuit brought against me either so I’m OK with that.

“Money isn’t everything” may sound like the biggest cliche thing to say by now, but you’d only need to be in that position to realize the pain of being somewhere just because you cared only about money. This news reporter was a lawyer once, earning big bucks, and he said how much he despised being a lawyer and how boring it was, he continuously stresses about how much he hated this career choice and that he wont accept even millions to go back to it.
Maybe when family and friends are around you may be bored enough make yourself day dream about how money is more important than anything but only those who lacked those things like family and friends or a social life realize when its too late that they’d give double their money away to have those things.
I’ll be studying in Canada for a degree in design, but after graduating and paying up the OSAP while getting experience, I’ll go to my family back home and get a permanent job there even though it will be fractions of what I’d get here.

I agree that Money isn’t everything. But, I also believe that you should at least be aiming for a Job that can take care of all your needs for survival. Food, housing, gas, clothes, insurance, cell phone bills, etc. Such is with my current job, it pays the bills and I have a couple hundred dollars left to spend for myself, which I am more than happy with.

Working at a Taco Bell will take care of most peoples needs for survival…which as it turns out, is actually how the vast majority of people in this country survive.

A full time designer with more than a few years of experience should easily be able to afford a pretty good lifestyle regardless of where they are in the country. Anyone complaining that they’re only making $15,000 a year in the US would just be getting exploited and not realizing it. If you’re a part time freelancer scraping for work in Nebraska, then life could be a bit more difficult but that’s more of a personal choice to make.


I guess that is true. But I was speaking more to the crowd who studied design and went to a design school. Taco Bell wouldnt be enough to pay for all the student loans accrued and what not.

An ID degree may not net you doctor pay, but sure more than the average unemployed English major.

If anyone gets into design for the money purely, they are sorely misguided.


I don’t think anyone gets into design thinking they are going to make rockstar money. I also think lists like this are somewhat misguided. Selecting a career based on what pays most is unfathamable to me.

Of course a staff designer, engineer, or accountant is not going to be the highest paid job. A director of design, engineering, or accounting at a corporation is going to make considerably more. A vp more more than that, and so on. In these roles you are responsible for guiding and mentoring teams, getting the best work out of groups of people, leading cross functional initiatives, constructing and implementing a broader vision, and you are also accountable when things go south. What I’m getting at is the path to greater pay opens when you can demonstrate that you can provide greater value and leadership and are willing to shoulder more responsibility and accountability. Those things usually come with experience and a track record of successful projects.

The above is a broad over generalization, there is a lot of timing involved, loads of hard work, risk, and a dash of chance… As with pretty much everything in life.

Design jobs may not make the big bucks compared to the list but I would say our careers have a lot of value.

How many other people can walk into a store and see something that they drew on a napkin 2 years earlier for sale? Not many.

I don’t know about you guys, but Id rather draw, solve problems, design products that make other peoples lives easier, and have the creative freedom that designers get than sit behind a desk working for a client, crunching numbers, looking at excel, making $100k, and wearing a suit all day.