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What Does Six-Figure Salary Mean?

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A six-figure salary is any annual income from a job that is between $100,000 and $999,999. If you count the series of numbers, you will see they all have six digits. A million dollar salary has seven figures, while salaries between $10,000 and $99,999 have five figures. Today, there are many career options that will give you the opportunity to earn a six-figure income and, with rising wages, the number of people earning these amounts will grow every year.

Six-Figure Executive Careers

When most people think of a six-figure salary, the first jobs that come to mind are executives – and for good reason. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, chief executives made a median annual income of $183,270 in 2017, meaning half earn more than this while half earn less. Chief executives, who are also called C-level executives, include:

  • CEO: Chief Executive Officer.
  • CFO: Chief Financial Officer.
  • CIO: Chief Information Officer.
  • COO: Chief Operating Officer.
  • CTO: Chief Technology Officer.

In many corporations, the positions below the chief executives can also pay six-figure salaries. The median annual pay for general managers and operations managers was $100,410 in 2017. If you want to target one of these high-paying positions, you should have at least a bachelor's degree. Just as importantly, you should expect to work hard and gain the required experience in lower level positions before expecting to be promoted.

Six-Figure Health Care Careers

Going to medical school or dental school is a pretty good way to ensure you will have a shot at a six-figure income. Family doctors, general practitioners, internists and dentists all have median salaries over $100,000. While most nurses don't make six-figure incomes, those with additional training and education can earn much more. Nurse anaesthetists, for example, had a median income of $165,120 per year in 2017.

If you specialize, a six-figure income is practically guaranteed. Doctors and dentists with specialized training are among the highest-paid professionals in the country. Jobs with a median incomes over $200,000 per year include:

  • Anesthesiologists.
  • Orthodontists.
  • Oral and maxillofacial surgeons.
  • Psychiatrists.
  • Surgeons.
  • Obstetricians and gynecologists.

Six-Figure Jobs in Technology

Another way to earn a chance at a six-figure salary is to become an expert in technology. In most cases you would need a bachelor's degree and a few years of experience before you should expect to begin raking in the money. Once you get established, however, most of these jobs pay very well. Software developers, for example, had a median income of $103,560 in 2017, while computer network architects had a median income of $104,650. Computer and information research scientists, who usually have a master's degree, earned a median salary of $114,520.

While many technology positions don't pay close to $100,000, those who are promoted to management positions, like computer and information systems managers, often earn much more.

Other Six-Figure Careers

There are many other careers that have an average annual income above $100,000. Some of these include:

  • Architectural and engineering managers.
  • Airline pilots, copilots, and flight engineers.
  • Lawyers, judges, magistrate judges, and magistrates.
  • Petroleum engineers.

Regardless of which field you choose to work in, being very good at what you do can often catapult you into a six-figure salary. Accountants and auditors, for example, earned a median income of $69,350 in 2017, according to the BLS. However, the top 10 percent in that field earned over $122,220. Insurance sales agents made a median income of only $49,710 in 2017, but the top 10 percent earned over $125,190 that year.

The Draining Effect of Inflation

Compared to 20 or 30 years ago, there are many more people with a six-figure salary, meaning the term isn't quite as impressive as it used to be. In fact, with the continuing rise in inflation and increases in wages, even a job flipping burgers will eventually pay a six-figure income, provided you wait long enough. According to the Social Security Administration, a job that paid $17,322 in 1986 would pay $48,642 in 2016, nearly a three-fold increase over 30 years. In another 30 years, that same job would potentially be paying over $133,000 per year.


A published author and professional speaker, David Weedmark has been a hiring manager and recruiter for several companies and advises small businesses on technology. He has started three successful businesses, and has written hundreds of articles on careers and small business trends for newspapers, magazines and online publications including, Re/Max and American Express.

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