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You are here The Highest-Paying Industries for Managerial Occupations

by Guest Writter
Laurence Shatkin, PhD, Author, Your Guide to High-Paying Careers

One way to earn high wages compared to other people in your occupation is to get a job in a high-paying industry. Sometimes the difference in pay can be dramatic. For example, chemists who are employed in the oil and gas extraction industry average twice the earnings of those in the educational services industry. But you need to be realistic about your ambitions. The oil and gas extraction industry employed only 40 chemists nationwide in 2012. That number is expanding with the recent dramatic growth of this industry, but the high pay means that competition for these jobs is probably intense. You’re not likely to get the job unless you have highly specialized knowledge and skills, such as how to compound fracking fluids. By contrast, the educational services industry (schools, colleges, and universities) employed more than 3,600 chemists in 2012, so you can expect many more job openings in this less-specialized industry.

Specialization is why it sometimes is difficult to move from one industry to another. People working in one industry learn to “speak the language” of that industry and may be unfamiliar with how other industries operate. Even when the job title on the business card is the same in two industries, the context of the work tasks may be very different. In addition, the network of contacts you develop as you work in an industry may be of little use when you start looking for work in another industry.

Probably the best time for you to target a high-paying industry is when you search for your first job or, even better, while you are preparing for career entry. You may even consider choosing one college over another because one has better contacts in a high-paying industry or more relevant course offerings.

But even if you are in a later stage of your career, I thought you would be interested to see the industries where managerial occupations bring in the highest earnings. To keep this a realistic set of career options, I included only those occupation-industry combinations for which the specialized workforce equals more than 100 workers and equals more than one-tenth of one percent of the total workforce of the occupation. (You can find a similar list in my recent book, Your Guide to High-Paying Careers, but there I include as many as 10 highest-paying industries for each occupation and cover 61 occupations in all.)

Note that the earnings figures are medians: half earned more, half earned less. They are wage and salary earnings, including base rate, cost-of-living allowances, guaranteed pay, hazardous-duty pay, incentive pay, including commissions and production bonuses, and tips. The figures are derived from the Occupational Employment Survey of the Bureau of Labor Statistics and are estimates for May 2012; because wage growth remains slow, they are still relevant.

Occupation Industry Annual Earnings Workforce Size
Chief Executives Utilities $186,610 1,260
Sales Managers Securities, Commodity Contracts, and Other Financial Investments and Related Activities $182,530 6,390
Natural Sciences Managers Oil and Gas Extraction $180,400 250
General and Operations Managers Securities, Commodity Contracts, and Other Financial Investments and Related Activities $177,260 17,750
Marketing Managers Oil and Gas Extraction $160,570 540
Financial Managers Securities, Commodity Contracts, and Other Financial Investments and Related Activities $156,510 24,200
Architectural and Engineering Managers Oil and Gas Extraction $152,500 6,960
Computer and Information Systems Managers Other Information Services $149,130 4,350
Managers, All Other Oil and Gas Extraction $141,960 1,030
Human Resources Managers Motion Picture and Sound Recording Industries $139,420 270
Public Relations and Fundraising Managers Publishing Industries (except Internet) $134,100 630
Transportation, Storage, and Distribution Managers Oil and Gas Extraction $129,640 370
Purchasing Managers Oil and Gas Extraction $127,080 470
Training and Development Managers Data Processing, Hosting, and Related Services $122,260 160
Medical and Health Services Managers Chemical Manufacturing $117,070 320
Industrial Production Managers Telecommunications $116,950 170
Administrative Services Managers Monetary Authorities-Central Bank $116,100 310
Compensation and Benefits Managers Transportation Equipment Manufacturing $114,760 110
Advertising and Promotions Managers Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services $114,560 9,590
Construction Managers Oil and Gas Extraction $102,550 290


About the Author

Laurence Shatkin, PhD, has been a writer and researcher in the field of career information for 35 years. He was one of the developers of the SIGI PLUS career information system at Educational Testing Service, and he has developed and adapted similar systems for use in the U.S., Australia, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. He is the author or co-author of more than two dozen books about careers. His most recent book is Your Guide to High-Paying Careers. He lives in Titusville, New Jersey.

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