The Highest-Paying Industries for Managerial Occupations

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

The Highest-Paying Industries for Managerial Occupations

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.



Annual Earnings

Workforce Size

Chief Executives




Sales Managers

Securities, Commodity Contracts, and Other Financial Investments and Related Activities



Natural Sciences Managers

Oil and Gas Extraction



General and Operations Managers

Securities, Commodity Contracts, and Other Financial Investments and Related Activities



Marketing Managers

Oil and Gas Extraction



Financial Managers

Securities, Commodity Contracts, and Other Financial Investments and Related Activities



Architectural and Engineering Managers

Oil and Gas Extraction



Computer and Information Systems Managers

Other Information Services



Managers, All Other

Oil and Gas Extraction



Human Resources Managers

Motion Picture and Sound Recording Industries



Public Relations and Fundraising Managers

Publishing Industries (except Internet)



Transportation, Storage, and Distribution Managers

Oil and Gas Extraction



Purchasing Managers

Oil and Gas Extraction



Training and Development Managers

Data Processing, Hosting, and Related Services



Medical and Health Services Managers

Chemical Manufacturing



Industrial Production Managers




Administrative Services Managers

Monetary Authorities-Central Bank



Compensation and Benefits Managers

Transportation Equipment Manufacturing



Advertising and Promotions Managers

Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services



Construction Managers

Oil and Gas Extraction




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.