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Jobs with High Lifetime Earnings

Jobs with High Lifetime Earnings

By Bridget Quigg,

If you had to pick one job that would ensure you earned the most money possible in your lifetime, which one would you choose? Doctor or lawyer may come to mind, but if you don’t plan on getting an advanced degree, online salary database has some career suggestions that should, in the end, pay off.   

None of these jobs requires graduate work or a steep career ladder -- jobs in which workers commonly move into management. Instead, these are “individual contributor” jobs where the type of work stays similar over a lifetime. What is the common thread between these lucrative gigs?

“This list is dominated by left-brained jobs that require analytical thinking,” says PayScale’s lead analyst Katie Bardaro. “We are a tech-heavy, analytics-heavy society, so jobs that focus on those skills pay well.”

Bardaro adds that starting pay on the low end shouldn’t worry job hunters. “Many of these jobs start with less-than-stellar pay that then grows to higher levels,” she says. “You can’t expect to be well-paid at the beginning. You have to stick with the career.”

PayScale found that the typical earnings over a 45-year career for someone with a bachelor’s degree and no higher is $3,060,000; this figure does not include manager salaries. All of the jobs listed below surpass that average, one by more than $3 million.

Check out the following list of jobs for guidance on careers that offer the promise of a comfortable retirement when your working days are done.

1. Petroleum Engineer 
  • 45-Year Earnings: $6,290,000
  • Starting Pay: $84,400
  • Pay at 20+ Years: $151,000
Find petroleum engineer jobs.

2. Landman/Senior Landman
  • 45-Year Earnings: $5,380,000
  • Starting Pay: $53,600
  • Pay at 20+ Years: $138,000
Find jobs in the energy industry.

3. Software Engineer/Senior Software Engineer
  • 45-Year Earnings: $4,360,000
  • Starting Pay: $57,900
  • Pay at 20+ Years: $105,000
Find software engineer jobs.

4. Electrical Engineer/Senior Electrical Engineer
  • 45-Year Earnings: $4,170,000
  • Starting Pay: $56,200
  • Pay at 20+ Years: $100,000
Find electrical engineer jobs.

5. Mechanical Engineer/Senior Mechanical Engineer
  • 45-Year Earnings: $3,900,000
  • Starting Pay: $53,900
  • Pay at 20+ Years: $93,600
Find mechanical engineer jobs.

6. Software Developer/Senior Software Developer
  • 45-Year Earnings: $3,830,000
  • Starting Pay: $56,000
  • Pay at 20+ Years: $91,100
Find software developer jobs.

7. Financial Analyst/Senior Financial Analyst
  • 45-Year Earnings: $3,440,000
  • Starting Pay: $48,300
  • Pay at 20+ Years: $82,600
Find financial analyst jobs.

8. Communications Coordinator/Communications Manager
  • 45-Year Earnings: $3,320,000
  • Starting Pay: $34,900
  • Pay at 20+ Years: $84,600
Find communications coordinator jobs and communications manager jobs.

9. Marketing Coordinator/Marketing Manager
  • 45-Year Earnings: $3,310,000
  • Starting Pay: $35,500
  • Pay at 20+ Years: $84,000
Find marketing coordinator jobs and marketing manager jobs.

10. Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
  • 45-Year Earnings: $3,200,000
  • Starting Pay: $46,200
  • Pay at 20+ Years: $76,000
Find CPA jobs.

Source: All salary data provided by online salary database Expected lifetime median earnings were calculated for a 45-year period based on median annual pay levels for one, five, 10, 15 and 20 years of experience in each position. For those jobs that have a senior version of their job title, data was combined such that the transition to the more senior of the two job titles occurred at approximately 10 years of experience. Salaries listed are median, annual salaries for full-time workers and include any bonuses, commissions or profit sharing.

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