Want to have one of the best-paying jobs in finance or insurance? Do something that combines analytical skills with running a department that sets company policy, advises Laurence Shatkin, PhD, author of 250 Best-Paying Jobs and a career information expert. “The best-paying finance jobs are managerial, but if you’re entry-level, the best-paying work is in the field of financial analysis or sales,” he says.
To create his list of best-paying jobs, Shatkin combined US Department of Labor and Census Bureau data on current median earnings, as well as projections for future annual openings and job growth. Taken together, those figures reveal the best-paying jobs in fields with a reasonable number of openings now and in the future.
High-paying jobs often share two challenging characteristics: responsibility and consequences for mistakes. Take the two best-paying jobs within finance and insurance, for example: financial managers and chief financial officers, both with average earnings of $86,280. Both positions call for managing workers, making decisions and project management. Fail at any of those tasks, and you could be out the door.
Shatkin has other warnings for people shooting for a high-paying job. “There tend to be a lot of people gunning for high-paying jobs,” he says. “You have to be able to put up with the chance that you may be outcompeted by someone else.”
Jobs rounding out the best-paid list for people in finance and insurance and the annual earnings for those positions are:
• Actuaries: $81,640
• Economists: $73,690
• Financial Services Sales Agents: $67,130
• Securities and Commodities Sales Agents: $67,130
• Management Analysts: $66,380
• Financial Analysts: $63,860
• Personal Financial Advisors: $63,500
• Financial Examiners: $63,090
• Market Research Analysts: $57,300
• Real Estate Brokers: $57,190
• Agents/Business Managers in the Entertainment/Sports Industries: $53,800
• Accountants: $52,210
• Auditors: $52,210
• Cost Estimators: $52,020
• Insurance Underwriters: $51,270
• Credit Analysts: $50,370
• Loan Officers: $49,440
• Insurance Appraisers (Auto Damage): $48,090
How much you make in any of these positions will be influenced by cost-of-living differences and geographic industry niches. “We looked at what the median earnings were nationwide,” Shatkin explains. “Overall, you’ll make more working in New York City than in Atlantic City. In music, you want to go to Nashville, and if you want to work in the movie industry, you’ll earn more in Los Angeles.”
250 Best-Paying Jobs also includes lists based on the education and experience required to enter a field. For those who want on-the-job training rather than college, auto-damage insurance appraising or working as a real estate broker offer the best salaries. If you want to go to graduate school, becoming an actuary or an economist should lead to a relatively high paycheck.
Despite having written 250 Best-Paying Jobs, money isn’t everything, Shatkin warns. “Not every day is payday,” he concludes. “You have to think about what you’re doing the rest of the time and the rewards that are other than financial -- those involve doing what makes you feel comfortable.”
Learn more about finance careers.