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High-Paying Jobs, High Satisfaction: Happy Workers with Hefty Paychecks

High-Paying Jobs, High Satisfaction: Happy Workers with Hefty Paychecks

By Lydia Dishman,

You might think that if your boss doubled your salary, you’d smile your way through the peskiest of projects. But can a bigger paycheck buy real happiness at work?  

"Higher levels of satisfaction are generally accompanied by higher levels of pay," says Katie Bardaro, lead data analyst at online salary database However, it’s not clear whether this is because those with more money are more satisfied, or because those who are more satisfied in their careers are more successful and earn more, Bardaro says.

To find out more, we asked career coaches to give their perspective on five well-paid jobs that users rank high for job satisfaction. The jobs are listed below, from most to least satisfying.

Nonprofit Organization President
Median Annual Pay: $89,500

Leaders of nonprofits have plenty of reason to get up and get to work everyday. They lead a team with a well-defined mission, and are often heavily involved in everything from recruiting to fund-raising. Though salaries for nonprofit presidents are lower than those for similar corporate leadership positions, job opportunities are growing, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Bruce Blackwell, managing partner at Career Strategies Group, says a sense that what you are doing makes a difference matters more than a six-figure paycheck. "I work with many lawyers who hate their jobs because they feel they are using their skills merely to help transfer money from one company's coffers to another's," says Blackwell, who has coached unhappily employed executives and professionals for more than 20 years.

Find nonprofit jobs.

Nurse Anesthetist
Median Annual Pay: $152,000

Nursing jobs offer the personal reward of helping others. Add advanced training in anesthesia to that equation and you get personal satisfaction plus six-figure pay.

Nurses have yet another advantage when it comes to job satisfaction: workplace structure. Nurses usually work in hospitals where the management hierarchy and pay structure are clearly defined. "Workers get satisfaction when the rules are transparent: how raises  and promotions and bonuses are granted, and how flexible schedules or other perks are given out," says Caroline Ceniza-Levine of career coaching firm SixFigureStart.

Find nurse anesthetist jobs.

High School Principal
Median Annual Pay: $82,200

Principals not only keep the student body in check, but also supervise the school staff and manage relationships with parents and the community. Many principals hold master’s degrees and must pass a special state licensing exam. Job opportunities should be excellent through 2018 because many administrators are expected to retire, according to the BLS.

How can principals feel so happy on the job? "[Workers] experience a dramatic increase in job satisfaction when they tie their work to their personal values," says Jessica Reddy, a San Francisco-based life coach.

Find high school principal jobs.

Interior Design Director
Median Annual Pay: $79,300

Interior designers work in almost every type of building, from offices to airports. Because good design can boost office productivity, increase sales or raise a property’s market value, designers are in demand. But, the creative nature of the work makes it an attractive and competitive field to enter. An associate’s or a bachelor’s degree is necessary for entry-level design jobs.

Cathy Frial, vice president of organizational development at interior furnishings company Bentley Prince Street, has spent over two decades working with and motivating highly creative people, including 10 years with the Walt Disney Company. "Being happy in your career is all about using your top talents every day," she says. "When your own talents or what you do best [are] working every day you physically feel better and more satisfied." 

Find interior design jobs.

Accounting Firm Partner
Median Annual Pay: $164,000

Not just mathletes, accountants need communication skills so they can report their findings effectively. A bachelor’s degree is required, and public accountants must pass a special test to obtain certification. Employment opportunities for accountants are expected to grow much faster than average between 2008 to 2018, according to the BLS.

Many accountants start in junior-level positions, an arrangement that helps promote satisfaction, according to Susan Bender Phelps, CEO of Odyssey Mentoring and Leadership. “Mentoring and leadership-development programs provide opportunities to practice what you learn until you gain proficiency,” she says.

Find accounting jobs.

Source: Salary data is provided by online salary database Salaries listed are annual salaries for full-time workers with five to eight years of experience and include any bonuses, commissions or profit sharing.

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