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America's Most Surprising Six-Figure Jobs

We often associate hefty salaries with corner offices, scalpels and law degrees – but it turns out you can pull in a pretty penny working outside the financial, medical or legal field. In fact, writers, elevator installers and art teachers are just a few of the professionals who surprisingly can score six-figure paychecks.

Forbes combed through data gathered annually by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a division of the Labor Department, to find the 20 most surprising six-figure jobs. The BLS culls its information from surveys it mails to businesses, and it releases its Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates Data each spring. The report shares information about more than 800 occupations, including hourly and annual wages, total numbers of workers in the profession, and the states and metro areas that pay the best. To make the cut for our list, at least 10 percent of employees in the profession had to earn more than $100,000 a year.

It turns out the top earning gaming managers, post-secondary home economics teachers and art directors surprisingly make well over six figures.

Gaming managers, who are responsible for supervising gambling operations, earn a handsome annual income of $74,780. According to the BLS’ Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates Data for 2011, the top 10 percent really hit the jackpot. These high rollers rake in $116,840 a year. The best-paying state for these professionals is New Jersey.

Home economics instructors who teach at the college level earn a mediocre average annual salary of $68,080 — but the top 10 percent earn a stellar $110,650. These professionals are responsible for teaching courses in childcare, family relations, finance, nutrition and related subjects pertaining to home management. California is the best-paying state for post-secondary home economics teachers.

Incomes for art directors and makeup artists (theatrical and performance) aren’t too shabby, either. The mean annual wages for those talented professionals is $95,500 and $63,710, respectively. But the top earning art directors make $166,620, while the top 10 percent of theatrical makeup artists pull in $120,050. The top-paying state for both professions: New York.

Some other surprising six-figure jobs, especially from the perspective of the fragile media industry, include broadcast news analysts, authors and technical writers. Workers in the top-earning 10 percent of each of these professions earn more than $100,000, according to the BLS data.

For writers and authors, it is $115,740; for technical writers, $102,250; and for broadcast news analysts, $159,530 – about three and a half times the national average for all occupations, which is just $45,230.

Water vessel captains, mates and pilots also make a boatload more than one might think. The top 10 percent earn an ample $119,280 a year, but on average they make $71,760. Boat captains in Rhode Island earn $123,580, making it the best paying state.

The list doesn’t end there. There are plenty more surprising six-figure jobs that don’t require a necktie or lab coat. Farming managers, film editors and transportation inspectors are some others we’ve singled out.

Here are 20 professions that you might be surprised to learn pay six figures. The top-earning 10 percent of these professionals earn more than $100,000 a year, on average, according to BLS data.

Makeup artists, theatrical and performance
Technical writers
Gaming managers
Home economics teachers, postsecondary
Captains, mates, and pilots of water vessels
Art directors
Transportation inspectors
Broadcast news analysts
Farmers, ranchers and other agricultural managers
Insurance sales agents
Education administrators, elementary and secondary school
Writers and authors
Film and video editors
Human resources managers
Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators
Multimedia artists and animators
Elevator installers and repairers
Loan officers
Art, drama and music teachers, postsecondary
Database administrators


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