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Who gets paid six figures?
Six-figure jobs aren't always easy to come by, but they're out there.
September 9, 2003: 4:48 PM EDT
By Jeanne Sahadi, CNN/Money Senior Writer

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) When it comes to "making good money," what's considered "good" is usually relative to what those around you make, to the cost of living in your area, or to your preconceived notions of what "good money" means.

But usually the phrase "six figures" connotes "good" in most circles, even downright "great" if you make your Benjamins in places outside of high-cost areas such as New York and San Francisco.

Those making six figures are very definitely in the minority nationwide. Only 4.2 percent of U.S. workers with earnings reported making $100,000 or more in 2001, according to the latest data from the Census Bureau. The median annual wage, meanwhile, was $26,002.

When it comes to who earns "good money," we're not talking the usual suspects such as corporate lawyers, surgeons, high-achieving MBAs or top executives for large corporations. Nor, for that matter, are we considering big payoff jobs such as television anchors in major markets, models, or successful actors.

Instead we're considering posts that don't always require a graduate degree, a Mensa-like mastery of computer science or mathematical theory, or even a pretty face. What they usually require, though, is several years' experience mastering the required skills.

Here are some options:

General merchandise manager: If developing retail business strategy is your thing and you like the climate of Freeport, Maine, a general merchandise manager job at L.L. Bean recently listed on the career site might be just your cup of tea.

The post requires someone with 10 to 15 years' experience who currently holds a merchandise manager position and preferably who was a buyer at some point in his or her career.

Hair and makeup artist, advertising and commercial film: After paying your dues in the salon world coifing and making up everyday folk, you might want to branch out.

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As a freelance hair and makeup artist in commercial advertising, you can make a pretty penny if you're good at your art. With each job you get, you build your Rolodex of photographers and your reputation among commercial directors, according to Jon Lucca, CEO of Artist Untied, an agency representing stylists, hair and makeup artists, and set and prop designers.

A junior freelance artist can command a rate of $400 to $600 a day, he said, while the rate for an experienced artist with international experience can range between $1,200 to $2,000 a day.

Cargo pilot: Soaring like a bird is an appealing job perk for some. And if you're an experienced pilot a career as a cargo pilot with FedEx can pay off.

You'd be expected to fly at least 15 to 18 days a month -- a day being defined as a series of short trips or one long transatlantic flight and chances are good you'll be doing most of your flying at night, according to the Airline Pilots Association.

Cargo pilots at FedEx may be eligible to earn more than $100,000 if they have 10 years of experience with FedEx, plus at least six to eight years' experience flying with the military or with a small commercial airline such as American Eagle.

Consultant, retail home fashions: Know how to make a house a home and a fashionable one at that? You can make good money using your talents.

In another posting on, a Missouri-based national retailer is looking for someone to help develop, present and launch a new private home-fashions brand that includes bed and bath products, home decor and outdoor furniture. Job requirements include experience in senior retail/catalog management and recent experience in home fashions.

Senior VP for communications: If you're good at managing the medium and the message, and don't mind delivering that message yourself, being a top spokesperson for a big company could be a perfect fit.

One major East Coast entertainment company is looking for someone to develop and implement a strategy for media relations, investor relations and marketing, among other things, according to a recent posting on The person who gets hired will have a successful track record as a senior manager of corporate communications and public relations.

Working for Uncle Sam: There are plenty of federal government jobs requiring high-level graduate degrees that pay six figures. But there are also administrative posts that pay well and they don't necessarily require graduate degrees.

Senior-level executives in the U.S. government a category that includes posts such as human resources director, communications director or comptroller of government agencies can make between $116,500 to $142,500, depending on years of service, professional accomplishments and the location of the job, according to the Office of Personnel Management's Center for Pay and Performance Policy.

Hotel manager: A swanky salary may accompany a managerial job at a swanky hotel if you've got the goods.

The Hotel DuPont in Wilmington, Del., posted a job listing on for a general manager to oversee the staff and the daily operations of the hotel. The manager also is expected to play a financial role, supervising, among other things, budget and revenue management as well as cost control.

The perfect candidate would have a bachelor's degree in hospitality management or business, 15 or more years' experience in the hospitality industry with at least 10 years of general management experience.


Associate creative director, advertising: If visual communication is your strong suit, you're good at managing other creative employees and you have a solid command of various print production technologies among others, a creative director post at an ad agency may work well for you.

One San Francisco-based ad agency posted such an opening on recently. The job requires 15 years of advertising experience either in a general ad agency, a corporate in-house ad group or a direct marketing ad agency. At least seven to 10 of those years had to be spent as a supervisory art director.  Top of page

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