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Sunday, 22 May 2011

Surprising six-figure jobs

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When you think of jobs that pay six figures, you think doctor, lawyer -- and anything with the word "chief," "director," "engineer" or "petroleum" in it.

But there are some jobs that pay six figures that you might not expect. People you may encounter on a daily basis, or some who you may not, but never suspect they make that much!

"Generally, high-paid jobs require one or more of the following: extensive formal education, high level of responsibility or performance, unique skill or talent, and extensive on the job experience," said Al Lee, director of quantitative analysis at And most involve the employee earning "substantial income and profits for the employer," Lee added.

The average salary in America is about $40,000, according the Social Security Administration, and just about five percent of the American population makes $100,000 or more.

Here are six-figure jobs that you probably didn't expect would pay that much:

Call Center Analyst

You don't think of call center jobs as high-paying jobs; in fact, you tend to think of them as low-paying jobs that are often shipped overseas. But there are a few positions, including call-center analysts, who oversee quality and assurance and train the representatives, and the director of the call center who can make six figures. One listing on for a six-figure job as a QA Call Center Analyst in Chantilly, Va., requires that the person be bilingual -- in English and Spanish. Call Center Directors, meanwhile, have a median salary of $121,000, according to

Afghan Language Specialists

It's all about supply and demand and since the U.S. became involved in Afghanistan after the Sept. 11 attacks, there has been demand for linguists or interpreters of the two main Afghan languages, Dari and Pashto. The average salary for a linguist or interpreter who speaks Dari is $187,000 and it's $193,000 for those who speak Pashto, according to The jobs range from an interpreter for military personnel to a media desk officer who would translate Afghan news stories and communicate with Afghan media.

Personal Trainer

You might not think of personal trainers, who get paid hourly, as six-figure contenders, but it all depends on where they work -- and who they're coaching. The median salary of a personal trainer is $54,200, according to PayScale, but the top 10 percent can earn $100,000 or more. The top performers tend to be those who are certified personal trainers, who have a college education and many years of experience. The highest-paying cities for personal-trainer jobs are Ann Arbor, Mich., where rates can reach up to $70 an hour, followed by New York, Baltimore, Tampa and Boston.

Flight Training Coordinator

You might expect a pilot to make six figures, but perhaps not a flight training coordinator. But flight training coordinators have an important job -- they research and develop flight training programs for an organization, including classroom lessons and simulator sessions. It could be for a commercial or private carrier or training school or an aerospace company. The median salary for flight training coordinators is $118,000 but can go above $200,000 for the top 10 percent, according to

Nuclear Power Reactor Operator

The earthquake and subsequent nuclear disaster in Japan demonstrated just how dangerous nuclear power reactor operators are -- and how valuable they are. As a result, it's a high-paying job. The median salary is $86,000 but the top 10 percent make an average of $128,000, according to

Court Reporter

The median salary of court reporters is $57,200 but those who are more experienced and can type 200+ words a minute make an average of $105,000, according to And, court reporters are expected to be one of the jobs in demand over the next decade -- both inside and outside the courtroom -- with the number of court reporters expected to jump 18 percent, according to the Labor Department.

Elevator Mechanic

Elevators can be dangerous when they malfunction, as evident by the recent elevator crash in New York City at a Bed, Bath & Beyond that left 15 people injured. As a result, elevator mechanics get paid very well. The median salary is $72,900 but the top 10 percent can make $109,000 or more, according to One listing for a "Vertical Transportation Director" in Arlington, Va., requires 10 years of experience as an elevator mechanic and five to 10 years of management experience in the elevator business.


You might think of doctors, who have to go to medical school, as making six figures or more, but not pharmacists. In fact, the median salary for pharmacists in the U.S. is $113,000, according to It's not just filling out prescriptions, it's offering advise on dosage and side effects and interacting with doctors. Becoming a pharmacist requires a bachelor's degree and an advanced degree in pharmacy. The job prospects are expected to be good over the next decade -- the number of pharmacist jobs is expected to jump 17 percent, according to the Labor Department.

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