Most people have developed preconceived notions about which jobs are high-paying and which jobs earn lower wages. When we think of high-paying jobs, we often think of doctors, lawyers, tech gurus, and powerful executives in high-rise buildings. Now think about a minimum wage job. Did you think of a fast-food worker, a retail store clerk, or a high school teen with a part-time job?
Although some of these judgement calls are correct, a number of jobs pay the opposite of what you’d expect. Using salary figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, we’ve created a list of jobs that pay surprisingly high salaries. Would you have expected these positions to pay so much?
1. Creative workers (artists, authors, etc.)
We use terms like “starving artist” and “struggling author” to describe creative workers who sacrifice financial security in order to achieve their dreams. If you take a look at the salary data for some of these workers, though, you’ll see that many of them earn wages that don’t really fall under the “starving” category at all.
According to the most recent BLS estimates, fine artists earn average annual salaries of $50,900, and those on the higher end of the wage scale — in the 90th percentile — earn $91,200.
Authors can also earn a pretty penny (or should we say a lot of pretty pennies?), as well. The BLS estimates an author’s average annual salary at almost $70,000. Some of the more highly-paid authors — those in the 90th percentile — earn $117,050 per year. This means that an average author earns a higher average salary than a Web developer or an average zoologist or wildlife biologist.
2. Line installers
Line installers, or line workers, install cable lines, electrical lines, and fiber optics outdoors so that our communications systems remain up and running. These workers generally only need a high school diploma (or equivalent) to get their foot in the door, and then they complete long-term, on-the-job training under the supervision of other, more experienced workers.
Power line installers earn average annual salaries of close to $65,000, with those in the upper ranges earning more than $90,000. Workers who install and repair cable and telecommunications lines earn around $52,000 on average, with those in the 90th percentile earning $77,370. These workers earn higher average wages than both social workers and firefighters.
3. Dental hygienists
Dental hygienists typically require an associate’s level education and licensing, and most people know that they are paid pretty well. But just how well?
These workers who keep your smile healthy earn average salaries of $71,530, and those in the 90th percentile earn $96,690. This means they earn higher average salaries than registered nurses, marriage and family therapists, and even anthropologists and archaeologists.
4. Elevator installers
Elevator installers and repairers can obtain their positions without any formal college education, as a high school diploma or its equivalent is the minimum education requirement. They generally learn their skills through on-the-job training or apprenticeship, and this is a skill that certainly pays.
Workers who install and repair elevators earn average salaries in excess of $75,000 — around the same as achemist or a geographer. Those installers on the higher end of the wage scale (in the 90th percentile) earn close to $110,000.
5. Radiation therapists
Like all workers in the health-care industry, these workers perform an important task: They administer radiation treatments to cancer patients. They are certainly compensated for their work, though, earning average salaries that are higher than those of average commercial pilots and computer programmers.
Although these workers require only an associate’s level degree and licensing to be qualified for their positions, they earn an impressive $81,740 per year on average. The higher-earning radiation therapists — those in the 90th percentile — earn six-figure salaries of $114,900.